Interview: David A. Goodman On ‘The Orville’ As Sci-Fi Gateway And How ‘Futurama’ Landed ‘Enterprise’ Job

In part one of our exclusive interview with writer and producer David A. Goodman we focused on his new Star Trek book, The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard. For part two we talked to the multiple Emmy-nominee about his work on The Orville, Futurama, and Star Trek: Enterprise; and how they are all linked together.

The Orville executive producers Seth MacFarlane, David A. Goodman, and Brannon Braga at TCA tour in August

Creating mythology on The Orville

You wrote the latest episode (“Krill”), where you really got into the mythology of The Orville. The Krill are a big part of the show, so how much of that was worked out before?

Part of my contribution to the show and talking to [The Orville creator] Seth [MacFarlane] early on was this idea of the Krill being a race that had a religion that didn’t let in the idea of any other races. The idea was a powerful space empire that believed that if you are not in their bible, you don’t exist. That was something we all worked together in the writer’s room. We knew who the Krill were going to be before this episode. That was something we decided with Seth early on before even the pilot script, but there was no way to get it across before that episode.

Was there a allegory there about how people de-humanize each other? 

I think the idea of fanatical religion is something we are commenting on. This idea that people will dismiss others that don’t believe in their religion. The Krill don’t represent one specific religion, but the idea of fanaticism, which you can find in pretty much any religion. We see it in America and obviously in other parts of the world.

The Orville is designed to be episodic with standalone episodes, but “Krill” picked up on things from previous episodes and ended on a warning. So, can we expect “Krill” to impact future episodes?

I don’t think you will see us come back to it in season one, but we will come back to it. That is the great thing about this show. There are lots of great stories to tell as we build our world. We had thirteen episodes this year and so we don’t want to get locked into one story. That is really really important to us. On the other hand, assuming we have a second season, we will absolutely come back to this.

In the episode “Krill” The Orville established much about the series main adversary

The Orville as gateway to sci-fi

It feels like many critics of this show just didn’t get what you guys were trying to do. Perhaps it was how the show was initially promoted, but I think many critics thought this was going to be a half-hour “yuck, yuck, yuck” space comedy, and they were like “What’s this?” You have written “yuck, yuck, yuck” half-hour comedies, including one in space. Was there ever an impetus that this should be that kind of show? Wouldn’t that have been the easier thing to do?

Here is the problem with that. One, that is not the show that Seth wanted to make. He wanted to do his version of a hour-long drama with comedy. He is kind of creating something new. And you are right, the critics didn’t get. It is upsetting to me because they didn’t try to get it. And critics are often so unfair to Seth and I don’t know why as I think he is a f—king genius, having worked with him now for 18 years. He has a unique point of view and is trying to do something new and the idea that the critics couldn’t even find it in their stone-cold hearts and open up and say “You know what, the guy is trying something new. I will be interested to see what he does with it.”

The problem with doing a half-hour “yuck, yuck” is to keep people invested in the show becomes that much more difficult because the line between spoof and satire – and there is a difference – is a harder one to maintain. If it slips too much into spoof, eventually people are going to stop watching. If you are not invested in who these characters are and the reality of their world, I think people stop watching. It is hard to do a half-hour space comedy and create a world and real character. That is the thing about the comedy in The Orville, is that it is real in the sense Ed Mercer is a guy looking for his second chance. He is scared sometimes and he screws up sometimes. He is annoyed by his ex-wife, but also there is clearly some leftover affection there as well. And you got Scott Grimes playing Gordon who is a screw-up, but also a guy looking for redemption. And you have Adrianne [Palicki] playing Kelly who doesn’t want to one-up her ex and is there to help him, but also, she is annoyed he is hanging on to the past. There is a reality to these people, so when they are playing comedy it is coming out of the reality of their relationship and the situation. And that to me is so much more satisfying to the viewer, because you are invested in these people.

Would you be agree that with regards to the drama and comedy mix, the show is evolving and getting better at getting that balance right?

It is hard for me to see it as I love the first half of the season, but a number of people in the audience and critics have said that. I guess for me it is more that a show always takes time. For me, the second half of the season rocks. We have some great episodes coming up. I think a show does often takes time to find its footing. Next Generation took two years, in fact all the Star Trek shows took a while to figure out who they were. For me Deep Space Nine didn’t get good until season four and Voyager as well. All these kinds of shows take a little time to find themselves. If you are saying we are finding it on episode six, I’ll take it.

Some have critiqued the show for using well-known tropes, but correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t that a feature and not a bug? There is an element of this show where you guys are explicitly playing to nostalgia.

It only matters if us using that trope is getting in the way of you enjoying that episode. I agree, we are using tropes because this is show for everybody. What Seth has set out to do is that for those of us steeped in science fiction and Star Trek and Twilight Zone and we know it backwards and forward, there is almost nothing you can do on television that is going to appeal to us and appeal to a broad audience. Sure, you can do The Expanse – which I think is a terrific show – but I don’t think it is for a wide audience. It is for fans of hard science fiction.

The Orville is for people who watch television and I am hoping The Orville is the gateway drug to science fiction that Star Trek was for me. I hadn’t read science fiction until after I started watching Star Trek. And Star Trek used a lot of the tropes that were used in science fiction for years and it uses them in its own world and I didn’t recognize them as tropes because I hadn’t been exposed to them. That is what I am hoping The Orville is. It is an enjoyable show for casual TV watchers, but for young people who aren’t going to watch The Original Series or even The Next Generation because it is from a different decade, but they are going to watch this show which has references that they can connect to and maybe develop an interest in this genre, which is a terrific genre.

