The Orville - worth watching, or annoyingly sexist?
March 19, 2020 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I like Star Trek (especially TNG and DS9). I'm considering watching The Orville. I've seen varying reports of how much sexist garbage it has. Will I hate it?

I see there are Orville watchers on Fanfare, so I assume it can't be all bad.

My previous search turned up this horrible early review (potentially saving you hours of your precious life) but also some favorable comments ("The Orville, for all its many flaws, is – against all odds – still the best Trek show on TV right now.").

I'm not completely allergic to sexism and misogyny in media, but I have a pretty low tolerance these days.

I like TNG and DS9; I am pretty annoyed by some of the sexism of Voyager and Enterprise.

From a types-of-humor perspective, I am fine with goofy and silly, but not so big on juvenile, and definitely not into cringey.

Outside of Trek, I like things like Detectorists and The Good Place. I'm not into unlikeable characters, or shows that make fun of their characters.

I have never watched much Family Guy, so I don't have a good reference for Seth MacFarlane's humor.

I LOVED Galaxy Quest.

Complicating things is that I've heard The Orville gets a lot better in season 2.

So: should I bother with The Orville? And if so, should I skip some - or do I need to wait for season 2 to start enjoying it?

posted by kristi to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As a huge Star Trek fan - and feminist! - I wholeheartedly recommend The Orville. It takes a few episodes to get its footing, but it's worth it, even if you're not typically into Seth MacFarlane's humor (I'm not). If you can handle the sexism in TNG, you can more than handle The Orville.

It's wonderful. You won't regret watching it.
posted by srrh at 8:46 AM on March 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

I'm pretty in tune to this sort of thing (not completely, but mostly) and it's never bothered me. I tell anyone who will listen that The Orville is the best Trek ever. And I'm not even joking. It's so much fun. And you can tell the creators have true respect and reverence for actual Trek. Love that show.
posted by jdroth at 8:48 AM on March 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

I also hate juvenile and cringey humor, and the first few episodes of The Orville were way too much of that for me. It didn’t strike me as that more sexist than Voyager or Enterprise (though those are 25 and 19 years old now) but I didn’t find the humor funny at all, and it felt like the writers were trying too hard. I can’t speak to whether it got better after that.

I agree it’s clear that the creators clearly have a lot of respect for Star Trek!
posted by eirin at 9:04 AM on March 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

Season 1 of The Orville was very enjoyable. For me, a big part of the enjoyment was watching the series, in its half-joking/half-serious way, take a look at some of the tropes used by Star Trek and re-considering their implications. I recommend Season 1 very highly.

Season 2 was less interesting for me. More sit-com stuff, less thoughtful reflection on science fiction ideas. A bit more cringey with some of the humor. Still, it had Patrick Warburton on-board for a couple of episodes (in a bit part as a very laid-back security officer), and that was nice.
posted by SPrintF at 9:11 AM on March 19, 2020

I was also very reluctant to watch The Orville. I generally do not like Seth McFarlane's work and I thought it was going to be just ex-wife jokes in space, but it's not! Some episodes are thoughtful examinations of common tropes and (to me) were better than similarly-themed TNG episodes. There is a significant arc about being an ambitious woman in a leadership role. It is silly at times, with some toilet humor and "why did they do that" scenes, but I appreciated the setting of an explorer type ship rather than a flagship or other mega dramatic vessel.
posted by esoterrica at 9:46 AM on March 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Orville had some problems finding its footing during the first season, and had too much of Family Guy's juvenile and cringeworthy vibe in some episodes.

That said, if you wanted to watch something Trek-like that didn't take itself quite so seriously while also producing relatively decent Trek-style content, with some definite Galaxy Quest vibe, this could easily be your show.

I never felt that Tim Allen made sense as a pick for Galaxy Quest, and yet, defying expectations, he made it not only work, but he made it great.

