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Alex Carnevale

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John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in seth macfarlane (2)


In Which We Fly To The Darkest Reaches Of Face

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The Orville
creator Seth MacFarlane

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What is the mininum amount of enterprise you have to put into a creative task for it to be called original? Star Trek: The Next Generation was a smash hit from the beginning, with its first episode drawing an astonishing 27 million viewers on September 28th, 1987. Unfortunately, the entire first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was utter dogshit, but that did not drive people away, since the only other thing on television at the time was Wheel of Fortune and reruns of M*A*S*H. Patrick Stewart carried the show. The sets were awful, many being reused from previous Star Trek films and television shows, and outside of Brent Spiner and Stewart, the acting was mind-bogglingly stilted.

In time this disaster of an hour of television found its way into some halfway decent writing. The show peaked with a tremendous fifth season, highlighted by the season's penultimate episode, a masterpiece of science fiction titled "The Inner Light." A lot of actors, directors and writers had to pass through Star Trek: The Next Generation to get to that level of quality. Is The Orville attempting the same five year plan? Because if so, I feel decently confident it may never get there.

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The Orville would normally be conceived as a parody of Star Trek, but it is stunningly sincere in its appropriation. Other than the normally calming presence of the Enterprise's second-in-command, Lieutenant Riker, even the roles of the crew of Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) remain the same. Minorities and women are mere background noise, and yet the relationships between the sexes never advance past getting wackily twisted by alien influence before returning to a muted professionalism.

With CBS sending its most recent Star Trek show to die on its internet service, The Orville is the only brief for the viability of an alien-of-the-week series, and unfortunately for fans of this now-niche genre, it does not acquit itself very well. MacFarlane is an underrated actor with great delivery of lines and natural comic timing, not to mention his singing voice. Sadly, the cast he has surrounded himself with on this tin can leaves a significant amount to be desired.

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Portraying Mercer's love interest is a clunky Adrienne Palicki. The fact that their marriage fell apart after she cheated on him because he was absent all the time is the central source of "humor" in the show's first episodes. Unfortunately, jokes are few and far between in The Orville, which seems to think of itself as a dramatic series with a few light moments.

Star Trek: The Next Generation also featured quite a few jokes. Many consisted of applying basic human values to the strange practices and cultures that could be found in the universe's many worlds. This human-centric view has not aged very well — we now have substantial reason to believe there is no truly superior culture that exists, and the search for a different way to live makes a lot more sense than the idea of bringing our own views out to a galaxy at large. You want the Milky Way to find out about r/The_Donald?

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As such, The Orville is ill-timed. Star Trek: The Next Generation emerged at the end of the Cold War, where democracy itself was sufficiently virtuous to think that spreading various Western values along with it was a worthy proposition. Well, it worked — the world now mostly consists of various messy democracies in our own image.

It is time to take a hard look in the mirror. The world has to teach us something — about how we value human and animal life, how we deal with our natural resources, and how we deal with economic inequality. There must be some evolution, since it is the sole principle that allows life to continue subsisting. We get none of that in The Orville — just the same blandishments and science fiction premises barely based in science, and hardly creative enough to be called fiction. You would be forgiven if you thought you were simply watching a rejected TNG script from thirty years ago.

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McFarlane must really like Star Trek. Far more probable, however, is that he saw the economic sense behind it. Shot on a limited variety of sets, and only requiring one or two shots of mediocre CGI from time-to-time as the only evidence this show is not thirty years of age, The Orville is not really much of a risk for Fox, who seemingly has been struggling to produce live-action hits since The X-Files.

It is substantially more of a shaky venture to spend your valuable time watching it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think a show made in 2017 could be as stupidly self-important as Babylon 5.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


In Which Ted's Behavior Reaches A Critical Turning Point

Outlet Shopping


Ted 2
dir. Seth MacFarlane
115 minutes

At the beginning of Ted 2 the title character is living in a two-room apartment with his wife Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). The two have slowly been growing apart. After examining their credit card bills, Ted determines that his wife has spent $120 on clothing at Filene's Basement, an amount he deems excessive for an outlet store. He lashes out at Tami-Lynn, asking her why she needs nice clothing for work when her job as a grocery store cashier demands she wear an apron over it.

Due to drug use, Tami-Lynn's ovaries have been corrupted into a black fugue. Because they cannot have a child together, and no agency sees them as fit adoptive parents, Ted considers their marriage effectively over. This is the single most offensive notion in Ted 2, although it is not the first time that fertility issues have let directly to divorce.

The rest of Ted's jokes aren't terribly offensive at all. They are scaled back a lot from MacFarlane's long-running animated series Family Guy, where some of the things said about blacks, Jews, women and Frank Sinatra are downright disrespectful. Ted 2 is tame in comparison - most of the humor is about ejaculation and blowjobs. Seth at least had the dignity to hire African-American actors to say the really wretched things.

In order to get Ted certified as a person and not a material good, he and his friend John (Mark Wahlberg) hire a lawyer named Samantha (Amanda Seyfried). MacFarlane spends most of the movie making fun of Seyfried's disturbingly prominent eyes. Despite enjoying Ted's favorite pasttime — marijuana smoking — Samathana is deemed not as cool as a 40 year old guy wearing what appears to be a hairpiece and a stuffed teddy because she has never seen Rocky 3.

Ted 2 was begging for a road movie where MacFarlane could really examine America up close and make jokes about people the elites on the coasts secretly suspect are inbred racists who believe in omnipotent supernatural beings.

Instead Seth targets most of his jokes here at the elites themselves, since most of these one-liners, except the one involving Wahlberg being coated in semen, can only be understood with a college degree or by Good Will Hunting-esque prodigies.

Ted 2 starts to get exceptionally dreary and dull in its second act, when a long courtroom scene slows the comedy to a devastating crawl. Neither Wahlberg or Seyfried is good at anything much escept being a straight man. This would normally be fine, but Ted is just a despondent, rather depressing individual here and even his normal joie de vivre would not be enough to carry material this dull. This Ted is not wild or funny at all, just sad that no one respects his choices or personality.

The rest of the movie is not much better, as Ted's depression leads him to walk around Comic Con where a vendor is selling his clones for $40, and a Hasbro employee named Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) tries to analyze him for science.

Ted 2 reminds one of the serious turn taken by John Landis' worst movie, Beverly Hills Cop 3. Beverly Hills Cop 3 would never have been released today. Someone would have seen it for what it was — a dramatic version of a comedy series predicated on Eddie Murphy's wild improvisation. He refused to do any of that in the production of Beverly Hills Cop 3, thinking this wacky kind of behavior did not fit an older, more mature detective. He may have been right, but no one wanted to see it.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"The Starting Line" - Matt Pond PA (mp3)

"A Second Lasts A Second" - Matt Pond PA (mp3)