Seth MacFarlane on ‘The Orville’ return, Carrie Fisher and the ‘destructive’ Fox News

After a successful first-season mission, Fox’s “The Orville” orbits back for Season 2 Sunday (8 EST/5 PST, following an NFL game).

With the possibility of a turbocharged ratings boost from NFL coverage that precedes it, series creator and star Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy,” “Ted”) plans to reintroduce the series to potential new fans and those who haven’t seen a new episode since last December.

“The first episode is a reacquaintance with the crew,” including his U.S.S. Orville character, Capt. Ed Mercer, he says. “We’ve been off the air for a little while” – a year, to be precise – “and hopefully by the end (viewers) will feel like (the show) never left.”

MacFarlane, a multitalented former Oscars host who produces, writes, acts and sings, chatted with USA TODAY about “The Orville” and other projects. But he declined to answer questions about sexual misconduct allegations aimed at Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of MacFarlane’s other space project, “Cosmos,” and whether that will affect the series.

Question: What can we look forward to in Season 2 of “The Orville,” besides the “first contact” with a previously unknown civilization and the return of an enemy race, The Krill?  

Seth MacFarlane: People can expect to see a visual expansion, an expanded knowledge about the characters and their relationships and a show that’s been worth the wait. The budget is bigger for Season 2. We obviously have a first-rate visual-effects and costume and makeup team. All the money is on the screen. I think people will be shocked with the level of feature-quality cinematic work they’re going to see.

We’re part of this new, experimental program that creates a different balance between ad time and programming time, so the episodes are about seven or eight minutes longer than last year (which) allows you to let things breathe in a way that streaming shows are able to do. … That’s been a big boon for our storytelling process.”

Q: Is the tone similar to Season 1? A drama with comic overtones and character and relationship developments?

MacFarlane: As with any show that walks a hybrid line, there’s a little bit of a learning curve. I think we settled into it early enough in the season that by (the finale) we had a show that was self-assured. We always look to “M*A*S*H” as the ultimate achievement in that regard, and even that was a show that took a minute to find its tonal footing. You can’t just be an hour-long jokefest. That works for a movie, but not for a television series where you want people to come back week after week and care what happens to these characters. … Going into this, I was not sure if viewers would insist everything be joke, joke, joke, joke. And it really wasn’t that. They were responding to the science fiction and the feedback I got was they wanted more of it.

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