'Orville' seems to suffer from multi-genre disorder

Posted 9/8/17

By Kevin McDonough

"The Orville" (8 p.m. Sunday, Fox, TV-14) is as odd as its title. It's supposed to evoke the can-do spirit of classic "Star Trek," but a ship called the Orville does not stir the spirit like one named the Enterprise. The whole …

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'Orville' seems to suffer from multi-genre disorder

Posted

By Kevin McDonough

"The Orville" (8 p.m. Sunday, Fox, TV-14) is as odd as its title. It's supposed to evoke the can-do spirit of classic "Star Trek," but a ship called the Orville does not stir the spirit like one named the Enterprise. The whole series has a similar hesitancy. It's goofy yet occasionally inspiring, but it's not enough of either to qualify as a comedy, parody or drama.

Creator and star Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy") puts special effects to good use to evoke a world 400 years in the future. Yet it remains a universe of arrested emotional development for grown-up men.

MacFarlane plays Capt. Ed Mercer. He's first seen returning to New York only to find his wife, Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), in bed with a blue alien. After a yearlong bender, he's assigned to captain the Orville.

A rather plodding pilot goes through the motions of introducing the diverse, intergalactic crew. It's not giving too much away to reveal that Kelly joins the crew, much to Ed's discomfort, and that the couple come to collaborate and eventually get out of a cosmic jam or two.

At its best, "The Orville" seems to be going through the motions of imitating a Spock- and Kirk-era "Star Trek." It lacks the rapid-fire pop culture jokiness of MacFarlane's cartoons, but there are the occasional lines about penis envy and bathroom humor.

• If "Orville" uses digital special effects to present a "Star Trek" re-enactment, the ambitious HBO series "The Deuce" (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO, TV-MA) employs spectacular set and production design to re-create Times Square of the early 1970s. The attention to seedy detail is simply stunning.

James Franco, who also serves as an executive producer, stars in this sprawling series as identical twin brothers Vincent and Frankie Martino, who become barkeeps and front men for a New York crime family as they become increasingly involved in the sex trade and the porn industry in its infancy.

Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Crazy Heart") stars as tough and independent prostitute Candy, who is among the first to see the business and even cultural potential of filmed pornography.

"The Deuce" follows pimps, prostitutes, cops and johns in Times Square in an era when "the crossroads of the world" had become an open sewer to many respectable people and at the same time a petri dish for an emerging world of music, film, performance and culture.

Created by David Simon and George Pelecanos ("The Wire"), "The Deuce" takes a remarkably frank and unromantic view of the dangerous demimonde. Pimps control their "women" with mind games and violence; cops are on the take and on the make for the plentiful flesh walking the street; mobsters front bars and peep shows for clientele both gay and straight, providing a "service" that operates on the shady side of the law until changing attitudes bring the illicit into the daylight of social discussion and acceptance as well as big business exploitation.

"The Deuce" is not for everybody. It has a vast cast of characters to introduce and occasionally rubs its viewers' noses in the gutter it has (re)created. But that all seems intentional. Some may recoil at its sordid story, but it's impossible to deny that this is a remarkable production, not easily forgotten.

• Apparently, getting your groove back can be bad for your health. That's the lesson of "A Lover Betrayed" (8 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime), a film that teaches us no feel-good deed goes unpunished.

Jamie Luner ("Melrose Place") stars as Tess Ford, a mother whose marriage fell apart after the accidental death of her 11-year-old son. After her divorce and a long period of bereavement, she pulled herself together to become an author, expert and blogger who reaches out to other women who have gone through a similar tragedy.

As "Betrayed" begins, Tess is ready to move on with her emotional life and meets a handsome, seemingly perfect soldier at a book signing.

In a Hallmark Channel movie, this might be the end of the story. But Mr. Perfect (Brent Antonello, "Hit the Floor") turns out to be a psycho stalker who puts Tess' life in danger. Worse, nobody believes her. In fact, the police are led to believe that she is the stalker.

• Syfy offers a 13-episode marathon of the web short series "Con Man" (10:05 p.m. Saturday to 1:25 a.m. Sunday, TV-MA) about Wray Nerely (Alan Tudyk), a sci-fi celebrity has-been who tries to relive his 15 minutes of fame on the fan convention circuit.

SATURDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

College football action includes Auburn at Clemson (7 p.m., ESPN), Oklahoma at Ohio State (7:30 p.m., ABC), Georgia at Notre Dame (7:30 p.m., NBC), Stanford at USC (8:30 p.m., Fox).

• Charting a map of the emerging web on "Halt and Catch Fire" (9 p.m., AMC, TV-14).

• A lab mix comforts a troubled child on "Rescue Dog to Super Dog" (10 p.m., Animal Planet).

• A cargo ship vanishes on "Mystery of the Missing" (10 p.m., Science), hosted by Terry O'Quinn.

SUNDAY'S RETURNING SERIES

• Jamie calls up on his past after the Battle of Culloden on the third season premiere of "Outlander" (8 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).

• The ranch comes under new management on "Fear the Walking Dead" (9 p.m., AMC, TV-MA), entering the second half of its third season.

• A body on the beach conjures up a new case on "Top of the Lake: China Girl" (9 p.m., Sundance, TV-MA).

SUNDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

• Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (7 p.m., CBS): an interview with former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon.

• The Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants on "Sunday Night Football" (8:20 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

• Chris Harrison hosts the 97th Miss America competition (9 p.m., ABC).

• The discovery of a 2,000-year-old body offers new clues on "Endeavour" on "Masterpiece" (9 p.m., PBS, TV-14, check local listings).

• Matt finds himself in the driver's seat on "Episodes" (10 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).

• A distress signal seems fishy on "The Last Ship" (10 p.m., TNT, TV-14).

• A fight with some fans on "Survivor's Remorse" (10 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).

• A fateful month on the season finale of "Insecure" (11 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

SUNDAY SERIES

Amy Schumer plays "Celebrity Family Feud" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) * Blood on Callen's curb on "NCIS: Los Angeles" (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) * The Guilted Age on "The Simpsons" (9 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG) * Baseball on "Family Guy" (9:30 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) * An attack looms on "Hawaii Five-0" (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

© 2017 United Feature Syndicate