Seth MacFarlane to produce space adventure ‘The Orville’

The adventure starring and produced by him is set 400 years in the future and follows the adventures of an exploratory spaceship

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The Fox network is calling on superpowers and Seth MacFarlane to boost ratings this autumn.

The Orville, a new space adventure starring and produced by MacFarlane, is set 400 years in the future and follows the adventures of an exploratory spaceship.

“This is Seth’s passion project,” Dana Walden, Fox Television Group chairman and CEO, said on Monday in a teleconference detailing the 2017-18 schedule for the network that’s No 4 among total viewers.

The multitalented MacFarlane, who contributes the animated comedy Family Guy to Fox, is a science buff who brought the documentary Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey to the network in 2014.

A clip of The Orville shown at Fox’s presentation to advertisers had a distinct tongue-in-cheek Galaxy Quest tone.

Also debuting this autumn is The Gifted, about a suburban couple who discovers their children have mutant powers. Stephen Moyer (True Blood) and Amy Acker (Person of Interest) will star in the drama that Walden called “big, cinematic and commercial” and is Fox’s first with the Marvel factory.

Comedy will get the fantasy and sci-fi touch at Fox with Ghosted. The sitcom about two partners exploring unexplained phenomena in Los Angeles stars Craig Robinson of The Office and Adam Scott of Parks and Recreation.

Continuing the theme is The X-Files, the onetime Fox staple that will make its second appearance as an “event series” with a 10-episode midseason run starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Fox will have music as well, with returning series Empire and Star and the live musicals Rent and A Christmas Story.

But it won’t have American Idol, which ended its run on Fox in 2016 and is being revived next year by ABC. Walden said Fox was interested in bringing back the show in 2020 with changes for a new generation of viewers but couldn’t reach an agreement with producer FremantleMedia.

“It feels bad knowing it’s coming back on another network,” she said. But Fox felt it would be “extremely fraudulent” recycling the show so soon after what was billed as its farewell season, and in light of how sharply its ratings had dropped from its once-stellar No 1 position.

Walden and fellow Fox Television Group chair and CEO Gary Newman emphasised their effort to use established shows to support newer shows, such as the pairing of Lucifer and The Gifted on Monday and Empire and Star on Thursday.

New Girl is getting another season, its last, but others that aren’t so lucky include cancelled shows Pitch, Rosewood, Scream Queens, Sleepy Hollow, Son of Zorn, APB and Making History.

Like NBC, which announced its autumn schedule on Sunday, Fox is holding back several new series for midseason. It’s another indication that the once entrenched September-to-May network schedule has given way to efforts to reduce repeats amid increased competition from cable and streaming.

Other broadcast networks will present their upcoming program lineups to advertisers in New York this week.

MORE NEWCOMERS

Freshman series set for Fox’s midseason:

- 9-1-1, described as a “fast-paced exploration” of the lives and careers of first responders including police, paramedics and firefighters. Angela Bassett stars in the drama from prolific producer Ryan Murphy (Feud).

- The Resident, a drama starring Matt Czuchry (The Good Wife) and Emily VanCamp (Revenge), will focus on three doctors and a nurse as it reveals “what really happens, both good and bad,” at American hospitals.

- LA to Vegas from executive producers including Will Ferrell and Steve Levitan (Modern Family). Fox describes it as a workplace comedy about an airline crew and the “eccentric passengers” who fly to Las Vegas weekly in the hope of becoming winners. Dylan McDermott stars.

MAYBE, MAYBE NOT

Fox was happy with 24: Legacy, the follow-up to its successful 24, the executives said. With star Corey Hawkins on Broadway in Six Degrees of Separation, its return couldn’t be considered for autumn but its future remains under discussion. Prison Break: Resurrection was intended as a special, one-season return and no more episodes are in the works, Walden said. But Fox “loved” what aired earlier this year and would consider it for another limited run if the producers are so inclined, she added.

KELLY’S RETURN

Megyn Kelly made her NBC debut on Monday onstage at Radio City Music Hall, telling a crowd of advertisers at the network’s schedule presentation that she’ll debut her Sunday newsmagazine in June and start in the 9am hour of Today in September. There were no details from the former Fox News Channel star but, she said, “I’m psyched.”

IS THIS US?

NBC showed advertisers a tearjerker video of This is Us cast members surprising fans who testified on camera about how much the show meant to them. NBC was happy to boast about the success of its freshman season. In a standup routine, Seth Meyers noted the show hit a ratings milestone that NBC hadn’t seen in more than a decade.

“So maybe it should be ‘This is Unlike Us,’” Meyers joked.

ODD ONE OUT

As a veteran in the TV business, Matthew Perry knows how to read the tea leaves. On April 10, the actor noted on Twitter that his face on the stage door to CBS’ The Odd Couple had been painted over with green paint. “I think it’s safe to assume we have been cancelled,” he tweeted.

On Monday, his premonition came true.

IS THIS MIC ON?

MacFarlane was onstage at the Fox presentation to croon a song mocking, among others, Fox News Channel, the broadcast network’s corporate sibling.

“Now at Fox, our reputation it could use a little bump, ‘cause although we’ve brought you ratings we elected Donald Trump,” he sang.

In introducing network executives Walden and Newman, MacFarlane called them “the only two people at Fox not being sued” - a reference to harassment and other claims filed against the news channel.

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