Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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TV Fall ‘07 Season Blitz, Day 2: Family Guy’s Star Wars Special

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 23, 2007

Now, I know what you’re all thinking, or at least what you all should be thinking–why bother reviewing a new episode of Family Guy? Ever since its return in 2005, the show has been of a remarkably consistent quality, which is to say, it’s pretty much sucked. I mean, sure, you maybe get one or two funny bits an episode if you’re lucky, but the plots have gotten more and more unbearable, the humor staler and staler. Who cares, right?I don’t really have a defense for that. Watching new episodes of Family Guy is sort of like a less heartbreaking version of watching new episodes of The Simpsons–it’s just something you have to do every now and then, regardless of how painful, to reaffirm that the show hasn’t suddenly gotten awesome again while you weren’t looking. And hey, at least this was a Star Wars special; that Back to the Future-themed episode from last season was sort of decent, and it made sense, since the only parts worth watching about FG now are the random pop culture tangents. An entire episode of nothing but those tangents should be a welcome reprieve.

Turns out it kind of works the opposite with “Blue Harvest,” named after the code name for Return of the Jedi in a reference far more clever than any that actually appear in the episode. See, the Family Guy creators are not particularly creative people–they only know how to do pop culture references in a very predictable, superficial manner, and the only thing on the show that really makes them seem at all creative or original is how unexpected they are. So when you’ve got an entire Star Wars-themed episode, there isn’t even the element of surprise, and the show’s not-so-secret weapon just becomes totally worthless. Of course, that’s still not enough for McFarlane and clan, so they pepper the episode with terrible Deal or No Deal and Dirty Dancing asides in an attempt to regain that spontaneous feeling, but when framed within a larger pop cultural reference, they just feel kind of weird.

Even within the Family Guy formula confines, though, I still feel they sorta dropped the ball with this one. What the hell is Quagmire doing as the famously effete C3PO, and how does Cleveland make sense as R2D2? Wouldn’t Stewie and Brian (who are ridiculously underused as Darth Vader and Chewbacca, respectively) have made a lot more sense in those roles? And where the hell is Meg? Considering the yen the show has for humiliating her as much as possible, couldn’t they have put her in as Admiral Ackbar, or that weird mushroom-y dude? I guess they might not have been in the first movie, but that just points out another one of the ep’s flaws–why bother recreating the first movie so relatively faithfully at the expense of the other two (or five) SW movies, which have arguably become even more iconic?

Of course, this is all totally moot, since it ignores the real reason why “Blue Harvest” sucks, a reason so obvious that the episode even pointed it out at the end–they got beaten to the punch three months ago, by a Robot Chicken special on the same theme–one which was actually funny, no less. Robot Chicken was the exact show to take on Star Wars, considering nerdy pop cultural references aren’t just their raison d’etre, it’s their entire etre–there’s literally no show without their miscellaneous references, so they have to actually put some thoguht and creativity into ’em. The results are usually pretty mixed, but on Star Wars the hit ratio was impressively high, mostly because the RC boys did the smart thing and took on the whole double trilogy, which has enough material for dozens of potentially hilarious sketches (and a devoted enough cult to get them), many of which the show wisely exploited, and many of which are echoed in far lesser form by “Blue Harvest”.

All right, so show still suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. Whatever, I’m sure I’ll come back to watch more new episodes before the season’s over. What the hell else am I gonna watch on a Sunday night, anyway?

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One Response to “TV Fall ‘07 Season Blitz, Day 2: Family Guy’s Star Wars Special”

  1. Asher said

    Meg was the snake monster in the garbage chute. She was literally seen for two seconds in the whole episode. Understandable that you missed her.

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