Interview: Seth MacFarlane On How ‘The Orville’ Is Filling The Void Star Trek Left Behind

Believe it or not, we here are still sorting through everything we gathered at last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con. One of the things we can now bring you is some exclusive interviews we did with cast and crew of The Orville, Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek inspired dramedy coming to Fox this fall. The highlights were talking to Seth along with two former Star Trek writer/producers and Penny Johnson (aka Kasidy Yates on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).

Here is our video interview with Seth (with quotes from him along with the others below)

Seth MacFarlane is bringing back optimistic sci-fi

Seth MacFarlane is most famous for creating hit animated comedies like Family Guy but he is a life long fan of Star Trek and science fiction. He is also a fan of real science and was the driving force in rebooting Cosmos. TrekMovie talked to him about his dream of making his own sci-fi show.

How long have you wanted to do a Star Trek-like sci-fi show?

Seth MacFarlane: You know me really well. [The Orville] is really the show that I came out to Hollywood to make more than anything that I have done, so a long time.

This is your dream project?

SM: I love comedy and I love sci-fi and to try to exist in both worlds is challenge, but to do it in an hour-long format is an absolute joy and there is a certain kind of aspirational, hopefully, optimistic sci-fi that hasn’t really been done in fifteen or twenty years. Star Trek did it for a long time and then they evolved into something different so it left open that space. That thing that we all used to love so much is what I am trying to recapture while putting a brand new spin on with some ingredients that no one has ever seen before.

It is being billed as a dramedy or a mix of comedy and sci-fi, so on a scale of Family Guy to Cosmos, where does The Orville fall?

SM: It’s probably somewhere in the middle, probably leaning a little more towards Cosmos, but it is probably in the middle. It is very different than Family Guy, let’s put it that way. Tonally, it is it’s own beast.

It has been said you want to tackle allegorical issues, sort of like Star Trek. What would be an example of an issue that the crew of The Orville might tackle?

SM: It is so hard to give stuff away. There is the character of Bortis which is a single-gender species, all male. What we do with that – there are two ways to go: you can treat that as a gag, or you can delve into that the real-life politics and consequences will be. And we do do that. These characters are set up the way they are for a reason. We want characters that tell legitimate sci-fi stories that include an element of comedy, but at the same time we are an hour-long show. We are an episodic show so each episode has a beginning, middle and end, it is not serialized. But we do take the job seriously of telling actual sci-fi stories that have relevance.

Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Halston Sage, Penny Johnson Jerald, guest star Brian George and guest star Christine Corpuz in The Orville

Brannon Braga and David A. Goodman: Don’t call Orville A spoof

The Orville features a number of Trek vets working with MacFarlane. The two most notable ones are probably executive producers Brannon Braga and David A. Goodman. Braga has more Trek writing credits than any other writer and worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise as well as co-writing two Trek feature films. Goodman worked with Braga as a writer and consulting producer on Star Trek: Enterprise. He has also written  three in-universe Star Trek reference books, including the upcoming “Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard” and wrote Futurama’s Star Trek homage, “Where No Fan Has Gone Before.”

A lot of people are describing The Orville as a Star Trek spoof or parody. Would you say that is a fair assessment?

Brannon Braga: Not really. It is not making fun of shows like that or science fiction in general. It is its own thing. If anything it is a tribute to that kind of storytelling. We are not really making fun of it. It is not that broad.

David A. Goodman: In a spoof, the jeopardy wouldn’t be real. The dramatic elements wouldn’t be real, and that is not true on Orville. In Orville we are invested in these characters and their success, even though there are a lot of moments of humor between them.

Would you say this show is a comedy with elements of sci-fi or the opposite, a serious sci-fi show with moments of comedy?

BB: Hopefully the perfect balance between real, emotional stakes and comedy. It is a balance we talk about every day. Some episodes are flat out comedy from the beginning to the end and some are little more serious, so it won’t be the same each week.

DG: But even those straight-out comedies will have at the base of them a serious science-fiction element so that we are always playing that. So the writing staff is one half comedy writers and one half drama writers. And that was our intent – let’s mix them every step of the way.

BB: And we hate each other.

DG: We do not like each other.

