DAVID BIANCULLI

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THE ORVILLE
September 10, 2017  | By David Bianculli

Fox, 8:00 p.m. ET

 
SERIES PREMIERE: This new Fox series is a split-personality conundrum. It’s created by, and stars, Seth MacFarlane, and is a sci-fi comedy modeled after the classic Star Trek universe of TV shows. Because MacFarlane also created Family Guy, the reasonable expectation would be for The Orville to be an all-out, perhaps even crude spoof – a less respectful Spaceballs, perhaps. But MacFarlane also was one of the executive producers of Fox’s very good reboot of Cosmos, as was one of his collaborators here, veteran genre writer-producer Brannon Braga, whose production credits include Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. So while tonight’s premiere indeed has a few broad laughs, by the arrival of the third episode, The Orville plays like it wants to be – and should be – a straight sci-fi series in the old Star Trek mold. For one thing, The Orville looks better, special effects-wise, than any of the shows it’s spoofing. For another, the plots are so steeped in standard Star Trek lore (MacFarlane’s Captain Ed Mercer is even captured, at one point, for an alien zoo) that they’re kind of charming. The humor doesn’t work that well, but the universe created here is so complete, and so reverently realized, that I’m rooting for The Orville, in these first missions, to find the tone and balance it needs to survive. Standout co-stars include Adrianne Palicki as the captain’s ex-wife and First Officer, and Halston Sage as the Orville’s security officer. They get to play some strong scenes in the first few episodes – but for starters, The Orville is no Galaxy Quest. But it has some promise… For full reviews, see Ed Bark's Uncle Barky's Bytes and David Hinckley's All Along the Watchtower.
 
 
 
 
 
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Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is now available in paperback for under $15. Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. Interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer are high points... Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post

 

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