The Orville Season 3: When It Will Be Released

Hulu is now the proud owner of The Orville season 3.

By Rick Gonzales

This article is more than 2 years old

The Orville season 3

Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville enjoyed a two-year run on Fox. While its numbers haven’t been overwhelming, it performed well enough for a third season renewal. Fox did just that. But then a funny thing happened. Hulu is now the proud owner of The Orville season 3.


No definite date is set for The Orville’s season 3 premiere on Hulu. We do know that Seth Macfarlane is taking his time about actually making it. They took a long, long pause in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and are only resuming production on the show (hopefully) in December of 2020.

When asked about The Orville season 3 during the July 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, executive producer Tom Constantino told SyFy Wire that the season premiere was a good 18 months out, putting it’s arrival near the end of 2020. But that was before the Coronavirus hit. Now that timeline is out the window too according to creator Seth MacFarlane.

When MacFarlane appeared on The Tonight Show he had this to say about where things are at with The Orville season 3…

We were right in the middle of shooting an episode of The Orville. So it’s like, when this thing airs at long last, whenever that is, one episode is gonna be such that between one scene to the next, people are suddenly gonna gain 20 lbs and have long, white beards.

So, bad news: They haven’t even finished shooting it and they have no idea when or if they’ll ever be able to get back to work on shooting it. So what’s the prediction for when it will finally be on our TV screens? No one knows. Seth says…

It depends on when we get back to work. It depends on what conditions we get back to work. We shot about half the season, and it’s looking amazing. We’re basically gonna be delivering a little movie every week.

At this point it’s look like it’ll be two years at least between the end of The Orville season 2 and the end of The Orville season 3. Those kinds of wait times are acceptable for movie sequels, but for a TV show it’s pretty unprecedented.


The Orville season 3 on hulu

While it may seem unorthodox that Fox renewed the series for season 3 and then Hulu took it over, the identity of the puppet master in these maneuverings will no longer have you scratching your head. Disney. When Disney purchased Fox in 2017, it also added a 60% controlling interest in Hulu.

This gave show creator Seth MacFarlane options. Though the show could have stayed at Fox, Seth needed more time to make The Orville season 3 than the network’s usual time constraints allowed. He didn’t think he could have season 3 ready until late 2020, and to air on Fox, they needed it sooner. Enter Hulu, where MacFarlane feels he has the freedom to make his show on his own schedule.

Here’s how Seth explained the move to Hulu in his own words…

My friends at the [Fox] network understood what I was trying to do with this series, and they’ve done a spectacular job of marketing, launching and programming it for these past two seasons. But as the show has evolved and become more ambitious production-wise, I determined that I would not be able to deliver episodes until 2020, which would be challenging for the network. So we began to discuss how best to support the third season in a way that worked for the show. It’s exactly this kind of willingness to accommodate a show’s creative needs that’s made me want to stick around for so long. I am hugely indebted to Charlie Collier and FOX Entertainment for their generosity and look forward to developing future projects there. And to my new friends at Hulu, I look forward to our new partnership exploring the galaxy together.

– -Seth MacFarlane on why The Orville season 3 will be on Hulu

The move to Hulu will have added benefits for fans of the show. The Orville season 3’s production team has announced that because they no longer have to deal with commercial breaks, episodes will now be 12 to 15 minute slonger. They also won’t have to deal with network television content restrictions. If they want to get a little more edgy, they can, and there’s no censor standing over their shoulder telling them no.

On the downside, since they aren’t on network television anymore, The Orville season 3 will have fewer episodes than in the past. For this new season, they’re only planning to produce 11 episodes.


Frakes directing The Orville

The first two seasons of The Orville brought in a variety of talented directors to direct different episodes. Fans were especially excited when they brought in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Jonathan Frakes to direct episodes. Frakes directed two of the series best in “Sanctuary” and “Pria”, but he won’t be back for season 3. Actually, none of the previous Orville directors will be back.