The crew of the U.S.S. Orville in The Orville premiering this fall on FOX

Penny Johnson happy to be back in space

Star Trek fans will recognize Penny Johnson Jerold (Kasidy Yates from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), who plays Dr. Claire Finn, “one of the Union’s most accomplished physicians” on The Orville. TrekMovie talked briefly with the actress about her return to space. 

This is a return for you coming from Deep Space Nine, what’s it like to be back in space again?

Penny Johnson Jerrold: Not only am I in space, I am outta space. Outta space in that this is so much fun. Not to say that Deep Space Nine wasn’t fun. Deep Space Nine was crafting — almost Shakespearean. This is a different kind of thing, being in space. It is very naturalistic and very realistic, with a lot of funny. So it’s a dramedy and a true playground for me. I look forward to going to work every day. It’s truly fun.

Seth MacFarlane, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage and Mark Jackson in The Orville

The Orville premieres Sunday September 10th at 8PM on Fox

TrekMovie SDCC17 interviews

Sonequa Martin-Green on First Officer Michael Burnham

Anthony Rapp on Lt. Stamets in ‘Star Trek: Discovery

Shazid Latif on Lt. Tyler in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

‘Discovery’ showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg and executive producer Heather Kadin

Mary Wiseman on Ensign Tilly in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

More TrekMovie SDCC17 coverage

Full ‘Discovery’ panel video and official post-panel cast interviews

‘The Orville’ panel report and new trailer

‘Discovery’ press conference report

New trailer and images from ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

IDW Panel reveals details for ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ and Boldly Go comics

See ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Federation and Starfleet Props and Costumes

See ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Klingon Costumes And Props

Klingon Torchbearer Revealed + Gentle Giant Announces Discovery Collectibles

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Concept Art Details Klingon And Federation Ships

Stay tuned for even more coverage of San Diego Comic-Con.

 

 

 

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86 Comments on "Interview: Seth MacFarlane On How ‘The Orville’ Is Filling The Void Star Trek Left Behind"

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“each episode has a beginning, middle and end, it is not serialized”

YES! Really been missing this.

exactly! Doing everything right

exactly! Doing everything right!

And if that was abiou7t Discovery everyone would be mad. *rolls eyes*

Can we have articles about Game of Thrones too?

How about Dr. Who and Star Wars while we’re at it.

Quite refreshing.

He’s splitting hairs. GALAXY QUEST was clearly a parody, yet we cared plenty about those characters, and their fates. There was real jeopardy in that film. I sort of get the feeling he’s trying to court the old Trek fans by promising to give them what they want — which is a trip back to the Berman era of Trek — and downplaying what it clearly seems to be — a straight-up comedy of the style MacFarlane is well known. There are episodes of FAMILY GUY where I didn’t really laugh once, and which dealt with some pretty serious topics — going back in time to the German invasion of Poland for instance. I imagine that will be the case here as well, except more so. Fox is not likely to approve scripts that distance themselves too far from the comedy, in any event, so it’s hard for me to imagine what MacFarlane is saying is much more than marketing to attract an instant pre-existing audience to pump up the ratings at launch. I’m looking forward to watching this, but for what it appears to be, not some kind of nostalgic return to serial TV of the 90s. If it actually ends up being TNG 2.0, I most definitely won’t be interested. But I think there’s little chance of that, despite his comments to the contrary.

TOS fanboys strike again

Yeah, I dont mind TOS fanboys but it does get annoying hearing it seems to be the only worthy Trek every article on this site from people as if 21 seasons of Trek meant nothing compared to the 3 seasons from 5 decades ago. Its pretty eye rolling.

Unfortunately its REALITY.
TOS is the Star Trek that counts, the Original all the rest Copy- with exception of Star Trek TNG which was a true continuation & Expansion of the Original Concept.

@Captain Whino,

Fortunately it’s not the reality.

Not ‘reality’ just your opinion. Period. And again, you people KEEP saying this and yet somehow forgot Discovery doesn’t stars Kirk and Spock but Lorca and Burnham. Discovery seems to just take place in the timeline and everything about it is completely different from TOS in terms of tone, look and method. And most of you will be moaning the second they stray from the timeline, which based on what we know thus far, is not exactly surprising.

