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Seth MacFarlane talks Orville finding its footing and changes for Season 2

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Dec 26, 2018, 7:05 PM EST

After roughly a year away, The Orville is finally making its way home.

The Seth MacFarlane sci-fi vehicle The Orville is returning for its second season on Fox this Sunday. What fans initially thought was going to be “Family Guy in space” turned out to be a sci-fi comedy-drama that was more of an homage to shows like Star Trek than a parody.

MacFarlane, the series creator and star, spoke with USA Today about the upcoming season and what we can expect from Captain Ed Mercer and crew. Fans haven't traveled the spaceways with the Orville since last December, so Season 2 will be somewhat of a reintroduction/introduction to the show. “The first episode is a reacquaintance with the crew,” said MacFarlane. “We’ve been off the air for a little while, and hopefully by the end [viewers] will feel like [the show] never left.”

The success of Season 1 also brought about a bigger budget, which means more amazing visual effects. “The budget is bigger for Season 2. We have a first-rate visual-effects and costume and makeup team. All the money is on the screen," said MacFarlane. "I think people will be shocked [by] the level of feature-quality cinematic work they’re going to see.”

Sci-fi on TV can be touch-and-go depending on how much faith a network has in you, so it’s good to see Fox believes in MacFarlane’s vision.

MacFarlane also spoke about experimenting with a new ad/programming balance. The new format will provide The Orville with another seven to eight minutes of show time that commercials would normally use. That may not seem like a lot, but to the producer of a television show, it’s like giving them the world. “[It] allows you to let things breathe in a way that streaming shows [can] do. … That’s been a big boon for our storytelling process.”

MacFarlane is best known for comedy, and humor isn’t completely missing from the Orville. However, he didn’t want to re-hash the types of programming he has already done, so he worked hard to maintain the balance between comedy and drama, looking to shows like M*A*S*H for influence. “We always look to M*A*S*H as the ultimate achievement in that regard, and even that was a show that took a minute to find its tonal footing. You can’t just be an hour-long joke fest," said MacFarlane. "That works for a movie, but not for a television series where you want people to come back week after week and care what happens to these characters.”

If the fans care about the characters with even just a quarter of the passion MacFarlane does, then coming back week after week shouldn't be a problem at all.

The Orville Season 2 premieres Sunday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. ET.