"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Family Guy: Blue Harvest

A long time ago, but somehow in the future . . .

Who would've thunk it? When Family Guy premiered back in 1999(!) many people tossed it away as a pale imitation of The Simpsons and kind of ignored it. Who knew that eight years later, at the start of the show's 6th season, Seth MacFarlane and his crew would be able to get the approval of George Lucas himself to air a spoof of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It shows how far Family Guy has come since it returned to the prime-time airwaves.

To fans of the show, this episode of Family Guy may seem a bit, um, corny. There aren't any trademarked segues that the animated series is known for, no images of Peter running around naked, no song-and-dance numbers by Brian and Stewie, and barely any mention of or sight of Meg at all (although, that's pretty normal). If anything, the way the episode was set up reminded me of such classic movie parodies like Spaceballs, Airplane, and Hot Shots!.

Take the beginning sequence, for example. After the opening crawl of renegade paragraphs that float through space (and a discussion about a naked Angelina Jolie in the movie Gia) I saw the classic first scene of Star Wars where the Star Destroyer is chasing the Rebel Alliance starship. On the back of the Star Destroyer is a huge Bush-Cheney bumper sticker. Later, as the music swells up around Chris/Luke Skywalker while he ponders over Tatooine's two suns, he turns and introduces John Williams and the orchestra. He then asks them to play the theme to The People's Court. Still further in the episode, when the Millennium Falcon is being tractored into the Death Star, I saw it being flagged in by a trio of uninterested valets.

Many of these little jokes fit well into the scope of the story. Others didn't work so well. In the scene where Herbert/Obi-Wan and the rest of the Scooby Gang split up in the Death Star the creepy old man suddenly breaks out into "(I've Had)the Time of My Life" from the movie Dirty Dancing. It was two minutes that slowed everything down and could have been used better.

Then, there was the scene in the garbage chute where Han/Peter and Chewy/Brian find a perfectly good couch that could be used. That was okay, but the parts about getting the couch out of the garbage chute and then onto the Falcon weren't that funny. Although ,the scene where Han is holding onto the bottom end of the couch while the Falcon escapes was amusing.

These bits didn't deter too much from the episode, however. I expected that there would be some duds throughout the hour-long show. If it had all been packed into 30-minutes it probably would have killed the episode.

Character-wise, this was a Lois/Peter/Chris episode, although Cleveland/R2-D2 and Quagmire/C-3P0 had quite a bit of screentime themselves. Since they were portraying different roles some of the characteristics that we normally see weren't there in this episode. I don't believe I heard a 'Freakin' Sweet' from Peter, and Chris was less whiny. In fact, Seth Green toned down Chris quite a bit in this episode. Brian and Stewie, who seem to have a majority of screen time lately on the show, didn't really have much to say. However, I did hear Stewie blurt out a 'What the Deuce?' during the final Death Star battle scene.

There were other things that impressed me throughout the season premiere. Here are but a few of them:
  • The conference room scene between Darth and his generals. There is that .1% vulnerability on the Death Star. You know, that small hole that, if you shoot a laser into it, the station blows up
  • It seems that MacFarlane was able to use a number of scenes from the actual movie and overlay them with animation. It looked very good on-screen.
  • John Williams and his orchestra die when Luke's aunt and uncle are killed. Now they have to use Danny Elfman for the score.
  • After Lois/Leia records her message to Obi-Wan, she needs to work through R2's Windows interface to chose the correct media player to make an mpeg file.
  • Luke: I got 'em! I got 'em!' Han: 'Great kid! Don't get penisy'
  • Red Leader asks for all of his wings to sound off, including Redd Foxx, Helen Reddy, Big Red chewing gum, Simply Red, Red Buttons and Red October.
  • National Lampoon's Star Wars Vacation. Clark Griswold wants his kids to see the plight of the Rebellion. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo provide the voices.
  • The other guest voice actors for this episode: Some of them you would be surprised about. Besides Chase and D'Angelo, Rush Limbaugh and Helen Reddy also provided their own character voices.
  • Chris' little dig to Peter concerning Robot Chicken at the end of the episode. That was probably one of the funnier moments.
  • The title 'Blue Harvest'. For those of us who are not total Star Wars geeks, this was the title of the fictitious film used to ensure secrecy during the filming of Return of the Jedi.

Overall, this was a fun episode to watch. I thought that MacFarlane kept to the story pretty well, and there were enough corny jokes to make it amusing.

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