Frakes explained what’s going on to saying, “I’m not involved with the third season. They made a decision to have Seth and John Cassar, who’s the producing director, direct all the episodes of the third season of that show, much to my chagrin, but that’s the way it goes.

Frakes, who is an experienced veteran television director, brought a lot to the show. He’ll be missed, but it probably does make sense to give the show one specific vision. Especially since they’ve moved to Hulu and seem to have more time to spend getting every frame just right for The Orville season 3.


Season 3 main cast

Fans will be pleased to know that the majority of the season 1 and 2 casts will return for The Orville season 3. On top of the already mentioned MacFarlane and Palicki, Scott Grimes will return as Gordon, Penny Johnson Jerald is back as Doctor Claire Finn, Peter Macon returns as Lieutenant Commander Bortus, J. Lee is Lieutenant Commander John LaMarr, and Mark Jackson returns as Isaac.

Also back is Jessica Szohr as Lieutenant Talla Keyali. She replaced season 1 and 2 regular Halston Sage part way through season 2.

The Orville season 3 addition
Anne Winters

New to The Orville for season 3 is Anne Winters as a character named Charly Burke though no other information has been given on her role. Winters is probably best known for her work on the show 13 Reasons Why. She also had the starring role in the show Grand Hotel and the 2016 TV version of Cruel Intentions. Winters has worked steadily in film and television since starting out at a young age in 2010.


Yaphit on The Orville

In addition to the main cast The Orville has a nice list of recurring stars. Victor Garber and Ted Danson regularly appear as admirals. And in nearly every episode Norm McDonald voices the CGI character Yaphit. It’s safe to assume that though nothing has been announced, Norm will be back as Yaphit. We probably won’t see Norm show up in the flesh again though, he only did that as a one-off gag for a single episode in season 2. We don’t know if we’ll see Garber and Danson show up again as admirals, but it seems likely they’ll show up again.

In the past the show’s non-recurring guest star list has included:

  • Rob Lowe, as the Retepsian that had the affair with Mercer’s wife.
  • Jeffrey Tambor and Holland Taylor as Mercer’s parents. Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron (who starred in A Million Ways To Die In The West with MacFarlane).
  • Robert Picardo, Marina Sirtis, J. Paul Boehmer, Tim Russ and John Billingsley from the Star Trek universe. J
  • Jason Alexander (as The Orville’s bartender) and Patrick Warburton of Seinfeld fame.
  • Bruce Willis as a giant, talking CGI plant.

We don’t yet know if any of those guest stars will return, but it’s a safe bet that new names will be added to The Orville’s star-studded guest list in season 3.


The Orville

Adrianne Palicki (who plays Commander Grayson) and Scott Grimes (who plays helmsman Gordon Maloy) fell in love on the set of The Orville back in 2017. They got married in January of 2019. Now they’re getting divorced.

There’s actually been trouble between the couple for awhile. Palicki filed divorce papers two months after their wedding and then withdrew them, presumably because they’d decided to try and work it out. But according to TMZ she has re-filed her divorce papers and this time it looks like it will stick.

How that will play out on the set of The Orville season 3 remains to be seen. It’s likely to make things pretty tense and uncomfortable. The couple has to work together in close quarters and will likely have many scenes together. That can’t be easy to do when you’re in the middle of divorcing the person you’re spending nearly every second of your day with.


Bortus sings in season 3

The Orville’s season 3 plot is up for grabs. With season 2 ending on a fun, swashbuckling note with many nods given to Star Wars, it felt almost as though the series could have concluded there. The brief time travel storyline came to a definite conclusion and things weren’t left as a cliffhanger, allowing season 3 to pick up and go in any direction MacFarlane wishes to go.