Goodman sees The Orville as a gateway to introduce young audiences to sci-fi

Season 2 chances and no rivalry with Discovery

Putting on your executive producer hat, what do you know about season two and how and when Fox will make a decision?

I don’t know about that. I think we are doing well. When we moved to Thursday, definitely our rating is lower, but we have maintained 100% of our viewers on Thursday in the Live+3 viewers. That tells the network there is a show here that is in a tough timeslot, but people are showing up for it and it is a demographic we like. Because of that, I think they are bullish on the show. Every signal we have is that they are really happy creatively with the show and they happy with it ratings-wise. They understand moving us to Thursday put us in a really tough timeslot and even with that competition, people are DVRing us and watching us.

If you were picked up, it would be for a second season next fall, not additional episodes for season one this spring, right?

It is too late to pick us up for a back nine in terms construction of sets and writing because we finished production in August. A lot of shows start production in July and are in production as the shows are airing so if they were to pick up the show the infrastructure is already in place. In the case of this show Seth was heavily involved in the writing and we wrote all the shows last year and that allowed him to star in the show and we were done in August for shooting. We are still in post-production of course.

What do you think of the notion that there is a rivalry between The Orville and Discovery. As a Star Trek fan what do you think of Discovery?

It has a great cast and looks awesome. It is a little darker than I like my Star Trek, but I like it. It is very well written. I liked the format of a continuing story, because it says Star Trek can survive in different forms and formats. I am interested to see where they go. It is a great show. I don’t see the rivalry. For me, I got two shows I like to watch. It’s funny to me that people feel like they have to create some kind of feud or rivalry. There are fifteen cop shows, why can’t we have two of these? Oh my god, there are two shows set on spaceships, they have to compete with one another. I wish there were fifty of them. I read Asimov. I read Heinlein. I read Clarke. I don’t have to just read one, same thing goes for television. I am really happy that Star Trek continues. I am a big Star Trek fan.

Goodman doesn’t see The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery as rivals

Futurama lead to Enterprise, which lead to The Orville

Let’s talk about Futurama. You had just 22 minutes to work with in “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” and you crammed so many Star Trek gags in there, was there anything left you wish made it in?

There really weren’t. When you enter the process, you know you are limited. Actually, there was one joke that I had that I really liked which was after Kirk does his log at the opening for Shatner’s log I had Chekov start to do his log. “Dear Log, what a crazy week” and he gets cut off. And that thing I played with Sulu later in the episode with “How come I don’t get to decide?” – playing on the idea that the supporting cast is upset that Shatner is always hogging the limelight.

That was really a great moment in my life to get to write that episode and to have the support of that writing staff, who helped me figure out the story and they were so supportive of all the Star Trek jokes that I wrote and then they wrote as well. It was just such a love letter to Star Trek.

Goodman wrote the Star Trek-themed Futurama episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”…leading to him landing a job on Enterprise

So, did that episode really get you the job on Enterprise?

I wasn’t in the Star Trek building when this happened, so I got this second hand from Chris Black, but it was Chris who was on Enterprise and had seen the Futurama episode and he told Brannon [Braga] about it and somehow around that same time my agent, on my urging, called Brannon to try to get me an interview. So, Brannon was aware of the Futurama episode because of Chris Black and so he knew who I was. Without that knowledge, I don’t think Brannon would have been interested. But, because I had written for Futurama and because he and Rick [Berman] had aspirations to make Enterprise funnier, he thought this could be a good guy for the show. So, he brought me in. So, yeah it got me in the door and that was cool.

And it was you who got Seth onto the show.

That’s right. I introduced Seth to Brannon, and that eventually led to Cosmos and then to Orville. Here is what happened. I started working on Enterprise and around that time Rick Berman’s son introduced Rick to Family Guy. Firstly, Rick couldn’t believe I was on his staff and then he would ask me “How did you do that joke?” That is the thing about Family Guy is people are blown away by how we can push the envelope on what gets put on television. So, we talked a lot about Family Guy and Seth wasn’t working at that time. This was before Seth became the show business legend he is now. Family Guy at that time had been cancelled and Seth was just trying to get other projects going and I said to Rick “You want to meet Seth?” And he was like “Sure!” And I brought Seth in to meet Rick and his son and was a fun meeting and later I said to Rick and Brannon that Seth was a huge Star Trek fan so can we give him a part. And so, Chris Black and I figured out a part in “The Forgotten” with this assistant engineer [Ensign Rivers]. And then he and Brannon became friends and Brannon brought him back in season four.

Goodman on the Enterprise set with Seth MacFarlane

Enterprise canon and preemptive nitpicking on The Orville

You went back for the return of Family Guy, so you weren’t there for season four of Enterprise, but do you agree with Brannon that the way Manny Coto handled season four should have been the way the show should have been since the beginning?

What did he mean, you mean the min-arcs?

I think the mini-arcs and more references to The Original Series and links to canon.

I liked Enterprise all the way through, with early episodes I really enjoyed. It is a problem because when you get too tied to canon, you immediately limit the possibilities of new audiences coming to Star Trek. That was my issue with them doing a prequel. As a Star Trek fan, I want that canon stuff. But, as a TV producer I have to wonder does the audience care about how the Romulan War started? You have to make them care and invested in your characters. So, I understand that point of view. I don’t fully agree or disagree. I think it is a choice. One of the brilliant things that Gene Roddenberry did when he brought back Star Trek was to he said let’s go 80 years forward and get as far away from The Original Series as we can. Although it had some fits and starts, by season three it was its own show. You can turn on The Next Generation and not have to have seen an episode of anything. That to me is what you want to do as a TV producer.

