THE ADDAMS FAMILY – GOOD MOVIE WHICH JUST FALLS – LONG – OF BEING AN EXCELLENT ONE

SHORT TAKE:

Charming animated movie based on the Addams Family characters, created decades ago by Charles Addams, but honestly, with not enough plot for a full length feature.

WHO SHOULD GO:

Anyone who is interested. No sex, there is ghoulishness but nothing really scary (except for perhaps the very young), cartoon (obviously) violence, no bad language, but could be a bit slow for any of the youngish set used to the quick and flashy.

LONG TAKE:

The story, for anyone not familiar with this quirky bunch, is about a tight knit loving family who do not quite fit the standard mold. (Though some of them may be a bit — moldy.) Resembling nothing so much as a band of ghouls, vampires and assorted monsters, they frighten the neighbors wherever they go. In truth they just wish to be left (to rest) in peace to raise their children and live (or be dead) without bothering anyone else. Unfortunately, a developer buys the land around their home and a neighborhood eventually grows up around them. And not your ordinary neighborhood but a carefully planned and controlled one which sees the Addams as a threat to their desire for plastic conformity.

While this is a promising premise, alas The Addams Family animated feature falls not short of being a classic but too long. They had all the ingredients of a five star triumph: engaging memorable characters, excellent voice acting from grade A actors, excellent though stylized animation, and even a built-in multi-generational cult audience.

Unfortunately, what they did not have was a plot that could sustain a feature-length film.

When the kids were little we all picked a theme song. I won’t tell you what anyone else’s was but I will tell you that they ranged from Broadway to rock and roll and mine was the theme song from the TV show The Addams Family. “They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether ooky … ” Okay, well it wasn’t Shakespeare but what it WAS was confident, eccentric and whimsical. While others saw them as odd and scary, I saw a warm loving and wholesome (in their own way) family. Gomez and Morticia were very much in love even after many, possibly hundreds, of years of marriage. The kids were homeschooled, they lived with extended family – Gomez’s brother, Fester, and Morticia’s “grandmama”. They took good care of their pets – well, OK a lion named “Kitty” and a tall man eating Venus fly trap named Cleopatra. Gomez was an extremely successful, kind and philanthropic businessman who kept an open pocketbook to anyone in need. They adored their children, spent all their time together as a family, were welcoming to everyone, including the neighbors who occasionally ran from the bemused but well meaning family in terror. They never forced themselves on anyone but were  happily content to quietly go about their own business. Yet they were looked at askance just because they chose to do things a little — differently.

In short they reminded me of — us.

As a kid I enjoyed The Addams Family for its unusual humor and adorable characters. Later in life I had a much deeper appreciation for their situation. A LOOONG time ago when the kids were little, homeschooling was a very peculiar affectation to many people. The two most common questions we got were: “Homeschool – where is that?” and “Is that legal?” Many thought we were crazy. Even some of our friends would distance themselves when the subject of educating children came up. And our families were convinced we would tire of this “cultish” idea. 30 years later we had graduated all 6 out of high school and into college and careers. And retrospectively I recognized – we WERE The Addams Family to a lot of people.

So they hold a special place in my heart.

The source material is from a single panel comic by Charles Addams that featured regularly in The New Yorker. It specialized in dark and macabre humor: Morticia discarding the blooms of flowers to keep the stems. The children chopping the heads off of dolls with a child sized guillotine. The 1960’s TV show with John Astin (the adopted father of Sean Astin aka Samwise Gamgee) as Gomez and Carolyn Jones as Morticia, kept the dark comedy, but converted it into a cockeyed Leave it to Beaver sitcom. The movies, with Raul Julia taking over for Astin, and Angelica Houston for Jones, echoed their predecessors with devoted enthusiasm and ramped up the outlandishness of the family’s eccentricities. I thoroughly loved all of it.

