Seth MacFarlane

The Orville S1 E1-3 (Fox)

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I have to confess that The Orville has left me somewhat confused. As a drama, it’s got too many silly gags in it to be taken seriously. But the jokes are too few in number and not nearly funny enough to qualify the show as a sitcom. It has an earnestness that suggests it wants to be a proper grown-up show, but an insecurity that suggests it feels it can only get away with the attempt if it also laughs at itself. The end result is a show that feels like it wants to be more homage than spoof, only to find itself more of a pastiche than satire.

Created by and starring Seth MacFarlane (famous for Family Guy, American Dad! and Ted), the show is set onboard a 25th-century space exploration ship named the Orville. MacFarlane plays Captain Ed Mercer, whose first officer Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) is also his ex-wife whom he divorced after he found her having an affair with an alien. Much of the early ‘humour’ in the series comes from Mercer’s continual sniping and point-scoring about their acrimonious split, while of course it’s clear to everyone that the two are still somewhat in love. Read the rest of this entry »

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey S1 E1-5 (National Geographic)

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I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled to write this review. I very much wanted to be able to enthuse about Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and yet try as I might I find myself unable to do so. The simplest possible reason for this is that I’m simply too emotionally attached to the original 1980 version presented by Dr Carl Sagan that I adore beyond measure, and the strength of that emotional attachment means that I’m continually finding fault and picking holes with this new reboot like a particularly truculent child determined to find reason to hate and reject a perfectly nice and pleasant stepmother.

That’s despite the new version bending over backwards to pay homage to Sagan’s work: it’s very much a respectful updating of the original, faithfully recording all the new scientific discoveries from the intervening 30 years while also putting new TV technologies to good use to tell the story in a way that will grab the attention of a modern young audience. The show is written by the two writers who worked with Sagan on the original, Ann Druyan and Steven Soter, and uses many of Sagan’s original teaching concepts such as the Cosmic Calendar. Sagan himself makes an appearance in archive footage, and in the first episode new host Neil deGrasse Tyson shares a touching anecdote of his own meeting with Sagan when he was a youth and the impact that this had on his life and future career. Read the rest of this entry »

Ted (2012)

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As soon as you hear that Ted is an R-rated film about a living, walking and foul-mouthed talking teddy bear, and that the movie is written and directed by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane (who also provides the voice and motion-capture for Ted himself) then you’re immediately expecting a 105-minute cavalcade of fast-moving lewd-and-crude scattershot humour, aren’t you? I certainly was.

Well, there’s certainly bursts of exactly that sort of thing in the film, almost all of them centred around the eponymous bear’s antics much as you’d expect. But the surprise is that this is just one element of the film, and it turns out that this is not even the biggest, most significant or dominating part of Ted but just one of an ensemble. Read the rest of this entry »