People like you and me are of a kind. We are so steeped in Star Trek that we love when the show we are watching acknowledges our knowledge of Star Trek. But, we forget the original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation were popular with millions of people who were not Star Trek fans watching. I can’t tell you the number of people that I meet that say they watched Star Trek every week when they were a kid, but they weren’t Trekkies. They weren’t people who are like you and me. That says something about that creation. It allows for people like us, but it also allows for people to just watch television. I like that aspiration.

Going back to The Orville, you guys are essentially creating a whole new canon as you go along. Eventually that means you are going to run into your own Orville nitpicking.

[Laughs] Yeah, we talk about it. Here is a perfect example on how we are on that. In “Krill” we were breaking the story and came up with the idea that they were brought up in darkness and the way to kill them was to bring up the lights. At that moment that was not part of the pilot and when you see the Krill get off the shuttle you see them and Seth realized he had to change that to put helmets on them. That’s because of the nitpicking. So, we then reference that scene from the pilot in the “Krill” episode. We are in there trying to make sure there is an internal consistency to this world. We may slip up at times, but I think we will be pretty far ahead of that.

So, you preemptively nitpicked yourselves?

Exactly! [laughs] You know as a fan of these kinds of these shows – and we are all in that room – you want that kind of respect for the audience who are going to know these things.  

These helmets were added to The Orville pilot to match story from episode 6 (“Krill”)

The Orville returns this week

After taking a break last week, The Orville is back this Thursday with an episode titled “Majority Rules.” Here is a promo.

Pick up Goodman’s new Star Trek book

The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard was released October 17th in hardcover, and retails for $24.99. You can pick it up at Amazon for $18.81 or get the eBook version for $8.01.


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Can’t speak for the critics, but I get what MacFarlane is trying to do with The Orville–he’s trying to do for space opera what M*A*S*H did for a wartime sitcom. I just don’t think he’s gotten that to work, for many reasons I won’t belabor here (only because I’ve done it ad nauseum elsewhere). Obviously, others feel differently, and good for them that they enjoy the show. It’s certainly possible that the show will develop into something more to my liking (and it has made some progress in that direction), or that my feelings about its mix of fairly juvenile humor and TNG-style topic-of-the-week will change. But one thing I’m in absolute agreement about: there’s no reason for any kind of rivalry between this show and Star Trek Discovery, where keeping score is just a substitute athletic rivalry for nerds. Both technically space operas, they otherwise could hardly be more different in tone and intent. People should feel free, for God’s sake, to enjoy both, or one, or neither, without having their taste or integrity questioned.

I agree that there is no reason for any rivalry.

@Gary 8.5 — look no further than Seth MacFarlane for the reason. He seems to be the one who initially stoked the flames, perhaps in some misguided effort to draw Star Trek fans he saw as disinfranchised by the direction Trek was going, in order to bolster his own ratings. Add to that fans who don’t like the visual continuity of DISC, or the tone of the show, or the retcon to “holy canon”, and ORVILLE becomes an effective tool at the right time to drive a wedge in the franchise. Talk about religious fanaticism! And that’s the real danger to Trek from ORVILLE. As the show slowly shifts to a drama, it becomes less of a parody of TNG, and more of a direct spinoff — Star Trek in all but name. Yet CBS isn’t seeing any revenue from that show, but they are losing some of the audience they might have if ORVILLE wasn’t being presented as a direct alternative, fueled by MacFarlanes own comments. It’s no wonder FOX appears to be furiously trying to distance themselves from that comparison, as it’s dangerous legal ground they’re walking on, since parody only goes so far as a defense.

THIS! I was ok with both until MacFarlane stoked the flames and caused a big mess between fans. It was stepping on an ant hill essentially. That’s basically the big gripe I’ve had.

What if ORVILLE had been a loving tribute to or riff on TOS rather than TNG? Would that have bothered you as much? The TNG aspects of ORVILLE are the least-appealing parts of it for me, and yet I’m still watching (hoping they eventually get some additional depth to their ‘verse, and some nice visual ‘snap’ to their lighting.)

Because fans are so stupid they can’t think for themselves about publicity nonsense. They just go right where MacFarlane wants them to?

Okay, some fans are that stupid, but I think most of us shrugged and said, “Puffery.”

No lasting damage was done. Nothin’ to see here folks, shuffle on.

Sorry, but I’m not getting the logic here. If The Orville didn’t exist or it gets cancelled, that won’t make people who think Discovery sucks like it one whit better. In fact, just six episodes in on both shows attitudes amongst fans have hardened and polarized to a remarkable degree, and I don’t see a lot of willingness on these boards in general to give the hated “other” show much of a chance. In this, of course, the situation resembles nothing so much as our fractured and debased politics, which is actually the unkindest cut of all.

Just plain stupidity on the part of folks who can’t enjoy two different things. It’s not like Orville and Discovery are being inimical to real, live people. Sheesh!

Hear, hear Michael! There’s no interstellar law that says you must like all science fiction on TV. David Goodman makes a very good point, though—we have so little of it; why can’t there be more than just the two examples, especially when we have So. Many. Freaking. Police shows. This petty rivalry between fans of Orville an Discovery is incredibly childish and unproductive, and I wish that both sides would cease and desist.

I hope that you are still watching. The show definitely is finding its footing, I think. It heralds the return of must-see TV Thursdays here in the Gammans household.