This animated movie wisely pulls from all three. The voice acting is perfect and evokes the — uh — spirit of all the unique personalities: Gomez harkens back not to the good looks of the human leads but portrays Gomez as the short squat little pin-stripped ghoul he was originally drawn to be. The acting talents of Oscar Isaacs (Star Wars, Operation Finale) and Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde, Tully, Mad Max: Fury Road) instill Gomez and Morticia with all the lively personality of their live action predecessors. And while Chloe Grace Moretz (Dark Shadows, Carrie) as Wednesday is much like Christina Ricci’s stone faced version from the live action movies instead of the sweet faced Wednesday from the TV show, Nick Kroll (Operation Finale) does a spitty mouthed Uncle Fester which is far closer to Jackie Coogan’s version in the TV show  than Chris Lloyd’s feature film Fester. Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things and It – that kid better watch it as he’s well on the way to being type cast) did a lovely job as the voice of the good natured but “explosively” enthusiastic Pugsley. Bette Midler (singer extraordinary and actress from The Rose) does a surprise “appearance” as the voice of Grandmama. SCTV veterans Martin Short (Inner Space) and Catherine O’Hara (Ode to Joy – see my post HERE) perform an adorable cameos as visiting deceased spirits who give Morticia advice. I think all the choices made by the animators and actors worked together beautifully – cherry picking the elements which work best in this medium and blending them together like the tints in a fine painting.

The music uses both modern and iconic, employing the likes of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” as well as the familiar theme song from the TV show. Of particular note is the BRILLIANTLY inspired end credit sequence wherein the animated characters repeat precisely the scenes shown at the beginning of the TV show: Morticia and Gomez’ sword practice, Lurch at the organ, Fester’s smudged post-explosion face – in a loving homage to the wonderful 1960’s super quirky sitcom.

Unfortunately, unlike the live action movies, there is just not enough for these wonderful characters to do. Events — occur — and there is a theme of conformity versus independence, but it is more Road Runner booms and sight gags than storyline. There’s lots of quick one-liners and don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-them clever sight gags, but it just doesn’t all quite gel into a whole idea worthy of its 87 minute run time.

The “villain”, Margaux Needler, ultra-micromanager real estate mogul and TV show host, who will stop at nothing to get her “perfect” development off the ground, is a carbon copy of the perfectionist and micromanager homeowner association chairwoman Gladys Sharp, whose personality is lifted right off the storyboards for Over the Hedge. Both characters are even voiced by the same actress, Allison Janney.

It’s not that The Addams Family is bad, but it treads no knew ground and drags. With the content available here this would have been far more successful as a quick paced 20 minute short.

However, I think with the talent at hand and the rich potentials for the premise they could do SO much better and I look forward to a sequel if the writers would just put a bit more effort into the script.

But for all the flaws, I was delighted to see my favorite eccentric family on the big screen again.

THE LONG KISS GOOD NIGHT – INTENSE, BRILLIANT AND LITTLE KNOWN CULT CLASSIC WHICH PAVED THE WAY FOR ATOMIC BLONDE AND BLACK WIDOW

SHORT TAKE:

A rare example of a wildly successful, female-lead, action adventure about MOTHERHOOD — for adults only.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT:

Any adult who enjoys James Bond or one of the reboot Mission Impossibles.

LONG TAKE:

With the quality-questionable Uncle Drew being the most promising of the new movie releases this week, I thought I might do a review of one of my favorite movies you've probably never heard of: The Long Kiss Goodnight.

In 1996, far before Charlize Theron became  Atomic Blonde, and back when Scarlett Johanssen was still a child, starring in low budgets like Manny and Lo, well before she grew up to be Black Widow, a unique cinematic excursion was released called The Long Kiss Goodnight. Geena Davis, from Stuart Little, A League of Their Own, The Fly, and Beetlejuice costarred with the truly ubiquitous and eternally youngSamuel L Jackson (who looks no different now than he did 22 years ago – see my comment about this in my review of The Incredibles 2) in a movie about a woman named Samantha Caine. Samantha washes up, two months pregnant, on the shores of Honesdale, PA, a sleepy New England town, with nothing but clothes on her back she doesn't remember buying, a few fighting scars and complete "focal retrograde amnesia". She remembers nothing about herself: not her identity, where she came from, her age, who the father of her child is, nothing, except her name and even that is a guess.

