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The Orville premiere ratings tie This Is Us debut despite reviews

No, really!

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You probably didn’t expect this: Aided by a big NFL lead-in, Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville got off to a rather impressive ratings start during a special premiere preview Sunday night — despite all those negative reviews.

The Family Guy creator MacFarlane’s ambitious Star Trek-inspired comedy drama dramedy (?) delivered 8.6 million viewers and a 2.8 rating among adults 18-49.

That adult demo rating, Fox pointed out, actually ties last year’s premiere of NBC’s mega-hit This Is Us (which had a lead-in from The Voice). It’s also far better than what Son of Zorn did with a similar NFL lead-in on Fox last year.

While the appeal of MacFarlane’s work has long been underappreciated by critics, it’s worth noting that Orville struggled with reviewers (EW gave it a “C” and it only averaged 35 out of 100 on Metacritic). But it seems viewers were willing to give the show a shot anyway — more fodder for the “critical reviews don’t hurt entertainment” debate.

The Orville now shifts to Thursday nights, which is considered a rather tough night. Its performance moving forward will be the biggest test for the series.