First off, I am just a private individual with absolutely no connection to Hollywood, this show, or to Fox (God forbid). (Unfortunately) I received no compensation of any kind for this review. (Like complimentary tickets to "SNL" would kill you?)
I generally enjoy space-based SF shows. From things I's read on the Internet, and on my preconceived notions of what any new Seth MacFarlane production would be like, I TOTALLY expected to hate this show. So much so that I skipped even watching any of the first five episodes as they aired. Then one day, bored with other 2017 commercial TV offerings (right?..., Right?), I gave Episode 6 a try, and enjoyed it; A LOT. I quickly started watching the first five episodes.
Few shows can actually make me laugh out loud. This one did.
Yes, it can be at times a (satiric) note-for-note rip-off of "Star Trek" (plus other spaceship-crew ensemble) shows; but it is a brilliant note-for-note rip off.
I don't know if it can continue its level of quality, but so far it has:
● Excellent special effects.
● Beautiful design.
● Quality production values.
● Impressive makeup and costumes.
● Good pacing.
● Just the right balance of comedy and more serious, timely, and sensitive story elements.
● Genuinely entertaining stories (the perfect blend of mockery and respect for the spaceship exploration genre). (Even when the stories are "borrowed" from "Star Trek" or other shows, I didn't mind. It feels more like an homage than a rip-off.)
● Top-notch cameos and guest stars.
● Solid cast.* Contrary to criticisms elsewhere (e.g., in these IMDb reviews), I think MacFarlane is just right in the title role--a perfect (and tricky) balance of mature authority and confused haplessness. Not easy to pull off.
Most important, and unlike in "Family Guy" or his embarrassing movies, MacFarlane (or someone) so far limits his characteristic excessive potty humor to just the right level.
For example. I was led to believe--by a certain popular TV review blogger whose opinion I normally respect--that the opening sequence of Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) catching his then wife (Commander Kelly Grayson, played by Adrianne Palicki) in bed with another species would be tasteless, excessive, and embarrassing. Hey, surprise--no problem! It was appropriately funny, mercifully brief, and completely necessary to set up the rest of the story line.
By the way, Palicki, who I had only knowingly seen before in "Agents of SHIELD" (don't get me going on that mess), is MUCH better here.
In general, I like all the characters, and the jobs the actors are doing to bring them to life. Some particularly funny moments involve secondary or one-time characters (e.e., the deadpan Krill straight men; Norm MacDonald's "Yaphit," the only gelatinous crew member). Meanwhile, the primary actors appear to have quickly dialed in the essentials of their characters' personalities right from the get-go. My sense is that they have a lot of fun on set, but are also true professionals, or else the direction is excellent. Either way, the results are good.
This leads directly to another important factor--as with other successful ensemble shows, Team MacFarlane has managed to quickly create a FAMILY. The characters naturally have their idiosyncrasies and of course don't always get along. But you sense that they care for each other and are loyal to the crew and the ship.
Doing that believably and so quickly is, I imagine, difficult to pull off. Again, the sign of a happy crew and fun set. Good for them.
So I give this little gem a (surprising to me) hearty "thumbs up" recommendation. If you like SF/space adventures and enjoy something that does not take itself too seriously (yet is blessedly more adult than, say, a "Warehouse 13," "Eureka," or "The Librarians") by all means give this a try.
Caution; get it while you can. Who knows how long it will last on Fox, where good shows go to die early. (And bad shows stay and stay and stay; like visiting relatives who just won't leave.)
* For example:
- Scott Grimes ("Lt. Gordon Malloy").
He was great on "ER" and is perfect playing Gordon, Mercer's buddy and side-kick.
- Peter Macon ("Lt. Cmdr. Bortus")
Love his super gruff and serious take on the (thereby unwittingly comical) Bortus.
- Penny Johnson Jerald ("Dr. Claire Finn")
She has been in a bunch of stuff and is always good.
Addendum -- Much to my surprise, many of the episodes have surprisingly serious plots and take-home messages, so far focusing on gender equality and proper treatment of children. And despite the jokes, stories don't always end on a high note. What I erroneously feared would be a kind of "Airplane!" (with Leslie Nielsen) in space or maybe "Spaceballs" (nonstop low-brow humor) is instead like a more humorous version of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." I like it. It is like someone who really loved and cherished that (often wonderful and beautifully written) 1987 show grew up and took a reverential stab at their own version, using their own particular talents, a gang of Hollywood pals, and a boat-load of money they had lying around. Who could that be?
11/05/17 Update: Wow, they keep slipping in more and more drama. It's almost like someone said, "Let's camouflage a serious Sci-Fi space exploration show with MacFarlane's trademark humor up front (thereby attracting Fox's "Family Guy" audience), then tone that down as time goes on." Hmmm, really? Nah, I must just be getting too cynical in my old age.