@Carlo — no you’ve got it wrong; MacFarlane is modeling the show after TNG, complete with Braga and sterile set designs.

GIVE IT A CHANCE. FROM A LIFE LONG TREKKER WHO WORKS ON THE SHOW, AND NOT BECAUSE I WORK ON THE SHOW. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Do you know if they are going to look to take freelance pitches in the future or if it is all staff-written? Cuz I believe I ABSOLUTELY have this show’s number, and I’m trying to figure out if it is worthwhile to get a literary agent again, just to pursue this series.

I’ll ask! Right now I think we are focusing on surviving season 1.

@Balbert ooks — did you read what I wrote? I clearly stated I’m looking forward to watching it. But again, if it’s a generic, faux-TNG 2.0, I probably have better things to do with my time than watch Seth MacFarlane take dramatic acting 101 master classes at my expense. There was a reason I never really watched Star Trek Continues, and it wasn’t because of the masterful recreation of the TOS art direction, or the ham-fisted scripts, and fan-pandering dialogue.

I was being cheeky. Your concerns are valid. All I can say is it take a bit to get our sea legs but it’s not generic TNG. We love first, then we mock.

I’ll be watching, Balbert. Thanks for putting it on regular tv (maybe even on my antenna tv in the back room, just like the good ole days). I am a dinosaur from the TOS sixties, although I love it all, DS9 especially, but I’ll just have to catch Discovery in reruns or on YouTube or something.

Mr. Ooks, one of the purposes of trailers is to convince people to give a new show a chance. Thus far, the trailers have told me unequivocally it’s a parody, perhaps even a funny one. If they want ORVILLE to be more than that, they need to tweak the promos accordingly.

@The River Temarc,

Perhaps the ‘Discovery’ team should do the same if they want us to believe that the show is more than just action and war!

Voyager was sort of TNG 2.0. So this would be 3.0…

I will try to give this a shot at least, watch the first episode.

Fans are critical of Berman and Braga. I think they are to blame for Trek’s slide later on, with Enterprise. But not on TNG. TNG in Seasons 4-6 was very on game for its day, and attracted millions of viewers every week, looking at the ratings!

Seth MacFarlane is an established showrunner at FOX with a successful track record for them. As long as he comes in on budget and delivers on time they’re going to pretty much let him do whatever he wants.

If ORVILLE is supposed to be “more COSMOS than FAMILY GUY,” then the trailers are doing the series a real disservice. We’ve seen the ex-wife as the first officer, fart jokes, toilet seat jokes (I suppose at least know for sure there are bathrooms on the Orville, so there’s that), and running-through-sentient-jello jokes. I mean, if the male-only Bortis species is fodder for thoughtful plotlines, why introduce him with a toilet seat joke?

We already know this is going to be more succesful than STD, and rather refreshingly new info coming out is actually a delight and hits the nail on the head, rather than STD’s slow motion train wreck.

We no nothing of the kind. You are being wildly optimistic regarding Orville’s chances.

*know

Have you not Seen the last, like 14 years of DR WHO?
Light, entertaining, fun, intelligent Sci-Fi adventure not Dark, depressing Cynical Pro-War propaganda- a place/ future noone would want to be in.

Dr. Who is a light, entertaining, fun, intelligent Sci-Fi adventure….sometimes. To be generous, I’d say maybe even half the time. The rest of the time, it is a tedious retread of the same plot contrivances. Oh, the Daleks are up to no good again? Great…. :/

I want to be optimistic about The Orville. But let’s remember, it’s going to be on Fox. The likelihood this show survives beyond 13 episodes is very low.

