Of the block of Sunday night Fox cartoons Family Guy is rarely, if ever, the funniest of the night- hell, sometimes it’s not even as funny as The Cleveland Show.
But it’s the all the abject HATRED you guys have for it now, I mean. I just don’t get it. I mean, you are the same people that miraculously resurrected it from cancellation. TWICE!
I’m not stupid, I get why some people don’t like it and why some never did. Hell, even I thought the show was a crass, badly-drawn, rip-off of The Simpsons when it first aired. I imagined the Family Guy writers posed as janitors in the Fox building so they could raid the wastebaskets of The Simpsons writers after dark and use every thrown away joke. And I do mean they crowbarred in EV-ER-Y joke.
And I get why there are the old fans who don’t think it’s as funny as it used to be…or at all. No show stays on the bleeding edge. People’s tastes in comedy evolve and no show can keep it up forever. For the twenty years that The Simpsons has been on the air, most people agree that it was so-funny-you-couldn’t-stop-talking-about-it for only the first half of those years. Family Guy has a lot more misses these days than it did it the past, and then after the way South Park so righteously skewered it I can see where it’d be difficult for a die-hard fan’s pride to endure.
But I always come back because it’s not without its gems. There’s guaranteed to be at least 2 or 3 shocking or outrageous gags worth discussing at the proverbial watercooler. And then once in a blue moon there is an entirely brilliant episode like:
I know all you haters probably still said, “meh” when you saw it but I think it’s Family Guy at it’s best. It works on different levels. When it isn’t playing off the little absurdities of the first Star Wars movie or inserting its own brand of humor it’s fun just to see it as a faithful cartoon remake. In fact, every time it reruns on Fox or Cartoon Network if I catch any part of it I’ll sit there and watch the whole thing. And every time I’m disappointed at the end that there’s not a The Empire Strikes Back parody episode to move on to next. I feared it was another case of “History of the World -Pt. 1” where there actually was no “Pt.2” in the works.
Lo and behold that next chapter in saga is finally here! It was supposed to kick-off the seventh season of Family Guy but instead they decided to release it on Blu-ray and it’s titled “SOMETHING SOMETHING SOMETHING DARK SIDE”.
I had to fight ‘Ol’ man Cyrus’ to get this treasure in my hands and over the course of last weekend I’ve watched it 2.7 times already! I’ve seen it enough that I can sum up my opinion of it in one succinct word:
What happened?? I’m not sure. The reason I watched it 2.7 times (besides falling asleep on it and having to rewatch the same parts multiple times) was to analyze where this went wrong. Maybe it’s because Kirker Butler isn’t as strong of a writer as Blue Harvest’s Alec Sulkin. But I can’t help but think it’s more because The Empire Strikes Back – which usually tops everyone’s list of ‘Sequels Better than the Original’- is a much tighter movie than A New Hope, and doesn’t lend itself as well to parody. As a result, there’s just way too much of Something Something Something Dark Side (maybe as much as 40%) where they “punt” and just let it play out as a shot-for shot remake of ‘Empire’ with no jokes at all.
As for the jokes themselves, the haters will be happy to know that it’s not over-burdened with the usual cavalcade of tangential non-sequitors that Family Guy (and Scrubs too, let’s be honest) are infamous for. However, with the exception of a few, the jokes here are mostly half-thought and forgettable. Let me give you an example…
Family Guy has played off The Jetsons many, many times, usually taking a familiar scene and expanding on it how it’d play out if the cameras kept rolling. Here’s my favorite:
…And another good one:
Early in ‘Something Dark Side there’s one-off gag where a passing Star Destroyer jettisons Elroy Jetson and he flies off to the Little Dipper Elementary School just like in the clip above, complete with Hoyt Curtin’s score and the lyrics, “His boy, Elroy…”.
…And that’s it!
No funny drawings. No expansion on the scene. No tying it back into Star Wars. Nothing. End of joke, if you even want to call it that. I’d say it was harmless except that it was distracting and kept me wondering “Why was that in there?” And the movie is filled with that kind of…well, filler. So much that I can’t now remember what the good jokes were.
Ah well, whether Something, Something, Something Dark Side is a big seller or not there’s Family Guy parody of ‘Return of Jedi’ titled "We Have A Bad Feeling About This" already in the chamber and that oughta kick all kinds of ass. ‘Jedi ‘ is infinitely more MST3K-ready than ‘Empire’ anyway and chocked full of Ewoks. We all know that Ewoks are comedy gold. Gold, I tell’s ya!
• Audio commentary by executive producers Seth MacFarlane, Mark Hentemann and David A. Goodman, writer Kirker Butler, director Dominic Polcino and Actor Seth Green
As with so many audio commentaries, you got all these guys in a room and they barely talk about the movie itself. It screams “contractual obligation!” loud and clear.
• Family Guy Fact-ups
Forget the audio commentary. Forget everything I said about how the movie isn’t all that funny. If you do sit down to watch ‘Something Dark Side YOU MUST WATCH IT WITH THE FACT-UPS SETTING ON! Besides giving you all the production trivia that the commentary should have these Fact-ups are packed with jokes that compliment the other jokes and fill in the dead spots of the movie. And of course the best thing about pop-ups is they don’t have to turn down the volume on the main feature.
• The Dark Side of Poster Art
This is a goofy little featurette (“filler-ette”, I say) with the artist of the Blu-ray’s box cover meeting with the original artist of the painting that served as the poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, and the steps he took to duplicate the old guy’s style.
Even as someone who longs for the old days of fully painted movie posters, I’m recommending you skip this.
• An animatic version of the episode
…As narrated by the most boring/bored man that ever lived…That is assuming he ever lived. I mean, if he’s a zombie I’d have to say it was pretty good for a zombie and it would explain a whole lot.
• Family Guy - "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side" Table Read
I love table reads and this should’ve been my favorite part of the whole set, instead it sucked. The room is uncomfortably packed with the entire Family Guy staff whom laugh too hard at every joke. I suspect they were playing up to the camera (or instructed to overdo it) which is good for them since the camera is set at the worst angle imaginable. One in which all the main players (Seth Macfarlane, Alex Borenstein, Seth Green, etc.) are on the far side of the table where the viewing audiences view is blocked by the backs of all of the staff’s heads and t-shirts.
• Family Guy - Episode VI: "We Have a Bad Feeling About This" Table Read (sneak peek)
Somehow for this one they got the camera angle right (closer up, too) but it’s just a short preview.
Okay, so overall I wasn’t so impressed by Family Guy Presents: Something Something Something Dark Side, it’s not so bad that I’ve given up on the next installment (quite the opposite). And if history repeats itself , as with ‘Blue Harvest’, there should be another Robot Chicken Star Wars parody coming around very soon.
You can purchase Family Guy Presents: Something Something Something Dark Side Blu-ray here.