Well, genre shows tend to be expensive to produce in an era where networks are out to cut costs, if anything. Looking at it objectively we’re living in a virtual Golden Age of such programming at the moment, especially if you count in fantasy and horror shows. Everyone in theory should be happy, since there’s something out there to fit all tastes. So why do we insist on being miserable?

Well said Michael.

That’s true. But I think some people are confused as to why they come to a Star Trek site and see so much about Orville. I think most of the non-Orville fans who are Trek fans dont really care. But loving Orville sort of became the cool thing to do if you wanted to be irrationally anti-Discovery.

As for being like MASH, Seth has neither the wit, charm, acting skills or writing ability to pull it off.

And thats really the biggest issue with Orville – its a Seth vanity project. Without Seth, it doesnt get made. But its probably Seth that is the biggest drag on the show too.

In contrast to Discovery where the point was to make a lower-ranked character the vocal point and yet the Captain is the most interesting aspect so far, Orville probably would have benefited from Seth being a lower ranked character that could use his brand of humor in more of an observational way.

Absolutely no reason whatsoever one can’t enjoy both shows if one chooses. And I choose to. They’re very different, and both have their good and bad points, imo. I don’t get the vitriol people have for either one, honestly. If you don’t like one, simply don’t watch it.

I agree. I will add though that I don’t understand why people feel the need to comment on Orville outside of the Orville thread. Some people even use it as a personal attack against people. Belittling people over liking one show or the other. Why can’t we all just respect differing taste? The behavior IMO can’t be blamed on the creators solely. We are all responsible for our own actions. That includes how we treat each other in discussion forums.

I like The Orville overall. I’m not dying for the return of 90’s Trek (don’t get me wrong because I loved 90’s Trek at the time) but the stories have been surprisingly thought provoking at times. It has enough of a Next Gen feel to be fun and some of the humor has genuinely made me laugh. A few characters are so over-the-top it makes it a little hard to watch but overall I like what I’ve seen.

The episode “Krill” was IMO the best yet. The morally complex ending especially nailed it. It seems like they are starting to find their footing. This show was always going to have a hard time getting there but when they do I think it could really be something. It could bring a nice amount of humor to serious situations prompting people to both laugh and think.

Wow. I’m stunned there can’t be a back nine, and fans will have to wait until next September to pick it up again, assuming they get a season 2 order. One would think the DISC second season order would push FOX into an announcement soon then to show support and commitment to the show — especially if the Live+3 numbers are as good as Goodman says, despite not carrying much weight with advertisers.

What could MacFarlane be working on that would prevent him from jumping back into the series now? Even a back 6 would go a long way toward showing support for the show and making that audience happy. And it’s not unprecedented — after the writers strike, many series had shut down for the season, but despite the startup costs, there were quite a few the studios felt strongly about shooting as much as they could to complete the season. Shows with 22 episode orders churned out 16 or 18 instead. One show I know started up and kept rolling right into season 2. FOX could, and should do the same thing here if they truly support this show, and the audience is as big as they say here.

@Curious Cadet,

“One would think the DISC second season order would push FOX into an announcement soon then to show support and commitment to the show”

Concern troll much?

Only idiots would think that a renewal of a streaming show of one company should somehow affect a show of another company on a network TV.

TV networks have been ordering shorter seasons for a while now, that’s why more networks shows nowadays are around 13 to 18 episodes.

‘Empire’’s first season was 12 episodes, following seasons 18 episodes. On ABC, all four seasons of ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ are 15 episodes.

“Concern troll much” what the hell kind of English is that? What are you?
12? Can you not even string together a proper sentence?

Ahem. “Concern trolling” is actually a thing. Look it up in Urban Dictionary.(Although, FWIW, I don’t think that your comment qualified as concern trolling.)

It has come to this; If it’s on Urban Dictionary then it’s an accepted saying… I’m getting too old!

Urban dictionary… yup… lol. I rest my case.

Urban Dictionary
Not for the unwary

So using YOUR comparisoon, Ahmed, what are the ratings of Empire and Murder compared to Orville? Ill wait…

Why is Thursday a tough time slot and who are these people that would watch it live on Sunday but not on Thursday?

I don’t see how the time slot should affect the popularity of a show now days with DVRs and internet streaming. Are there actually people out there who watch a scripted drama live? Especially when it’s a sci-fi show where you would think the audience should be big on new technology.


“Why is Thursday a tough time slot”

Basically Thursday football, ‘Scandal’ and ‘Will & Grace’ are the big competitions facing ‘The Orville’ on Thursdays.

I’m saying why does that matter. Are there actually a large quantity of people who wanted to see the Orville, but missed it because they chose Scandal instead and couldn’t DVR it or watch it the next day on Hulu?

Given the choice, people are choosing scandal or football over orville. Only the hardcore fans are tuning into orville live. I can bet they end up moving it again. FOX is notorious for moving sci-fi shows around until they finally end up killing it because people have no idea what day it’s on anymore. Sad but true.

FOX loves Orville. Thats why they put it on a “tough” night where they “knew the rating would be lower”. Hmmm

What they thought was, the niche audience that Orville would attract would be counter-programming to Football etc. Thus far, that has not been the case with Orville losing a large chunk of its lead in.

Just FYI, The Orville has not been losing a large chunk of it’s lead in. Since the move to Thursdays, The Orville has posted slightly higher ratings in the 18-49 demo than Gotham, except for the week The Orville was a rerun, and the week they both tied in the ratings. While the difference has not been huge, The Orville has built on Gotham’s ratings.