You can “want” all you like. But you said “we know.” Perhaps if you had phrased your comment “I hope” or “I feel that” you wouldn’t have gotten that response from VoR. Right now, there’s nothing I’ve seen from Orville that tells me it will be a success, whereas I see many signs that Discovery could be: track record of the producers has some bright spots, the network increasing the episode order, the high quality cast, and it being a serious stylized drama. It could turn out the other way as you HOPE… but I’m not seeing much track record for sci-fi comedy– a niche genre that has never really had a chance on network TV. There’s been limited success on cable (Farscape’s 4 seasons) and in the UK (Red Dwarf). The two primary appeals seem to be McFarlane himself, and the science fiction/Trek connection. For McFarlane’s part, I’m not sure his demo really cares about science fiction, and for the Trek connection, I don’t think there’s nearly enough of an audience to sustain it, let alone that most Trek fans aren’t looking for a comedy. I think that’s what gets me from folks who say this will be “better than discovery”– they don’t like DSC simply because it’s a prequel, and changes the look of the ship/uniforms/tech/aliens, but is in love with Orville despite it being a slapstick comedy. Somehow a comedy is “more Trek” than DSC simply because it looks like Trek. We’ll see I guess.

Braga seeing this effort as on par with real Trek as opposed to the reality of it as a comedy is the root cause of why his kumbya Trek did not work out in the end. The original Trek final frontier was exciting, conflict and danger filled with the unknown a mix or good and bad – the optimism being we could survive and prosper regardless. Characters could thrive there. Braga took most of that away – free power, kids on the ship, let’s go play in the holodeck. Take away the sacrifice, hardships and conflict and you have comedy, generic alien make up, some forgettable ship designs and some young and the restless drama that could get you 10 years tops… and the 10 years is spent. Glad Seth realized you could double down on the comedy though – might be funny mocking the whole Braga Trek fiasco.

@Cmd. Bremmon — to be fair, TNG as you know it was Roddenberry’s doing before Berman or Braga showed up in the scene. That’s why the first two seasons struggled, and didn’t take off until season 3 after Roddenberry dropped out of the day-to-day. That’s not to say Berman and Braga didn’t do their own brand of homogenizing and stereotyping. But there’s some damn fine episodes scattered through the wreckage of Berman and Braga’s playground. But like TOS, those episodes are a product of the time they were produced. Trying to resurrect them for ORVILLE is ultimately a mistake, if they try to be anything more serious than GALAXY QUEST, which I personally think they are not. This interview is marketing, pure and simple, trying to attach a sizable fan-base to their series launch.

I’d feel more sorry as when Braga had opportunities to escape the TNG limitations (Borg as collectivist unimind to enforce peace with a lesson for the Federation, Deep Space Nine with an alien culture with religion, Federation at war, Enterprise with imperfect humans, exploration of Andorians/Vulcans, primative nuclear weapons, no transporters, no phasers on stun, Romulans and Klingons actually out for Earth conquered or destroyed, etc) he would actively attempt to sideline or screw up the effort almost as if an act of sabotoge (Borg have a queen, Voyager (aka TNG for more years) over DS9, Enterprise – hey they had peace with the Klingons and transporters years before Kirk and what Romulan war, Peace withh the klinngons the whole time).

Give it a rest already. TNG is the most successful Trek and still hugely popular today. Not everyone who watches Trek today is 60 years old.Most younger people watch and love TNG. TOS was fine but thank god its not the only version of Trek. Hasn’t been for decades.

@Cmd. — Yes, TNG had many flaws. Thank god TNG is not the only version of Trek, and hasn’t been for decades. TOS has the most iconic characters of the franchise, which all Star Trek fans and non-fans of any age, know. Of course TOS has it’s flaws too, just like any fictional TV series. Too bad some fans can’t discuss them openly without getting defensive.

“is the root cause of why his kumbya Trek did not work out in the end”

It was THE most successful period of trek.. lol

I admit the more I hear about the show the more interested I’m becoming. It sounds like its going to be a lot of comedy but a show with heart as well. Its going to be interesting seeing this show and Discovery on together week to week. Something for the fans to compare and contrast.

The hour long format is going to hurt this show. Can’t see how it can sustain itself. If Mcfarlane wanted to do a serious SF show, he should’ve done just that, rather than some inelegant compromise that will appeal to a very small audience.

Does this even belong on a Trek website?

@James,

“The hour long format is going to hurt this show. Can’t see how it can sustain itself. ”

Are you familiar with Dr. Who, Stargate or Farscape? Those were all hour-long shows that managed successfully to mix great sci-fi ideas with comedy. I believe this is what they’re aiming to do with ‘The Orville’.

