As popular as The Orville has become since its inception, a review has dogged it from the start – the character’s pop culture jokes make absolutely no sense. However, not only The Orville agree with these criticisms, but in acknowledging them, he actually offers an explanation that justifies them in the continuity of the show.
Created by Seth MacFarlane, The Orville mixes workplace comedy with sci-fi drama, though the balance has tilted towards the latter since its first season, much to the approval of critics. Especially early in the series, the titular ship’s human crewmates tend to joke about modern pop culture in a way that doesn’t make sense for the setting, as people in 2419 still somehow consider another one Duck Dynasties and Avis Car Rental as relevant cultural touchstones. It’s in the same vein as the classic star trekwhere the lack of futuristic pop culture has led to fan theories that the Federation is a stagnant culture, but in this case it’s at least the timeless art that’s still appreciated.
In 2021 The Orville: Digressions (by David A. Goodman and David Cabeza), fans can see the alternate reality created by Kelly’s young autodidact about her potential future. Without Kelly defending Ed Mercer, he never becomes a captain and ends up becoming an unloved first officer. While being disciplined by his captain in #1, Ed is called out for “the pop culture references that no one seems to understand but you. Five-hundred-year-old movies and TV shows that no one watches anymore, no one cares about anymore.”
This moment brings up the bizarre idea of random human pop culture being memorable centuries later, but it also hints at some sort of explanation for the show’s jokes. This moment presents Ed’s use of 21st century references as a personal obsession, hinting that it’s not that everyone understands these references in the future, but that Ed himself is abnormally obsessed with the culture of the time. While Kelly and Gordon often crack similar jokes on the show, the two are also close to Ed in their personal lives, and it makes sense that what fans actually see are three people who share a niche interest, with their combined high ranks establishing this as part of the ship’s culture.
It makes sense given the scenes of Ed recommending “old” movies to loved ones, Kelly choosing old music for karaoke, and Gordon Malloy’s habit of programming the ship’s environmental simulator with scenarios that others don’t. crew members will enjoy. It is logical that The Orville is simply a workplace where everyone should relate to the 21st century obsession of the senior team – something that The Orville: Digressions makes it clear that it would not fly on other ships in the fleet. When Gordon says, “We are, without a doubt, the strangest ship in the fleet”, it looks like this fixation might be part of the reason.
At the end of the day, The OrvilleThe humor of isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but in a curious sci-fi show asking questions about today’s society through the prism of the future, it’s a detail that has an understandable impact on the immersion of some fans. Fortunately, The Orville is aware of this, and while his solution may not be perfect, it is perfectly suited to the show’s overall tone as “workplace sitcom meets speculative fiction.”