Same is true here for Seth MacFarlane. Sit out the Family Guy cringes and enjoy it for the pleasantly funny Trek it aims to be.
posted by jgreco at 10:17 AM on March 19, 2020

I'm a huge TNG fan and I love The Orville. It's such a loving tribute to TNG and it's obvious how much Seth MacFarlane loves the show. It's nice to see familiar names in the credits occasionally and TNG and Star Trek cast appearances. I liked season 1, but season 2 really was an improvement. Love the characters and the "office" like vibe of the ship. Give it a go, and definitely watch both seasons.
posted by vivzan at 11:15 AM on March 19, 2020

It's actually really good. I avoided it for a long time, because I thought it wasn't going to be very good, didn't love that brand of humor either, didn't think it'd live up to the Trek universe, etc., but I tried it and it's great and fairly sensitive to interpersonal and relationship issues. Definitely give it a shot.
posted by limeonaire at 11:33 AM on March 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is some early misogyny in Season 1, mostly pointed at the main character's ex-wife, and Season 2 started with a couple of episodes that grate similarly (one about the main character's continuing obsession with his ex, the other about a crewman's porn addiction), but the show itself is a loving pastiche of Trek, especially TNG, and definitely worth watching.
posted by hanov3r at 3:00 PM on March 19, 2020

It's a really good show. After some wobbles it eventually settles down into "good 1990s Trek show, but made now, with a little more humor." It definitely isn't Family Guy in space.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:15 PM on March 19, 2020

The start of season one turned me off a bit due to sexist jokes and bro-y characters, but I'm glad I kept watching. It only took a few episodes to turn around and make the bro-iness the butt of the jokes and stop playing the main characters' relationship for sexist laughs.
posted by lollusc at 8:50 PM on March 19, 2020

I'd say it's worth watching, AND annoyingly sexist. In tone, it's more or less like Enterprise but with a random, entirely unmotivated cut-aways to Beavis and Butt-Head several times in each episode. Go into it expecting to be a little bit embarrassed to be watching it.

But, there are enough genuinely thoughtful bits that it's worth putting up with the cringe-worthy stuff, at least for me. It's no Galaxy Quest, but there's craft and real respect for the fictional world and the material they're parodying in between the fart jokes, casual misogyny, and flipped gender stereotypes as punchlines.

I'm not at all sure it gets better in the second season. Some of the more interesting episodes - "About a Girl" and "Into the Fold" come to mind for me - are in the first season.
posted by eotvos at 12:01 AM on March 20, 2020

I watched the first few episodes but then I ran out of buckets.
posted by Coaticass at 1:19 AM on March 20, 2020

The gender episode ("About a Girl") is hot garbage with shitty worldbuilding that makes being trans a plot point and reinforces dangerous ideas about non-consensual genital surgery on infants. Not surprising given Family Guy is an even greater transphobic mess.
posted by Wossname at 5:42 AM on March 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Orville is decent, but I really think you should give Dark Matter a try if you haven't already! It has a somewhat Star Trek feel partly because of the Android (and similar to Janet in the Good Place too).
posted by Eyelash at 5:51 AM on March 20, 2020

I'm trans, and I'm gonna have to hard disagree with Wossname on About a Girl being transphobic. The whole point was that it was wrong for this all-male society to deny the existence of their female babies and "correct" them with surgery. Bortus has an epiphany about this and he's appalled when his child is made male against his will. Bortus' resentment over it becomes an ongoing story through the series, it's not treated lightly. I thought the episode and the follow-up visits to Bortus' world were worthy of classic TNG. After the iffy pilot episode About a Girl was the episode that made me see the potential in this show.

Obviously opinions about this show are all over the map, but as a longtime Trekkie who'd long ago given up on McFarlane, I can tell you that I think it's pretty darn good. In some ways I feel like Seth McFarlane finally found the thing he was really good at. If this was the first thing he'd done I think it would have been taken very differently, but Family Guy et al created expectations that people have a hard time shaking off. At the very least, this is a show that's trying really hard to be progressive. They may not always sync up with your idea of progressive but if you like Trek I'd strongly suggest you forget everything you know about Seth McFarlane and give this a chance. Like me, you may be amazed that anything this good could come for the "We Saw Your Boobs" guy.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:26 PM on March 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

Thank you for asking this, kristi! I have also heard good things about the Orville but I hate everything Seth McFarlane does. This thread has convinced me to give it a chance.
posted by ejs at 1:04 PM on March 21, 2020

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