Im very dubious about that given who’s running things. But unlike the irrational haters whining about Discovery, I wont hang the noose around Orville til I have seen it.

This looks more like Red Dwarf in terms of humor. I don’t think that this will be on the same level as Farscape or Who.

Stargate was not a comedy. They worked a few comedic elements into it (“Wormhole X-Treme”), just as Star Trek has, but it was not primarily a comedy.

Remember the episode where Baal captures O’Neill and tortures him with knives? I defy you to call that a comedy.

As for Dr. Who and Farscape, extreme camp is a reason why I don’t watch them. And I generally like British comedies.

@James — MacFarlane didn’t have a choice, as FOX is likely the only studio willing to endure his fantasy. If he’s telling the truth, there’s a reason it took him 30 years to get this show off the ground. People underestimate the value MacFarlane brings to fox and the leverage that gives him. But FOX is only going to go so far. MacFarlane has made enough money for Fox to warrant this kind of investment into his vanity project — studios do this all the time for their profitable talent — but if it doesn’t get ratings, they can honestly say they tried. Fox is going to push this show to be FAMILY GUY in space, and MacFarlane will be his own worst enemy if he tries to push his sad acting skills into serious drama. To hinge a one hour show on it is kind of risky, if not downright foolish. And I love the comparisons some people are making to this to STARGATE — it’s not even in the same category as this obviously sophomoric parody of a serious drama. Having a sarcastic character in serious drama and artificially forcing serious drama into a farcical comedy are two very different concepts.

Unfortunately probably more than articles on Discovery because even this in not a “Star Trek” show it is trying to meet those Star Trek ideals while Discovery deliberatly tries to disguise & avoid them.

Seth MacFarlane your fecking brilliant i hate to see anyone question your brilliant mind. I am looking forward to whatever you decide on.

*you’re = you are (Seth would tell you this too, since he’s brilliant and all). Grammar aside, Seth is not flawless and has made some stinkers. Have you seen, “A Million Ways to Die in the West?”

I am very much looking forward to seeing this show!

Totally giving this a chance, it looks like fun and I like what I’m hearing so far. A co-mingling of sci-fi, humor and some depth. And here in the U.S. I don’t have to sign up for a whole new service to get it, imagine that.

Based on what they said, I guess the best comparison to this tonally might be Buffy? Funny but serious, though Buffy was serialized and more serious than funny.

What’ll be interesting is how the show evolves. Maybe the first two seasons are episodic but they start thinking of doing some bigger arcs as the show finds its voice. Or maybe they keep it more or less the same. It’ll be interesting to watch.

@Marcelo,

“Based on what they said, I guess the best comparison to this tonally might be Buffy? ”

I’m thinking more like Farscape or Dr. Who.

Not sure how many fart and dick jokes Dr. Who has….

@VoR — I don’t think FARSCAPE had any …

@Curious Cadet,

Have you even watched ‘Farscape’? Do you remember a main character by the name of Rygel? You know; the funny little alien that was turned into a running fart joke throughout the show.

And that wasn’t even my point when I compared ‘Farscape’ & ‘Dr. Who’ to ‘The Orville’ but thanks for showing that either you’re ignorant or plainly hating on ‘The Orville’ for hiring Brannon Braga whom you seem to have an axe to grind.

@VoR,

My point, which I’m sure you’re well aware of, is that they are shows that incorporated sci-fi elements with comedy.

Yes, but I just think we should all be realistic with our expectations and Seth’s penchant for low-brow humor.

Void? Star Trek is coming back…if only this show was earlier….

I’ll still watch it though…I’ll probably even like it.

By the way, what about the Khan tv series?

It is a spoof. Just like Galaxy Quest was a spoof of TOS, this is a spoof of TNG. But I’m sorry… maybe if Seth wasn’t involved I’d give it a try, but I really can’t stand his juvenile humor and fart jokes. Family Guy in space. I give it a season befor FOX cancels it. FOX and sci-fi don’t have a good run history. Especially with the high budget. Ad revenues are going to have o be pretty high.

I’ll give it a chance, but MacFarlane is not my favorite director/writer in the world.