One thing MacFarlane did comment on concerning the move from Fox to Hulu was how thrilled he was that they were no longer held to network TV constraints. He filled his Twitter feed with his opinion. “For me, episode length is really the one and only thing that makes the traditional broadcast model frustrating at times. It forces you to cut every story to exactly 42 minutes. With all the work we put in, I like having the option to let The Orville breathe a bit for season 3.” Not much later he elaborated, “We’re now working with a platform for which the episode length is governed by the story itself.”

For anyone still bummed that we never actually got to hear Bortus belt out a Karaoke tune, it sounds like we may get to hear him sing in season 3. When asked about it The Orville season 3 exec producer and director John Cassar had this to say about what’s next: “There will be space battles, there will definitely be parties, Bortus goes up to the microphone again.”

In case you missed it, here’s what happened last time Bortus tried to sing…

Fans now just need to sit back and be a little patient. The Orville season 3 is on the horizon and, fingers crossed, Hulu has a hit on there hands and orders many more seasons.


For those who may not follow the show yet, The Orville is MacFarlane’s homage to Star Trek. Not only is it an homage to Star Trek, it is also a bit of a throwback to how TV series of this nature used to be. The show gets its name from the ship, the Orville, where most of the show takes place.

When first asked about The Orville over two years ago, MacFarlane explained how his series was conceived saying that it was born from fatigue over dystopian series. He told the Collider, “I miss the forward-thinking, optimistic, aspirational space that Star Trek used to offer. It’s a space waiting to be filled in this day and age when we are getting a lot of dystopian fiction.”

MacFarlane’s pedigree is comedy. So is The Orville a comedy? Is it sci-fi? A mix? Well, it’s an hour-long show that has its elements of funny, but it seems to be really trying to go the Star Trek route.

MacFarlane plays Captain Ed Mercer, who comes home from his work mission to find his wife Commander Kelly Grayson, played by Adrianne Palicki (Agents of SHIELD, John Wick), in bed with a blue Retepsian causing their divorce. Fast forward and Mercer is given his own ship, an exploratory vessel with Grayson as his second in command.

The Future Of The Orville

So Hulu saved The Orville from cancellation and now we’re getting The Orville season 3 and that’s great. But what’s not great, is that the show is still being cancelled. Hulu is only planning to give it season 3 then they’re shutting it down. Or at least that’s the claim from The Cinema Spot where they’ve just uncovered evidence that there won’t be any more of the show after season 3.

Additionally, we’ve heard from our sources that Seth MacFarlane doesn’t want to make the show anymore.

Adding more fuel to these reports is the recent news that The Orville’s creator/EP and star Seth MacFarlane has already lined up several new show. First up is a sci-fi series called Skywatch which MacFarlane is now kicking into production for NBC’s Peacock streaming service.

Skywatch is based on this short film about a future where delivery drones turn bad. Here’s the short…

Pixar Colin Levy and writer Mike Sundy developed the short and they’ll be in charge of the new show under the direction of MacFarlane and his Fuzzy Door production company.

In addition, THR says Seth is going to executive produce and co-write The Winds of War. It’s a limited series coming to NBCUniversal, part of a $200 million development deal Seth has signed with NBC.

The Winds of War definitely is not the sort of thing that would interest fans looking forward to The Orville season 3. It’s a serious drama based on a book by Herman Wouk which tells the story of an American family traveling during World War II.

As for The Orville, what’s not clear is if Hulu is cancelling the show because season 3 is taking too long and costing too much (it is) or if they never intended to give The Orville a fourth season anyway. Or maybe Seth just doesn’t want to do it anymore and he’s too busy working for NBC. I’m inclined to believe it’s the slowness with which The Orville season 3 is being produced, because the production process on The Orville season 3 has been incredibly torturous and Seth MacFarlane has been in no real hurry to actually deliver on the final product (more on that in a minute).

So the plan for now is that The Orville season 3 will be the show’s last, but there’s always a chance that fans can change Hulu’s mind. To do that it’ll take huge viewing numbers for season 3, but it’ll also take a strong outpouring of support directed at Hulu.