"The Orville" gives our future a bright look and some curvy guns


I have mixed feelings about "The Orville." You probably will, too, when it debuts Sunday (Sept. 10), the first show of the TV season. But my feelings are thoroughly unmixed when it comes to the show's look. Carefully crafted by people who love science-fiction, "The Orville" is a visual treat. If you scroll down, you'll see the stories I sent to papers in my season-preview package. Now here's the story I sent about "The Orville":

By Mike Hughes

A stroll through the
future can be kind of pleasant sometimes.

At least, though
this future – the space ship Seth MacFarlane envisioned for “The
Orville,” the first show to arrive in the new TV season.

“Seth's direction
was: 'Make it super cool.'” said Howard Berger, the makeup and
special effects chief.

Modern
science-fiction sometime has an ominous look, but not aboard the
Orville. “There's a warmth,” said production designer Stephen
Lineweaver. “The future can't be all dark and noir.”

So this ship has
soft whites and pale blues. It has lots of curves and stairways, plus
a 100-foot hallway. It has lots of room in general. “It took me
about a month to stop getting lost on the ship,” said J. Lee.

Ironically, he plays
the navigator. He and Scott Grimes, who plays the pilot, sit at the
bridge, rarely needing to react to special effects that will be added
later.

“It's really
amazing,” Grimes said, “the money they spent to allow us to
experience something that's right in front of us .... I've
experienced a little bit of motion sickness ... when we go to quantum
speed.”

MacFarlane was in a
good position to demand this expense. Over the years, he's made Fox a
fortune with “Family Guy.” “American Dad,” “The Cleveland
Show” and the “Ted” movies.

But he's also a
space buff who produced Fox's “Cosmos” revival. And he wanted the
sort of science-fiction he grew up with.

“I missed the
optimism,” said MacFarlane, 43. “I'm tired of being told that
everything is going to be grim and dystopian and people are going to
be murdering each other for food. I miss the hopeful side.”

So he gave this a
“Star Trek” feel. Some of the episodes are directed by people who
were actors in the originals – Jonathan Frakes (“Next
Generation”) and Robert MacNeill (“Voyager”). Some “Orville”
producers also produced past “Trek” editions.

“This is
completely original and yet a return to the kind of storytelling that
I really missed,” said Brannon Braga, who produced the “Next
Generation,” “Voyager” and “Enterprise” editions.

In part, that means
having stories that conclude each week. “The show is not
serialized,” MacFarlane said. “You can watch episodes out of
order and still get a viewing experience.”

The result is almost
an anthology. Its first episode is fairly light, it's third is a
serious drama; the fourth will be fun, MacFarlane promises.

This may or may not
please viewers, accustomed to the fierce visuals and continuing
stories of many shows. They will debate the quality of the “Orville”
stories ... but will be impressed by the rest.

“I've watched a
lot of sci-fi, and I've never seen anything like this,” MarFarlane
said. “The craftsmanship of the props is extraordinary.”

That's echoed by the
people who are doing the work. “I'm a sci-fi nerd,” said Berger,
whose masks and make-up have ranged from “Narnia” to “Walking
Dead.”

So is Bryan Rodgers,
the propmaster. Even the pistols wielded by the Orville crew have
flair, he said. “Everything has a beautiful curve, similar to the
ship itself.”

MacFarlane spent a
day playing with his gun cowboy-style, Rodgers said. Adrianne
Palicki, who plays the first officer, also savored hers. “I've shot
a lot of guns in my life,” she said, “but I've never shot that
one, so it was pretty fun.”

And at times, those
props and masks can go wrong. “There was an ant that crawled into
my prosthetic,” Peter Macon said. “That was pretty horrible.”
Even an optimistic future can have its nightmares.

-- “The Orville,”
8 p.m. Sundays on Sept. 10 and 17, Fox; then 9 p.m. Thursdays.

-- First three
episodes air before the season officially starts Sept. 25. Also,
before “Star Trek: Discovery,” which has two episodes Sept. 24,
one on CBS and one on CBS All Access, its new home.