Honestly, the background pictures during the opening credits reveal WAAAAY more than they should or is necessary. So – if you rent or buy this movie, on first viewing, you should START AT THE THREE MINUTE MARK. You can go back and watch the opening credit images after you have finished the movie.

Eight years later, as the movie begins, Samantha is now a teacher in the local elementary school and a devoted mother to Caitlin. While riding in her adopted home town's Christmas parade, in what seems to be a complete non-sequitor, an inmate in a nearby prison, watching the event on a caged TV, suddenly goes into a fury. About the same time, Mitch, (Samuel L Jackson) the low rent detective Samantha hired then forgot about, unexpectedly comes up with a lead, and Nathan (Brian "Stryker" Cox), an old friend from Samantha's past, sets out to find her.

With the exceptions of Ms. Theron, Ms. Johanssen, and Gal Gadot, I generally find that action adventures featuring women protagonists fall pathetically flat. The Long Kiss Goodnight is the Gold Standard of exceptions and the predecessor to all the blockbusters in which the aforementioned ladies have starred.

Clever, rough, violent, funny, startling and profane, it is one of the most unusual, fascinating and memorable films about motherhood I know. It ranks right up there with Hotel Artemis (click to check out my previous blog) and Aliens. While the language, ironically, has even Mr. Jackson's character, Mitch, complaining, there is no blasphemy, and the sexuality is very low key for this genre. If you want to check the details of profanity and sexuality out for yourself click Screenit, if you are a member, before watching.

GENTLE SPOILERS

Geena Davis' slow transition from the sweet and charming, happily domestic Samantha to the fierce and indomitable Charley is a tour de force. Ms. Davis and Mr. Jackson make superb platonic team mates in the kind of movie relationship usually reserved for bromances. The plot is part James Bond, part North by Northwest, part Mission Impossible, with a little bit of Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde thrown in for good measure.

One of the things I find most commendably endearing and notably rare about this movie in general, and Samantha in particular, is that there is not even a hint she ever considered killing her unborn child, despite the desolateness of her situation as Samantha. Even while Charley, the most unlikely of mother candidates,  lurks in her subconscious, she has and embraces her natural and powerful maternal instincts. And after re-embracing her distinctly ungentle previous life Samantha/Charley remains a profoundly dedicated mother.  The idea that motherhood would trump everything else, even for the fully re-realized Charley, is a truly inspiring thought.

MODERATE SPOILER

To the point about motherhood, one of my favorite all time movie scenes is the way Samantha/Charley protects Caitlin and handles the "One Eyed Jack" when he invades her home. That's a heck of a mom. I can picture Weaver's Ripley giving Samantha a standing "O".

So if you're in the mood for something different than your usual film fare, be sure the kids are in bed and no where near close enough to hear Mr. Jackson as he chides Charley for HER language, and cue up The Long Kiss Goodnight.

TULLY – AN UNUSUALLY HONEST AND FRANK LOOK AT MOTHERHOOD

SHORT TAKE:

Well done and insightful view of an ordinary family undergoing a crisis as an exhausted and post-partum depressive mom deals with three children, including one who is a special needs and another a newborn, by welcoming a "night nanny" into her life.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT:

Adults only. Language gets raw under stress and sexuality is openly discussed, including the mom's habit of watching a porno reality site called Gigolos.

LONG TAKE:

When our oldest son was only a few months old he gave up sleeping. I discovered that going without sleep for months can make you hallucinate. I started seeing things out of the corner of my eye I knew were not there. Fortunately, I had a very supportive husband who helped me get the household and his sleeping habits under control.

OBLIQUE SPOILER

Marlo (Charlize Theron) has a similar problem. On top of the responsibilities of a newborn and a first grader, she also cares for a special needs kindergarten aged son who everyone identifies merely as "quirky" so does not really get the help he needs, she holds down a full time job, and her husband's demanding job requires he goes out of town often. With a history of detail-mysterious severe post-partum depression, her concerned and wealthy brother, Craig (Mark Duplass) offers to hire a "night nanny" for them. Marlo's pride gets in the way at first, but eventually one arrives. Her name is Tully (MacKenzie Davis) and she is a twenty something free spirit who seems to understand Marlo to her core. The two women bond immediately and Tully does a good job of caring for their new baby, cleaning the disaster that had become their house and even makes cupcakes for Marlo's children's classmates – all the things that Marlo feels guilty for not having done.