The weekly ratings and share for the 18-49 demo, via TV By the Numbers:

9/21/17:Gotham: 1.0/4 (3.21 million); The Orville: 1.1/4 (4.05 million)
9/28/17:Gotham:.9/4 (2.87 million); The Orville: 1.1/4 (3.70 million)
10/5/17: Gotham:.9/3 (2.92 million); The Orville:.9/3 (3.43 million)
10/12/17: Gotham:.9/3 (2.75 million); The Orville 1.0/4 (3.37 million)
10/19/17: Gotham:.9/3 (2.75 million); The Orville (rerun).6/2 (2.11 million)

So as you can see, The Orville has in no way shape or form lost “a large chunk of it’s lead in”, it has in fact built on it’s lead in for the most part.

Did the show lose ratings from the Sunday special airings? Sure. Did Fox expect that? Absolutely. If anyone at Fox told you they thought 100% of the people who watched on the post NFL game premieres would follow the show to Thursdays, they were lying.

I stand corrected.

And of course we ALL accept it was going to lose viewers moving to Thursday. But they didnt expect to lose that many. Those ratings arent good enough. If it wasnt Seth, it would be cancelled very likely.

It’s a pretty expensive show to be pulling in under 3.5 million live viewers though. Advertisers don’t really care about who records it and skips their commercials later.

@Ian — right. And a 1.0 average rating in the key demo is unsustainable as well. THE PITCH was pulling similar numbers, if not better and FOX cancelled it. The key difference here is MacFarlane’s relationship and the sizable money he’s making FOX elsewhere.

Add to that, RIVERDALE had a 400% jump in season 2 live teenage viewers, mostly attributable to it being one of the most watched series on Netflix, and the CW’s app. In fact, a massive share of its audience were streaming it rather than watching live. So, FOX could take a similar strategy and put the entire season of ORVILLE online after the finale, and generate a whole new audience over the Spring, which would convince FOX to green-light a second season.

That said, ORVILLE’s audience is not likely the same as RIVERDALE’s in terms of tech savvy teens and Millennials ready to stream it. In fact, just from the opposition to having to prepare to stream DISC I’ve read here, I’d say a fair number of ORVILLE’s viewers are older skewing TNG fans (and more detailed demographics of the live viewers bear that out). But who knows, it could be once it’s available on Netflix. Certainly Rotten Tomatoes ranks it pretty high among audience satisfaction, assuming Millennials are actually using that as a gauge these days. But word of mouth is undeniably generally positive.

But RIVERDALE is also a lot less expensive to produce than ORVILLE. So unless increased online viewership can translate to direct revenue, it’s going to be awfully hard for FOX to green-light a second season, despite their relationship with MacFarlane and an audience willing to watch, but not necessarily pay for it one way or the other …

@Trek fan 67

The X Files disagree.

The X Files likely doesnt last six episodes if it debuted later. It debuted at a time when FOX was a lot more patient because they needed to be. It also bucked the trend of a bad Friday night by finding a niche that was willing to tune in.

Orville managed to get a lot of eyeballs on it initially but those people didnt follow it to Thursday.

So in the end when you slice away the non relevant stuff it looks like you are agreeing with me.

Who, me? You used the X-files as an example of a sci fi show that FOX didnt move around and supported. I stated that was a totally different time. I mean, we cant really hold up 90’s era shows as an example of todays viewership models.

Season 10 of X-files debuted with over 20 million viewers and even when it fell, it still got 11 million at worst. And that was for six episodes. And there was some question about it’s renewal.

Other than the cost of the two leads, Id imagine Orville is more expensive to produce. Im not sure comparing Orville to X-files favours Orville in any way.

The X Files built up a large following and aired more than a few episodes before it was shuffled around. The audience stayed with it until the 2 main characters left. They are the exception.

I’ve often thought that THE X-FILES timed out well because there was already some slight interest in the paranormal show they had the year before with Shari Belafonte-Harper. In that sense, X-FILES benefited from other genre stuff preceding it the way STAR WARS was able to tap the huge volcanic well of SF goodwill that TOS had engendered and syndication had fanned to a magnificient flame by the time 1977 rolled around.

The fact X-FILES was damned good TV that just got better for several years is icing on the cake, and probably the only long-running show in the 90s on network that I liked after PICKET FENCES. (for me, a long-running show is something that lasts 2 seasons, I hitch my wagon to a lot of short-lived stuff, ranging from KOLCHAK to FIREFLY.)

@Jeff — the article states that ORVILLE is keeping its audience in the Live +3 day, time shifted DVR viewing. So the fan base is apparent,y there. The problem is that of the available viewing audience tuning in to watch TV, the all-important 18-49 demo to advertisers, is choosing to watch something else besides ORVILLE — they are prioritizing the live viewing of something else over ORVILLE, even if they like it enough to eventually watch it. Which is a problem for ORVILLE because it’s an expensive show, but advertisers are only willing to pay top dollar if there are actually desired eyeballs on their ads. When time-shifted to DVR, the chances of any commercials not being skipped over are slim to none. Networks keep track of DVR viewing up to 7 days after the original broadcast, but advertisers couldn’t care less. The only reason they even remotely consider the live +3 data is because that’s the deal they made with networks, but it’s weighted so that it counts for very little toward their ad fees — because it’s unlikely those viewers will ever see the ads.

FOX will have to figure out how to pay for ORVILLE in order to keep it going if the live viewing audience doesn’t improve. They could do worse to move it to HULU, or even their own streaming platform like DISC, since the audience is obviously there.


