Something Something Something Darkside – TV Review
For the uninitiated, Something, Something, Something, Dark Side is an hour-long Family Guy episode that parodies Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. It is the successor to the 2007 hour-long episode, Blue Harvest, which parodied Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope.
Your scribe was fortunate enough to catch a media screening recently, surrounded by journalists and geeks of all persuasions with a general buzz that suggested they were all major Star Wars fans. Most of them looked old enough to have seen Empire when it first screened in cinemas, too – but we’ll return to this demographic at the end of the review.
There are probably two main ways this episode will be received by the Family Guy audience. For those who are pop culture fans in general it will present as a mostly enjoyable homage to Empire – arguably the most popular of the Star Wars films – which I think they will happily eat up with few reservations and some might even return to the kitchen and ask for seconds.
For others, especially those who aren’t as large pop culture devotees, it will probably present as a quick and easy way to pad out an hour of airtime, trudging through material from the orignal film almost scene for scene, word for word, until the next opportunity to toss in some sort of wisecrack presents itself. That can be frustrating viewing for a non-fan.
Character-wise, the episode sees many of the Blue Harvest characters reappear – as you’d expect – and adds to them with a blacked-up Mort Goldman as Lando Calrissian, Carl (the clerk from Quahog Mart) as Yoda and the Giant Chicken as Boba Fett. For mine, none of these three characters really succeeded – Carl/Yoda in particular. Maybe I was hoping he would act a little more Yoda-esque, which I realise is an odd request when most of the characters act as themselves and not the Star Wars characters they are portraying, and I’m usually OK with that.
It’s also worth noting is how amped-up the profanity count is from Blue Harvest. While this makes for some hilarious scenes in places, where even the world’s largest prude probably couldn’t resist laughing, it also treads that fine line of, “OK, we didn’t have a witty comment to use there, so we just let rip with some profanity instead…”
Post-screening, one of the largest talking points among the attendees I spoke to related to profanity. No one was really shocked or offended by the words themselves, but were shocked at how often the writers resorted to using it as a comedy device in general.
It’s remarkably hard to sit here and say much more about Something, Something, Something, Dark Side – good or bad – without giving away gags which will be better appreciated for the first time on the small screen, and not in some know -it-all’s review of the episode.
So that said, my list of things to look out for are:
- A spot-on parody of another popular cartoon during the opening scenes of the episode.
- What Chris (Luke) finds inside the AT-AT when he is about to destroy it on Hoth.
- Parodies of US advertisements (this is one for the hardcore pop culture fans).
- A cameo from Yellow Submarine era Beatles.
- Peter’s (Han’s) reply to Lois’ (Leia’s) “I love you…” during the carbonite sequence.
Now what about those Star Wars fans I mentioned at the start of the review? I couldn’t imagine a sweeter target audience for the episode and while that meant a lot of belly laughter during the media screening, there were also some rather flat moments with little to no laughter at all – even in scenes that were meant to be quite funny. To my mind, that was rather telling to observe among the demographic for whom the episode has been primarily written for. It suggested to me that while Something, Something, Something, Dark Side is undoubtedly a win, of sorts, for people who like Family Guy and Star Wars, it’s not the knock-out win the more hardcore fans were perhaps expecting. It’s generally good, but not completely great. Funny, but not split-your-sides hilarious in ever scene. Ultimately, though, it’s still a win.
The Empire Strikes Back is a hard film to make look bad and, even at its lowest ebb, Something, Something, Something, Dark Side still sparkles with the reflected genius of the original film, especially when snatches of the John Williams score kick in and remind you why you love the original version of the film so much in the first place.
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