One of the great thngs about Tully is the ordinariness of the house, the kitchen, the bedroom and the people. Theron gained 50 pounds for the role. She, personally, has two adopted children so has never been pregnant but you'd never know it. We have six children and breast fed them all. So I know what a post-partum body looks like and Ms. Theron, baring almost all, certainly LOOKS like she has a genuine maternal belly. And the scenes with the leaking, pumping, breastfeeding are very very familiar. I say this to note that while the script reaches into the reality of the struggles of parenthood, the film makers go to great lengths to present what looks like an authentic family dynamic.

Ms. Theron carries most of the water in Tully and is amazing. She is one of those truly talented actors who do not mind making herself look ugly for a role. While she can be convincing as the almost supernaturally athletic spy in Atomic Blonde and convincingly sexual magnet in Gringo, here she looks like any other mother who just gave birth, including flabby tunmmy and leaky boobs. In one very funny scene her kindergartener spills a glass of juice on the dinner table and all over her. In a state of apathetic exhustaion she simply strips off her shirt and sits almost catatonically at the table. Her grade school daughter takes one look at her and innocently asks: "Mom, what's wrong with your body?"

So, for all of the occasionally dark tinged situations, this is not a depressing movie. In many ways it is a comedy – though a subtle one. And be aware, there are some seemingly startling or even shocking things that happen during the movie. But stick with it – things are not always as shocking as they appear. Tully is, ultimately, a very family, marriage, child and life affirming movie wherein normal people deal with every day challenges in their own creative ways. The people in the family strive to stay close and keep it working and stable the best way they know how. Tully advocates for the value of a family, warts and all.  In Tully, the spouses – Marlo and Drew – care about each other and their children very much. The couple has each learned from the failures of their parents' broken marriages and Drew loves and is faithful to Marlo despite her occasionally fragile mental state. They are supportive and kind to each other and to the children, tryng their best to be good attentive parents. This is greatly refreshing and necessary in a culture which promotes popular media in which the father is often marginalized, and the marriage is often portrayed as broken or only one in a cascading list of failures.

If the movie has one great flaw it is in not showing more of the beautiful ecstacy that can be parenthood – the joy of holding a newborn, the miracle of which never grows old. The story examines Marlo's overburdened exhausted life but rarely any of the blissful moments of bonding with the mom, dad and the newborn. There is also, to its detriment, no reference to the core values of any kind of spiritual life, which would have gone a long way to ameliorating Marlo's pain and depression.

As all of us, coming from our own unique brand of family, knows – it is not always easy and it is not always obvious, but, more often that not, families are, as Carly Simon once famously sang – "the stuff that dreams are made of."

GRINGO – CRUDE, UNNECESSARILY VIOLENT AND FORGETTABLE COMEDY – GO WATCH WHAT’S UP DOC? INSTEAD

SHORT TAKE:

Forgettable, crude and violent dark comedy about pill-form marijuana, drug lords, murder, kidnapping, adultery and boardroom betrayal.

WHO SHOULD SEE THIS:

Don't bother. Go watch What’s Up Doc? Instead.

LONG TAKE:

In the 1972 slap stick comedy What’s Up Doc? there is a suitcase full of fossils which gets mistaken for a similar bag full of diamonds, which looks like another bag full of top secret government papers, which is the same shape and brand of luggage that is full of underwear. The suitcase full of fossils is really not worth much to anyone except its owner. However, because it is mistaken by different people at different times for other bags which are more valuable it gets: switched, stolen, moved, thrown, kicked, hidden; endures having to go along for the ride during a kidnapping; suffers through a high speed car chase; is sequestered in: a messenger boy’s bike basket, a Chinese dragon, a Volkswagon; is dunked in the ocean; and dragged into court as an exhibit.

What’s Up Doc? is a VERY funny throwback to the old 1930's and ‘40's screwball comedies of Frank Capra, Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks. Now imagine if you WERE that suitcase, your perception of just how humorous this all was, would be quite different.

