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How Allegorical Stories and Social Issues Aid in ‘The Orville’s’ Success

Seth MacFarlane already knew how to make audiences laugh from years of animated comedies such as “Family Guy,” so when it came to “The Orville,” what he really wanted to do was make them think.

“I had done the ‘Family Guy’ ‘Star Wars’ parody — I didn’t really want to do that again,” he says. “What I really wanted to do [was] some serious world-building, and develop characters that you really cared about, and create some real stakes.”

At first, viewers were a bit flummoxed. “Seth more than anyone was kind of playing with that tone at first. It was very tricky — it was a real high-wire act,” says executive producer Brannon Braga, a veteran of “Star Trek” series, as well as MacFarlane’s revival of the science series “Cosmos.”

But then, a breakthrough: as “The Orville” leaned even further into fantastical premises and allegorical stories, the audience came back for more and reviews began to glow. The second season of the series is averaging 3.25 million total live viewers and a 0.76 in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

The show has not shied away from social issues, star Adrianne Palicki points out, including the two-part “Identity” story in which it is revealed that Isaac comes from a race that committed a genocide. “I’m learning, not just as an actor, but as a human, also, as I’m reading these scripts,” she says.

MacFarlane considers those episodes “a real turning point” for the show.

While “The Orville” has not been officially renewed, MacFarlane is still looking ahead to how it can continue to evolve the genre. “What’s exciting at this moment is … now armed with a fully formed identity for this show, we’re playing in this universe and really just letting it flourish and blossom,” he says.

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