Two major pieces of news floated to the top at the beginning of this week in geek news. They are, first, that we finally have an actual airdate for the second season of Fox and Seth Macfarlane’s hit science fiction adventure series The Orville, and second, that it looks like that effort to remerge CBS and Viacom that would have brought all the Star Trek franchise back under one roof again is in serious trouble.
The Orville is Back (Just Late)
The Orville was picked up for a second season halfway through its record-breaking first season last November. Despite having to going head to head with the much anticipated Star Trek: Discovery, The Orville opened to some of the highest numbers on Fox since Empire debuted in 2015. It reached 14 million viewers across all platforms, or an eye-popping 3.25 times the total viewership Star Trek: Discovery had on the CBS All Access platform, assuming that every single one of CBS’ subscribers watches the new Trek show once the public lost free access to the series as they shuttered it behind their paywall.
Now we know exactly when the Orville will make its return, and even though it’s going to be later than we all hoped, it’s actually good news. The second season makes its broadcast debut on December 30, with the rest of the series airing later, in 2019, possibly as a midseason replacement for something. The reason they’re delaying it, though, is a good one: Fox had just signed up to broadcast the 2018 NFL football season for the same night the Orville was going to be on.
Rather than rearrange all their shows in a massive juggling act, they’re holding the Orville until they can run it without it being continously preemted by football. They got a lot of backlash for doing this during the first run of the first season of The Orville, and they know they’re sitting on a gold mine. They’re not about to trash it if they can help it, so we’re getting Orville a bit later than we hoped, but we’re going to get all of the show, without interruptions and in the correct order. That’s something to celebrate!
Star Trek: Discovery Goes Boldly Sideways
The new season of Star Trek: Discovery, after a solid fiscal performance for CBS but meeting with mixed reactions from the fans (including from us), finally overlaps the beginnings of Star Trek history as had been laid out for us over the previous 50 years. The familiar profile of the U.S.S. Enterprise is teased in the final shot of the final episode of the previous season, and we have some leaked photos of the crew of the Discovery in more recognizable (but still stylistically tweaked) Federation uniforms, thanks to some inside reporting at TrekMovie.Com.
The new costumes seem to be some sort of a mashup between the original series designs and the bizarre basketball jersey-slash-catsuit approach used for the Discovery. It actually looks like an improvement over the confining form fitted attire worn on the Discovery.
Shooting has already begun, and we presume it will make its debut around the same time as last year, around the early part of November. This means that, once again, both The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery will be duking it out for fans’ attention mostly starting early in 2019.
The second season of Star Trek: Discovery is, however, once again going to be sequestered behind the CBS All Access paywall, so relatively few U.S. residents will be watching it legally. Discovery ranked in fourth place on Netflix’s list of its most popular shows in December of 2017, handily bested by Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why, and A Series of Unfortunate Events, but managing to beat out The Gilmore Girls for fourth place.
The new threat to the Star Trek franchise, though, comes in the form of a merger fight.
CBS and Viacom parted ways in 2005, fragmenting ownership into a confusing, sometimes conflicting licensing mess. Many of what appeared to be creative decisions about the look, feel, and content of Star Trek: Discovery were actually decisions made by lawyers, even down to the appearance of the Enteprise itself. Making anything in the Star Trek universe is subject to a legal minefield of ownership claims over various bits and pieces.
Recently, a proposed merger between CBS and Viacom that would have reunited the two companies and put an and to all the squabbling has hit a major, major road block. Viacom is currently owned by Shari Redstone and her privately held theater chain company, National Amusements. Redstone owns 80% of the voting stock in both Viacom and CBS, though only about 10% of the financial interest in CBS. Her efforts to merge the two companies together have been blocked by objections from the CBS board of directors that claim she plans to replace them with her own people. Redstone has countersued, saying that this is all bollocks, and that she had no such intention.
This is a really weird lawsuit. Normally when two companies merge, it’s expected that there are going to be some shakeups in the way the companies are structured. Some jobs go away, other offices are merged as redundant services are pared down. CBS, though, is trying to go to its shareholders to get them to dilute Redstone’s voting stock to 17% so that her voice doesn’t matter so much as to order the merger outright. They complain that Redstone is planning to replace board members with people who will do her bidding, but what happens to you if you don’t do what the new boss wants you to do?
That’s right, you get fired.
The other side of this coin is that what CBS has is what’s called a dual-class stock structure, common in the media business but unpopular elsewhere. It gives National Amusements outsized influence over CBS compared to how much they’ve actually put into CBS in the first place, so they actually have a basis for objection there. Redstone, on the other hand, has stated that there were never any plans to make any such changes that weren’t approved by everybody involved, so CBS may be just panicking here.
Either way, CBS is fighting tooth and nail to stop this merger, and if they succeed, Star Trek as a franchise — and its fans — will be the big losers.
Will this bury Star Trek? No, of course not. It’s not going to help it go boldly into the final frontier, though, either.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.