SOME SPOILERS

The premise of Gringo is that Harold, a nebbish shlimazel (a fearful timid, unlucky loser) played by David Oyelowo (Lincoln, Interstellar and The Cloverfield Paradox) is sent to Mexico to help negotiate a deal involving pill form medical marijuana in Mexico for the pharmaceutical company he works for. Little does he know that: his company is about to merge and he is expendable, his boss, Richard (Joel Edgerton – Star Wars as the young Uncle Owen, Red Sparrow, Bright) has sent him to deal with a Mexican drug lord because he is expendable, and his wife is leaving him FOR his boss so that in his marriage he is…expendable.

Things go pear-shaped very quickly when Harold finds these things out and he decides to fake his own kidnapping with the help of some low rent motel managers who think he is more valuable to his company than he is, ultimately triggering pursuit by a Mexican drug lord who mistakes him for the "boss," which results in the hiring of a reformed mercenary with a conscience who is given conflicting orders which, in turn, challenge his new found repentance. Harold, in case you missed the point, is the bag of fossils – a fitting analogy since he has stagnated in one place for a long time, only to be buried and ignored by the people to whom he is loyal. "Why is it I am always getting s*&^%ed for doing my job!" Harold wails.

This movie, directed by Nash Edgerton (Joel's brother) is often very and unnecessarily violent, (including someone getting their toe chopped off by a Beatles-loving drug lord), vulgarly sexual, and filled, not just with profanities but exceptionally crude blasphemies.

Even if you cut it to play on TV in the 1970's during the family hour, and even though it is a fast paced complex story and occasionally amusing, there is no real point to the convolutions and travails we watch this poor man endure.

I liked Oyelowo as Harold. He has good comic timing and is kind of sweetly adorable. Though Harold does contribute to the chaos, his actions are understandable given the nefarious characters who have placed him in a completely untenable situation. I’ve seen Oyelowo in drama and comedy and he has now demonstrated he can carry a leading role. I would love to see him tackle a more worthy project.

Charlize Theron (undoubtedly an accomplished actress who can do comedy, drama, sci fi, action and schmaltz in such varied movies as: Prometheus, Monster, Sweet November, and Atomic Blonde) as Elaine is her usual sexy, crude and simulateously charming self (though she was much better on the streets in Atomic Blonde than as a boardroom killer here.)

Joel Edgerton is Richard, Harold’s duplicitous, cuckolding boss, an office hustler you can’t wait to see get his comeuppance.

But I think my favorite character was Mitch, played by Sharlto Copley (the lead in the off beat sci fi District 9, King Stephan in Maleficent, and Murdock in 2010's A-Team feature). Mitch is Richard’s brother. Mitch is a reformed mercenary, now a mission worker in Haiti, who Richard bribes to first rescue, then to murder, Harold, dangling the prospect of cash for the orphans now in Mitch’s care. There is a surprisingly touching and thoughtful interchange between Mitch and Harold about God. Harold is devout and prays for deliverance while Mitch does not believe in much of anything. It is unfortunate that one of the funniest moments in the movie is at this point and has been played in the trailer. Mitch is the only aspect of this movie which deserves any contemplation. A hitman turned philantropist, who is suddenly confronted with the moral conundrum of whether to sacrifice one innocent man to alleviate the suffering of a hundred children. The difficulty is compounded by Mitch’s express declaration that he is an atheist. Realistically Mitch has no reference point except his own conscience, the surprising turns of events which can only be described as Divine intervention, and the admonition from a man Mitch does not believe Divine that "Greater love hath no man…."  There is a nice resolution to this little subplot but does not make up for the vacuousness of the rest of this movie.

Had Nash Edgerton incorporated more underlying philosophical consideration into the filming, Gringo might have elevated itself towards Pulp Fiction territory. As it is, it is merely a forgettable romp.

Gringo is "appropriate" for only a slender demographic of the adult population – mature grown ups who, nonetheless, can find a few laughs in exceptionally crude humor and violence.

I say go find What’s Up Doc? It is a far funnier movie and one you can show the entire family.