One must also factor in the streaming viewers. Isn’t that the way the coveted demo view stuff nowadays? The streaming forces the commercials on the viewer. No way around them. Do the +3 numbers include those?


The article you put up only mentions Hulu and YouTube. Not the networks streaming sites. I would guess tha the Nelson’s do not reflect that as they have no access but I’d further venture the network is well aware of what their streaming numbers are. Therefore it is possible that while the traditional Nielsen’s reflect lower viewership when you include the streaming the show could very well be sustainable. We on the outside may never know unless fox releases their streaming data.

@Kirok – most OTT platforms keep their viewership numbers very secretive.

Its good that Neilson is beginnging to track that info. But again, if people are skipping commercials its not serving the advertising dollars.

If networks license their content to OTT’s or stream it on platforms like youtube which include commercials, then they generate income that way.

Im not sure I know of any examples of TV shows on Network channels that had lousy ratings but lasted on-air due to streaming views. If Orville is a hit with streamers, it would make sense for Fox to consider moving it to a streaming platform.


The last thing I will say to you in this sub thread is that network shows are available for streaming as well as over the air. It is not one or the other. It’s both. You can both watch Orville on your Fox affiliate as well as stream it on the Fox website. No need for you tube or Hulu. Fox has deals with some sponsors to “interact” with the ad for limited breaks for some of their streams. But most don’t. At any rate, they have their own streaming on their own sites and do not require a fee to view them. Those are
The streaming numbers they are privy to that do not seem to be part of the neilson ratings. As of yet Fox does not have exclusive to streaming content. In fact only cbs is doing that. So if something is a hit it on line it will likely remain in its over the air time slot as well.

The +3 refers to PVR viewers. The assumption being most people FF through the commercials. Thats why people that hold up the + numbers of a poorly rated show are really grasping at straws. Advertisers dont care how many people watch if they dont watch the commercials.

If you read the article I linked to above, this season Nielsen is counting streaming site views like Hulu in their +3 and +7 numbers:

“More specifically, Clarken said data about Hulu and YouTube TV will be incorporated into Nielsen’s C3/C7 numbers, which are used by TV ad-buyers and reflect viewership during a three- and seven-day time window.”

And since you can’t FF through commercials on Hulu, you still have to watch them–even if you pay for the commercial free service (which I do) so programs are still subject to commercial breaks at the beginning (usually ABC shows, like Grey’s Anatomy.)

The +3 and +7 are not just DVR–Nielsen includes VOD–basically your cable’s On Demand. On Demand also requires that you watch commercials. With my cable company, for example, the commercials during an On Demand viewing are essentially the same as when the show aired live.

Which On-demand requires you to watch commercials? I dont use VOD often but never seen a commercial…

I’m really enjoying The Orville.
I think the humor gets in the way. I wish it was more serious with hints of humor here and there. I feel like a bunch of college humor kids with no chain of command are let loose on a Starship at times. Other than these nitpicks I am really enjoying this show much more than the so called Star Trek discovery..

The humor needs to arise from character, and be appropriate to the idea that these individuals are actually people you’d believe are competent to run a starship. Otherwise, how can you buy into the stakes when things get serious?

To its credit I think the show has made some strides towards finding that balance, but they still aren’t there yet.

I agree so much. The jokes that don’t work are the ones that are just “stuck in.”

That, and the ex-wife/husband schtick. That got old fast. I hope they’ve quit that by now. [Haven’t seen any since The Egg.]

I said the same thing. That it should be more serious with organic humor rather then its current form of forced humor and the serious aspects dont resonate.


I disagree. I think the humor is what makes the show watchable. Without it, it’s just a pale TNG clone. I too am enjoying the show more than Discovery. But they are two very different programs with two entirely different tones. I am interested in both. But if I were only allowed to view one it would be Orville. That said I don’t have to choose one. I’m getting both. Albeit one
Is a ton more customer friendly and easier to get. But still getting both.

Who are these murderous American fanatics of which he speaks?

He was speaking about fanaticism in general.
I don’t think that he meant to focus on anyone specific.

@Gary 8.5 — this feels like a backpedal to me, to deflect criticism. Given the state of the world today, it seems obvious to me the Krill’s brand of religious fanaticism was based on one particular religion. Whether it is or not, it’s disappointing that they don’t seem to be revisiting this seed they’ve planted. They’ve told a story which paints the Krill as two dimensional religious zealots, comparable on the surface to a real world equivalent, without giving any insight into what drives it, or whether there are any other redeemable qualities of the race. And that can lead to drawing the worst conclusions: maybe next time, just kill the kids too — after all, this is just a heartless villain bent on killing everyone else, with no other reason to exist. There’s no introspection for the audience to take away as to how the Union may have contributed to the problem between them. It’s all one-sided. And that’s where this show fails to live up to the series that inspired it.

I don’t know… A constant theme of the show that inspired it was that humans are the greatest and wisest and most wonderfully superior race in all the universe. Maybe Orville lifted too much from the show that inspired it?

That’s what I love about the phrase: “you were nobody’s first choice”. It echos hilariously through my mind. I hope they hold on to that as a sort of motto: “you were nobody’s first choice”. And it happens to be true in my case. All the upstream conversation about +3, +7, streaming, etc… I understand none of it. I just wanted to turn on the TV and watch Star Trek, no more sending yet another check in the mail every month, or another automatic hit on my credit card for the privilege of watching Star Trek. I can honestly say Orville was not my first choice for Space Opera genre…but I ended up loving this show, however long the ride will last…and I DVR it too. Eff the corporate suits and their commercials, eff’em as long as I can get away with it. Maybe one day they’ll figure out how to make an entertaining commercial. Let THEM work it out, lazy bestids. I like Orville’s bawdy language too.

