A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Orville is a series about a crew who pilots a spaceship through a futuristic galaxy. It's somewhat of a satire of shows like Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it also takes on serious issues in a semi-serious style. Violence is cartoonish: sci-fi battles with lasers and explosions that make everyone on the ship fall down; a boxing match that sends one combatant flying out of the ring. Cursing and language is frequent: "son of a bitch," "ass," "hell," "crappy," "d--k," "t--s." Adults have drinks with dinner and two men ply a co-worker with beer to get him to listen to them; they joke about being drunk. Women, people of color, and a same-sex couple have strong, central roles. Teens and tweens who enjoy Seth MacFarlane's other shows may be confused, because his rapid-fire joke style is dampened down and the show actually spends most of its running time on sitcom-style drama.
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What's the story?
THE ORVILLE stars Seth MacFarlane (who also wrote and created the show) as Captain Ed Mercer, a square-jawed hero who leads the loyal crew of the U.S.S. Orville on an exploratory mission through space 400 years from now. At his side, second-in-command Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), who also happens to be Mercer's ex-wife. Zing! Along for the ride are jittery security officer Alara (Halston Sage), stern Lieutenant Commander Bortus (Peter Macon), and steadfast physician Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald), sworn to protect other life-forms and live up to the ideals of the planetary Union that unites their world -- even when evil aliens attack.
Is it any good?
Neither the flat-out Galaxy Quest-esque satire of space shows, nor the MacFarlane rapid-fire joke-a-tron that viewers might expect, this series strikes a genuinely puzzling tone. There are jokes, and given MacFarlane's talent, they're often good ones, rooted in the kind of space-drama mythology that genre fans (which MacFarlane happily admits to being) love. In the first episode of The Orville, Bortus explains that the members of his race, the Moclans, only pee once a year. "Really?" says Mercer. "I'm up two, three times a night." "That is unfortunate," says Bortus gravely.
But long, long stretches pass with no jokes, not even attempts. And slowly it dawns on the viewer: The "message" storylines about tolerance and kindness and bravery are being taken seriously. This isn't a parody of Star Trek: The Next Generation, despite the similarity of Bortus' head wrinkles to Worf's (and to Dr. Lazarus' in Galaxy Quest) -- it's an homage. MacFarlane is fanboying all over space shows, and Fox is letting him do it. And thus we can expect sub-vintage sitcom-level plot lines, unsubtle "smile on your brother" preachiness, and the occasional really good d--k joke. If that sounds like your thing, have at it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about which TV shows and movies The Orville is spoofing. Is it funny even if you haven't seen the original shows it's based on? Why or why not?
This series, like the shows it's inspired by, has a lot of diversity in its cast. Why does having diverse media role models matter?
Have you watched any other Seth MacFarlane shows? Is this show alike or different from these shows? Were you surprised by this?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love sci-fi
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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