The Orville – A Delightfully Fresh Change of Pace to the “Star Trek” Universe

 

SHORT TAKE:

Never thought I'd say this but I have come to recommend (tentatively) a TV show by Seth (Ted, 50 Million Ways to Die in the West) MacFarlane. The Orville is a homage to the Star Trek Universe … but only for mature sensibilities. Soaked in mild adult humor it is a charming combination of Star Trek and Galaxy Quest with just a pinch of Saturday Night Live thrown in for a bit of spice. In the honored footsteps of Gene Roddenbury, MacFarlane uses the setting of a space ship in the future to intelligently examine sensitive cultural issues, but takes this trip with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

LONG TAKE:

Ours is a three generation science fiction family – Heinlein, Asimov, EE Doc Smith were read to me as bedtime stories by my Dad.

I introduced my kids to Star Trek. I have been a Star Trek fan my entire life. The first show came out when I was seven years old and I grew up watching the shows in syndication.

I accepted the fact that Star Trek went off the air after 3 years and was excited by the movies.   I was ecstatic when Star Trek: Next Generation appeared and devastated when it was killed at the height of its popularity and in its prime because it became cheaper to syndicate the old shows than create new ones.STNG None of the other Star Trek shows quite hit the bull's eye for me the way STNG did. And the last show to date, Star Trek: Enterprise, ended on the lamest of notes by killing off one of its main characters as a flashback told by an embarrassingly … out of shape Riker. While I enjoy the reboot of Star Trek it  has no TV show to back its alternate universe up…. And it's a long time between movies. *sigh*

So when they said there was going to be a new Star Trek TV show – Star Trek: Discovery – no one anticipated its premiere more than me – or was more disappointed to find out it was to be held hostage by CBS's membership "service"  – like I need to pay for another subscription on top of Amazon, Netflix, Pureflix and Youtube payments.

Then out of nowhere, like a Galaxy class ship to the rescue, appeared an unlikely contender –The Orville – brain child of Seth MacFarlane – positively infamous for his crude humor, liberal attitudes and atheism. Hesitant is a massive understatement to describe my feelings about this project. But the trailer was funny and desperate for anything even close to a Trek fix, I tuned in through Amazon. Shocklingly, I found it good. NOT for kids – this is not your or your father's Star Trek to be sure.

I've seen all four of the shows they have released so far and I've come to the conclusion that THIS is what was REALLY going on aboard all those impressive star ships while Kirk and company presented us with the sanitized version of the events.

And no, it isn't even really part of the Star Trek universe at all. But it follows so closely in those stellar footsteps that thinking of The Orville as Star Trek's little brother is inevitable.

While not part of the Trek universe, everything in The Orville is a Trek echo, but with a slightly different spin. In The Orville universe the ships are part of the Union (And every time  MacFarlane, as Captain Ed Mercer, refers to Union ships, I can't help but wonder if they get overtime. LOL) The aliens are "new" but very familiar. The Orville's Moclus – an all burly-male single-gender planet whose main industry is weapons making

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are very much the Orville's version of Trek's Klingons, only without women. And there's Isaac, from Kaylon-1 – an entire planet of artifical lifeforms whose Greek chorus objective view of the human race is obviously a nod to Trek spock dataVulcans and Data. Then there is the caring but tough female chief medical officer, Dr. Penny Johnson Jerald (Claire Finn – Kassidy Yates from Deep Space Nine),   counterpart to Trek's Dr. Crusher and Alara (Halston Sage) a tough female security officer like Trek's Yar.

potato headOne early sub-plot examined a mainstay topic of our favorite emotionless aliens – humor. Without giving any spoilers, let's just say that there is a more "no holds barred" to their…ahem…Enterprises. The humor is rougher and slightly bawdier but nothing you wouldn't hear in a day to day after hours conversation with close friends. They gossip, they gripe, they insult, they even occasionally threaten each other – and that's just on the bridge.

This is not the cream of the crop. Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) makes no bones about why Ed has been chosen to captain The Orville – because with a new crop of 3,000 new ships to be manned the fleet was spread thin…and Ed was available.