While I will agree with the assessment the Krill might be expanded upon in future episodes. Although in this one the teacher was shown to be a more sympathetic person. Albeit a stereotypical one. However they are hardly the first show to be accused of doing that behavior. Plus they were sent over there in the first place to get a religious text to better understand these people so they could make peace overtures. I also thought that we were seeing it from their perspective so yes it was a little one-sided. As in they themselves don’t know that much about their culture so they focus on what they do know which is negative. They had a bomb and were going to kill innocent people. Whether we like it or not that does mirror how some people view certain religions in the real world. They focus on the negative miniority rather than a peaceful majority. I will say this about the episode as well…I have thought more about it and it’s meanings they any other one they have done so far. I would personally consider that a success.

I dunno. He seemed to imply that there are groups of Americans out to kill lots of people.

Nachum, perhaps you are unaware of the cuts to childcare and women’s health because of …

oh nevermind. I don’t want to start a political battle. Suffice it to say that fanaticism in its many forms hurts others.

Yes, exactly the same thing.

Never matter, I get enough of this in discussions with my spouse, God bless her. :-)

the severed had a interesting pained look on his face… like he was not sure which was worse… being decapitated or the Krill’s penmanship (or is it poetry night)

@Therizino — ha! that reminds me of Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy. A scene the movie just didn’t (couldn’t) get right …

I am glad someone got the referance

There is room in enough in the TV ‘verse for both DISC and ST: Orville.

Amen. This ‘either or’ mentality is some weird tribalistic nonsense :P

I 2nd that. I have no idea where this either or foolishness comes from. Is there a rivalry between the DCTV side on the CW and ABC’s Marvel shows? If there is I haven’t heard of it.

It started with the irrational Discovery-haters who said “thank goodness for Orville, that is REAL Trek” repeatedly even before both aired. The coverage given to Orville by this Star Trek site only fuelled it.

Wasn’t 14 years of bland Voyager / TNG enough for the concept of a drama/comedy show set in a holodeck/hotel-in-space?

Not if you don’t get it right those times.

At what point will they acknowledge that free energy + perfect universe + holodeck = bland Young and the Restless… in space!!! Anything we can do to put this out of its misery and expedite the return to Wagon train to the stars (Firefly, Discovery, and etc)???

At the same time you acknowledge that making this same point repeatedly, ad infinitum, doesn’t really add anything to the discussion.

As long as they keep making the same bland Trek repeatedly, ad infinitum – I will be here to make the same point that no one can say “why did this die out??”. It’s also payback for no one building upon Star Trek II-IV – my nine year old self just can’t get over how my favorite show and movies ended up degenerating into a next generation of horrible blandness (thought not to the point I did not feel for those Enterprise-D children having to survive a saucer crash out of writer stupidity). Yes, I know I am being unfair to DS9 which rocked.

You just find out replication is bad for space-time and you have a great reset button that actually improves drama. Having a solution that works is worth repeating (or it should be, I’ve been saying doing away with replication is the way to go since the end of 1990.)

Good idea. I think a Trek show showing Earth has degraded into a society playing computer games in the holodeck mooching off the sacrifices of the TOS Starfleet veterans while the Federation collapses around them actually would be both relevant and controversial; open the door to exciting Trek in the future.

Hmm. Get back to me when Seth MacFarlane makes his “The Inner Light” or “The Visitor,” and we’ll talk about who’s getting it right this time.

Touche. Though TNG didn’t have their first good downer ending till SYMBIOSIS …

Every time someone compares the TNG Enterprise to a hotel I get a kick out of it because back in 87 my the instant we saw version D my friends and I referred to it as the USS Hilton. It looked more like a hotel than a starship.
We further laughed when art imitated life when the Star Trek experience showed up at the Hilton in Las Vegas!

Probably why the bridge of the A (circa Trek6) is one of my top favorites. THAT, felt like a bridge. The interiors of that ship were beautiful.

Take a look at Ghosted, it’s the same kind of show as The Orville – science fiction/fantasy, use of classic tropes, similar style of doofus humor, a balance between humor and a bit of serious character moments, also on Fox – and yet it works right from the first episode.

Ghosted plays to its strengths better by being a 30 minute show. It also gets much better ratings.

Actually, Ghosted’s ratings are on par with The Orville’s in the 18-49 demo:

10/01/17: Ghosted: 1.4/5 (3.58 million)
10/8/17: Ghosted: 1.4/5 (3.58 million)
10/15/17: Ghosted: 1.0/4 (2.41 million)
10/22/17: Ghosted: 1.13/ (2.71 million)

Just based on the episodes aired so far in their normal time slots, Ghosted is averaging about 3.07 million viewers and The Orville is averaging about 3.32 million viewers each week.

I had two week ago ratings. I didnt dig very far. Which were better. A 30 minute comedy vs an expensive 60 minute “drama”….I think Ghosted is doing better.

I havent seen it though so I cannot comment on its quality. I’d be shocked if it isnt funnier than Orville though since Orville averages one laugh every 80 minutes or so lol

Prepare to be shocked. STD has had more laughs than Ghosted has had this far. Even bad comedies will land one or two accidental laughs. Ghosted hasn’t even done that.


