After a three-year hiatus, the popular science fiction series The Orville finally returned to our screens last month. But unlike the first two seasons which aired on Fox, the third installment of Seth MacFarlane’s space dramedy is streaming as a Hulu original with the subtitle New Horizons. The show’s move was announced in 2019, but the new season was delayed several times due to filming complications associated with the global pandemic.
In a recent interview with Collider, Seth MacFarlane, who also stars in the series as Captain Ed Mercer, explained where the New Horizons idea came from. “Adding a subtitle was Dana Walden’s [Chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content] idea, and I thought it was a really good one. That’s my boss over at Disney who I’ve worked with and been friends with for a long time,” the Family Guy creator said. That was her idea. And I thought it was kind of cool because it’s not a reboot, it’s a continuation. But it was just enough to tell the audience that we’re expanding a little bit.”
Disney earned a 60% majority stake in Hulu after the television superpower acquired 21st Century Fox in March 2019. So the move to the streamer didn’t bother Seth MacFarlane who said the show has a bigger, more ambitious scope in its new home. “It’s going to feel more like a movie. It’s maybe going to feel a little more special,” the comedian explained. He said the name change also seemed appropriate because it’s been a few years since The Orville last aired. “I guess it’s not that big a difference. It seemed like it was an idea that was pitched to me that I like,” he added.
The Orville was originally expected to be a classic Seth MacFarlane spoof of his love for Star Trek. But over time, viewers realized there was some serious stuff hiding behind its comedic elements. However, after Fox’s merger with Disney, the show’s creator was able to double down on the dramatic side of the story. “From a storytelling standpoint, it’s much better for me because some talented writers are working on network dramas. But the problem is that you have to cut everything down to exactly 43 minutes,” MacFarlane told Comic Book.
He explained that keeping an episode within that marker isn’t how storytelling works since every story can’t possibly be the same length. Seth MacFarlane said there’s also a discipline involved in the process since you don’t want the audience to get bored. “You don’t want to indulge yourself to the point at which you’re boring your audience. But for a show like this, to be able to be cinematic and to take the time to set the mood is something you just can’t do on a network because you’re just so constrained by that time limit,” he told the publication. He added that this was the most satisfying thing about the move to Hulu.
Unlike Seth MacFarlane’s previous offerings, The Orville: New Horizons will only feature 10 episodes. But the run time has been extended by an average of 15 minutes. The story still follows the crew of the titular exploratory spaceship continuing their mission, as they navigate the mysteries of the universe and the complexities of their interpersonal relationships. New episodes of the series are available every Thursday on Hulu.
Despite Seth MacFarlane’s best efforts, The Orville’s first season received mostly negative reviews from critics, while season two did slightly better. But the show was a hit with viewers, earning relatively successful ratings on Fox. It eventually became the network’s highest-rated Thursday show and most-viewed debut drama since 2015. Over the years the series also featured a slew of impressive guest stars including Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis, Charlize Theron, and Jason Alexander.