The crew of the Orville are the guys who do the heavy lifting while crews like the Enterprise in Star Trek  go on diplomatic missions and save the universe.

helmsmanThe command crew drink sodas and beer and watch old TV show excerpts while on duty. The First Officer Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki mostly recently Bobbi in Agents of Shield)  refers openly to the helmsman Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes – Mystery, Alaska and Crimson Tide) as an idiot  – and he will agree. There is an amorphous amorous blob named Yaphit who crassly flirts with the ship's doctor.  First Officer Grayson is also the Captain's ex-wife who cheated on him – an event which, while a source of great regret to both Grayson and Mercer, is the source of a lot of needling by and occasionally unfiltered amusement for the crew.

These are not the dress blues we're used to, but the cargo ship-construction crew. Though everything looks spit and polished, there is a realistic familiarity among these guys which strikes a more homespun note than the tunic tugging Picard. picard maneuverDon't get me wrong – I LOVE the proper Star Trek universe. But these guys just SAY the things we KNOW darned well Kirk or Picard or Scotty or Dr. Crusher or even Data were DYING to say but couldn't – like Captain Mercer to a bigoted and cruely rude Moclus: "Dude, you have been a colassal d*** all friggin' day. Shut the H*** up." It wasn't polite or proper etiquette for a STAR TREK captain, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to applaud and laugh when he said it.

ed and first officer.jpgAnd the storylines follow quintessential threads: examination of other cultures in comparison to our own; time travel paradoxes; stifling tyrannical societies which MUST be exposed with the help of our intrepid heroes……maybe not heroes. More like good natured friends who will follow the rules most of the time because they don't want to get their butts kicked. And The Orville crew manages to clever their way out of problems just like the best of Trek – only with the occasional dose of deliberate silliness thrown in to remind us we are here for a good time. Kind of like Firefly only with more resources and a cleaner ship.

lasersWhile they don't take themselves too seriously, they present the characters and stories with obvious respect and affection for the source concepts. There is humor but fights break out, career making/breaking decisions have to be made, people die and the scenarios have hazard – just like the original ST:TOS – if that was happening at your average family holiday get together.

shootingAnd yes, MacFarlane has a liberal world view which comes out now and again. But I was pleasantly surprised to find he does not use his platfiorm to villify or unfairly castigate points of view he likely doesn't follow…at least not so far. MacFarlane has already begun to delve into hot button issues such as homosexuality and gender orientation but with tact and civility. moclusFor example, the Moclus, the all male planet, has an inevitable male-male couple who procreate by hatching eggs. But because it is another species it is, frankly, not as in your face as the heavy handed presentation of Sulu's "husband" in Star Trek: Beyond.

security officerTo be fair Roddenbury founded the Star Trek universe on the examination of the sensitive social issues of his time: racism, class structure, the hazards of interfering in less technologically developed cultures, the definition of life forms, the inherent dangers in protracted automated warfare, the tyranny of nanny states, the constant struggle with our baser natures. So it would be hypocritical of me to complain if The Orville explores the hot button issues of our times. And I was very pleased to find that MacFarlane is following Roddenbury's example. The Orville so far has reviewed these areas wth a certain dignified grace.

trialOne story in particular dealt with the single-gender society in a way that I believe fairly examined the different sides – a rarity when most liberal agendas include screaming over their conservative opponents instead of debating. The issue of gender identity at birth became a leading topic, and was treated with thoughtful clear headed discussion resulting in the crew uniformly taking the conservative side!

hanger.jpgAll this being said, it is possible Mr. MacFarlane could be luring the mainstream population in to lower the boom and cram yet another politically-correct driven anti-"everything traditional" agenda down the throats of anyone near by. But for the moment Mr. MacFarlane has created an extremely well written show for its genre. Funny, occasionally bawdy, but thoughtful.

And as an added bonus – again no spoilers – but I will note there are a few jaw dropping "A" list guest stars MacFarlane has managed to acquire in just his first 4 shows.

The Orville is a charmingly whimsical combination of Star Trek (mostly, I think, Next Generation era) and Galaxy Quest, with a hint of Dr. Who and a restrained splash of Saturday Night Live. I'll give Seth MacFarlane credit for now and the benefit of the doubt ………… for now. I just hope he doesn't eventually hand us a politically correct disappointment.