To each his own. But I don’t think Ghosted works at all. I’ve seen the first three shows and there has not been one good laugh. And it is straight up comedy. I’m contemplating removing it from my DVR record list. It just doesn’t work. It feels more like Son of Zorn. Which actually had a few more jokes land.

It does make sense that it gets better numbers than Orville. It’s on Sunday which is already a higher tv viewing night. And it is bookended by two much stronger shows. Had Orville stayed on Sunday I imagine it’s Nielsen’s would be more on par with its first two episodes.

With Ghosted you’ve got two guys in a “fish out of water” situation so the doofus humor works, similar to Men in Black, although that was a different style of comedy.

On the Orville these supposedly highly competent spaceship personnel act like idiots, who are unable to keep their mouths shut when they should. But the Orville idiot-factor does seem to be changing.

Ok. You think the jokes in Ghosted work. I disagree. The fish out of water thing only works if the jokes work. When they don’t it’s just stupid. For me, none of the jokes in Ghosted work. But many in Orville do. I don’t take Orville so serious that I expect the bridge crew to behave like serious starfleet officers. I mean, they got out of a scrape by trading old reality show recordings. How serious can one possibly take it? Funny is funny.

Actually I tried Ghosted and turned it off before the first episode was over, couldn’t stand it. To each his own…

“It’s a little darker than I like my Star Trek.” I’d be interested to see what his version of “a lot” darker looks like. Maybe just body parts spread all over the ship?
No reason for a rivalry. If you like optimistic Trek, watch Orville. If you like dark stories driven by broken characters, watch literally everything else on television. It’s apples and oranges.

@bassmaster22 — to be fair, however simplistic, or inappropriate the humor, and therefore optimistic one may view the show, it’s still populated by “broken” characters. I’m really tired of hearing about the ex-wife-done-me-wrong-song the captain keeps singing. It’s also got it’s share of dark messaging as it progresses, with both severed heads being stabbed during religious worship services, and episodes ending with a warning that the kids saved are going to come back to destroy them some day … it may turn out these are simply different sides of the same fruit.

That’s a really reductionist comparison, I must say.

Reading this and thinking about how TNG worked because it was 80 years after TOS, I wonder if the project “Star Trek: Federation” could eventually be revived. I think it was a great idea, that of a ruined Federation looking for the old glory. I love DSC but it’s still a prequel, like Enterprise.

I’ve come to accept that any “sequel” to TNG should address a fallen Federation – free energy parasites who live in holodecks /programmed “perfect people” and no private sector on track to become the Borg. Let there be a revolution to save the Federation and return to TOS diversity and exploration.

Yes, because only enforced capitalism and engineered scarcity can guarantee diversity and exploration.

Thank you for saying it Michael!

Lol I got to remember that – I have to get a job and earn – that’s an outrage; forced capitalism!! Lol Unless it’s picked by the deal leader for the good off all, the collective good, resistance is futile!!!

No, what’s LOL-worthy is your apparent belief that universal prosperity would only be good if it were, well, not so universal. TV is one thing, but it appears that a lack of poverty and human suffering even in the real world would offend you for its lack of drama. I suppose that people who are less worthy than the ‘productive’ .0001% are parasites to you, even if the only thing being taxed for their benefit is energy from the sun or zero-point interstitial space or somesuch, along with some replicator time. The remarkable thing is that libertarians and conservatives at least used to pay lip service to the idea that unfettered capitalism was the best way to ensure rising living standards for everyone by virtue of creating more wealth, rather than (as in classic socialism) divvying-up existing wealth more equitably. But I guess that can only go so far–it wouldn’t do to have capital and hierarchy put itself out of business and everyone rich and happy, now would it? So the real issue isn’t redistribution, or not being able to live your own dreams because you have to take care of the slackers, it’s that you wouldn’t be able to assert your superiority by having more toys or a bigger house or better food than someone you consider to be a moocher. I appreciate your candor, Commander, and only wish that others who share your worldview were so honest.

To this day it says everything that Goodman’s Futurama love letter to TOS is infinitely better than MacFarlane’s TNG episode of Family Guy in every way. But credit is due to MacFarlane for hiring the guy at least!

Good interview.

I hope that, for Season 2, The Orville’s producers begin to address the biggest problem with the show, which is that the premise doesn’t logically allow for the characters to behave in the goofy, fish-out-of-water ways that the comedy has been largely relying upon. Hence, we have a show that is at times funny and at times dramatic, but schismatic on the whole. The characters need a reason to behave so unlike aerospace professionals, if that’s where the comedy in the show is coming from. Either give them a reason to behave strangely (as in GALAXY QUEST), or straighten up their behavior and have the comedy come from other places (like Bortus’s innate over-earnestness and dead-pan delivery, which doesn’t conflict with his expected comportment as an aerospace professional, but still works great comedy-wise).

Since Goodman mentioned VOY not getting good until Season 4 (which I agree with), I’ll mention that I recently saw an outstanding Season 4 VOY episode that, for some reason, had escaped my appreciation the 4 or 5 times I’d seen it previously: “Mortal Coil” S4/E12. Neelix dies on an away mission, and, 8 hours later, is brought back to life by Seven’s Borg nanotechnology. When Neelix regains consciousness after coming back from the dead, he is shocked not to be seeing any of the things associated with the afterlife that he’s had faith in for his entire life. It’s a very emotionally touching and deeply meaningful hour of TV that, I guess, I wasn’t really ready to appreciate until now. If “Mortal Coil” had been a TNG episode, I strongly suspect that it would be much more widely known, appreciated and cited.