‘The Orville’ Season 2: Seth MacFarlane on His Mom’s Impact, Tonal Changes

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Seth MacFarlane as Ed Mercer on The Orville Andrew Eccles/FOX

Mixing things up. Upon hearing that Seth MacFarlane – the creator of Family Guy – was launching a new show based on space life, it was easy to assume it’s a comedy. However, that was never the plan for The Orville.

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“Any kind of a tonal hybrid is an experiment for television or film, and we were really working hard to find what that balance was during the first season,” MacFarlane, who created and stars in the Fox series, tells Us Weekly exclusively. “We wanted just to scale it a little bit more in the dramatic direction and make the show not so much a space comedy drama, but a space drama that shows realistic casual interactions.”

The 45-year-old actor, who plays Captain Ed Mercer in the show, looks to M.A.S.H. “as the gold standard” when walking the line between comedy and drama.

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“The comedy comes from people behaving like people and not so much from hard jokes,” he notes, adding that he knew that no matter what, he wanted it to be character and story-based. “I always firmly believe that, in order to sustain an hour-long show on a weekly basis, the stakes had to be real. The jeopardy had to be real. The drama had to be real. What the characters were going through had to matter.”

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J Lee, Halston Sage, Scott Grimes, Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Mark Jackson, Peter Macon in The Orville Tommy Garcia/FOX

It’s also important to grow the audience, something he looks to his mother for.

“My barometer for whether the show is doing what it’s supposed to or not is [asking myself,] ‘Would this hold my mother’s attention?’ The reason being that my mother used to hate Star Trek, and I always used to try to explain to her, ‘No, no, no. It’s not what you think. It’s actually very human and very relationship-based,’” the Ted writer says. “So, that’s always in the back of my mind when I write these shows.”

As for avoiding the “sophomore slump,” MacFarlane admittedly doesn’t know the secret – or that there even is one.

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“It’s scary going into a brand-new season because you’ve just written an entire batch of episodes, presumably that you are proud of and that you feel good about, and then you have to do it all over again,” he says. “In the back of your head, there’s always the scary thought, ‘Oh, s—t. We used up all the stories, and there are no more.’ But I’m actually happy to say that this season is a big step up from last season as far as the caliber of shows. I was really proud of the shows we did last year, but you always want each season to grow and to be bigger and better, and this one absolutely fits that bill. I think it’s really gonna surprise people how the show has expanded and really come into its own.”

The Orville season 2 premieres on Fox Sunday, December 30, at 8 p.m. ET.

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