The Orville’s much-anticipated third season premieres this week, and io9 got a chance to see a few episodes in advance. No spoilers here, but while you don’t need to have seen seasons one and two, the new season, dubbed New Horizons, does contain some callbacks to what’s come before. io9 asked creator and star Seth MacFarlane how he went about keeping the show accessible to newcomers, especially since the show’s making its Hulu debut with season three, while also building on its existing mythology.
“It’s a really good question that occupies a lot of my thoughts at all times,” MacFarlane told io9 over video chat at a recent Orville press day. “That’s always the balance. You want to reward the fans for sticking around and watching the show. And from a writing standpoint, it’s fun. You’ve laid the groundwork, and season three of a show is where you can start to let those seeds you planted early on really start to blossom, and you can dig in and start to do the real world-building. At the same time, of course the goal is to bring in as many new viewers as possible. And it’s a tough thing to answer.”
He continued. “When I think back at the season that we’ve finished that’s coming up, I wonder a lot, ‘Did we connect ourselves too directly, in too linear a fashion, to what we did in season one and season two?’ Certainly throughout the season, there’s a lot of developments that are direct descendants of stories that we did in the first two seasons, and it’s a much richer viewing experience if you know those stories. I hope that for people coming in—I mean, I don’t know, does anybody watch a show starting in season three? I don’t. I mean, at a certain point, you’ve got to start at the beginning; you don’t start with season three of Game of Thrones. You watch season one! I feel like that’s how viewing habits work these days, that people do take the time to start from the beginning. But hopefully what will happen is—maybe somebody watches episode one or episode two of this season, finds something they like, goes back and watches the first two seasons, and then finishes season three. Hopefully, there’s some of that.”
There’s no word yet on whether or not The Orville will be continuing beyond season three, but MacFarlane is more than ready to keep going if, ahem, the stars align. “It’s really like Family Guy in a lot of ways. It’s a universe that has infinite boundaries and so it can really go as long as there’s a demand for it. It’s a true ensemble show—there are, what, nine, 10 characters that are that are all, I think, equally dynamic. So there are lots and lots more stories. That’s really governed by audience response, if there’s an appetite for it, and the commitment by a studio to give us the resources—Disney and Hulu were wonderful this year. [With] the palette they gave us to work with and the resources they gave us, I’ve never in my career really had this experience to this degree. I mean, if the show gets really big—that’s why I hope we didn’t screw it up.”
And while you shouldn’t hold your breath for a musical episode (“It’s not Buffy, it’s not a show that really lends itself to that kind of that specific variety of weirdness,” MacFarlane said. “I think there’s other varieties of weirdness that the show leans into.” But speaking of Family Guy, an animated element is not entirely off the table. “I think at one point during the pandemic, we had, out of desperation, said, ‘Look, what if what if we do a couple of episodes animated in the interim to hold people over?’ and there just wasn’t an appetite for it. But again, it all depends on how the show is received. If it suddenly pops and people gravitate toward it, then anything is possible.”
The Orville: New Horizons arrives June 2 on Hulu.
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