@Adama — forget writer/director, it’s his acting that’s the real liability here. I’d have an easier time with this if he didn’t turn it into a vanity project with himself as the star. If this were cast with the same care as Star Trek has been over the years, maybe I could take this seriously. But unlike even Galaxy Quest, there’s no serious acting chops here, let alone in the staring roles. No matter how good the writing is — and with Braga at the helm I’m not expecting much — the focus of the drama is going to be on MacFarlane who has demonstrated a repeated ability to destroy any scene which depends on emotional relatability and serious contemplation. If he were simply a playing Captin Fartbag of the USS Pfffffffftttttttt … Then I might actually be able to give him more credibility than this blatant marketing effort to play on the current disgruntled Trek base, who are disillusioned with what they’ve seen of DISC, in a thinly veiled effort to boost his ratings …

So you chose to cover Orville again, despite the big rumored news that Nicholas Meyer is working on a Khan TV miniseries? See ya, Trekmovie!

I’d suspect they are working on a story since Meyer producing a Khan TV series should be the biggest news around here, by far.

Sounds good. They didn’t ruin Khan enough in Star Trek: Into Darkness.

I wondered…not sure though…it may turn out to be total crap.

The rumor I mean…it may not be true…Khan sounds like it could be a good show, definitely a new direction and something different.

Still I’m not holding my breath until I hear something more substantial.

@Torchwood,

I know it’s shocking that Trekmovie is covering real news about a real show like ‘The Orville’ and not going after unsubstantiated stupid rumor from GeekExchange, a rumor that no other reputable site has covered.

They dont cover real news about any other real shows.

@TUP,

It’s their website and they’re free to cover whatever they want. I’m not interested in ‘Star Trek Continues’ and I don’t comment on STC threads.

You don’t like ‘The Orville, then simply don’t read the articles and spam the threads.

Jesus Christ, why are you always kicking off like a child on here?
See ya and don’t come back.

It it clearly a show that is inspired from Star Trek in all but name. It is produced by people who were a big part of Star Trek in the past. Trekmovie would logically follow it with interest!

“We are an episodic show so each episode has a beginning, middle and end, it is not serialized. ”

Serialized shows are great but I don’t want every show to follow the same format, so I’m fine with episodic show.

I want to support this, but MacFarlane has attacked people of faith in his other shows and I don’t want to see that in this one. I’m all for attacking organized religion, but faith and spirituality shouldn’t be mocked. If the show can be a blend of fun, action, and social relevance, I’ll fully support it and recommend it to others.

“faith and spirituality shouldn’t be mocked”

Why not? Life’s too short to take yourself too seriously there, Superman. After all, you’re only a man in a silly red sheet
digging for kryptonite on this one way street…

I’d think people of faith generally ought to have enough faith that they can take jokes about their faith. Yet that’s usually not the case.

I think this show has potential to be very entertaining. I like the production design.

I’m looking forward to this, but there’s still no reported outlet in the UK

@ziplock9000 — well it’s FOX so doesn’t that mean it will automatically end up on SKY?

More than likely. Channel 4 may pick it up though, if Sky do not.

I hate to say this, but I actually like their uniforms better than Discovery’s.

I wasn’t going to say anything, but yeah…and its free-for-the-watching too! Can’t beat that with a stick.

It’s free? So they are going to pay my cable bill?? Thats a hell of a marketing idea!

Do you have rabbit ears? That’s for VHF. Your FOX might be UHF. Are you too young to know these things? My FOX is UHF so that’s the hoop & Disc (for 14 and above) in between the rabbit ears (good for 2 thru 13 only).

OMG, you are so annoying, seriously.

If they can pull of the comedy/drama balance the way M*A*S*H did, it could be a really great show. If it’s slapstick, with some ‘real’ moments mixed in, it’ll be a short-lived train wreck.

Right now, weeks before it (and ST:D) launches, I’m just stoked that there’s going to be more Sci-Fi on TV.

The Orville is going to absolutely decimate Discovery. Hopefully when more people flock to The Orville, CBS decides to cancel Discovery and start over so that we can actually get a decent new Star Trek show. The Orville is more Star Trek than Discovery and the Kelvin films.

Star Trek left a void? Wha?? If anything… Seth is capitalizing off of people who like to see spoofing on a HUGE fanbase.

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