May the Farce be With You

Planned "Star Wars" animated TV comedy shows George Lucas has a sense of humor, after all

By Jere Hester
|  Tuesday, Apr 6, 2010  |  Updated 9:15 PM PDT
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George Lucas may have the last laugh.

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Take my Wookie – please!

The "Star Wars" movies, as snappy as the dialogue can be at times, don’t exactly scream "comedy." Still, the franchise occasionally has ventured into unintentional humor (the infamous 1978 TV holiday special and Jar Jar Binks), and has been the subject of satire – some affectionate, some borderline cruel.

So it comes as something of a pleasant surprise that “Star Wars” is boldly headed into territory, where, to shamelessly paraphrase "Star Trek," no other sci-fi icon has gone before.

Lucasfilm Animation announced this week that a "Star Wars" animated comedy TV show is in the works, with Seth Green and Matthew Senreich of “Robot Chicken” and “Daily Show” writer Brendan Hay among the members of the creative team, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

That's a smart move, given the mini-explosion seen in recent years in animated “Star Wars” takeoffs – and good casting. "Robot Chicken" has produced two popular "Star Wars" parody specials, one of which featured Lucas, who lent his voice to a hilarious scene set at a fan convention.

Green also serves as the voice of Chris Griffin on "Family Guy," whose “Blue Harvest” and “Something, Something, Something, Darkside” episodes feature characters in “Star Wars” roles (Stewie as Darth Vader, Brian as Chewbacca, etc.) Meanwhile, Mel Brooks' 1987 comedy "Spaceballs," with the unforgettably gooey Pizza the Hutt, has found a new life and audience in the form of a cartoon series.

So why not give in and use the force for laughs?

Lucas, who joked about the “Star Wars” phenomena in a January interview with fanboy Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” hasn't always shown a sense of humor about his creation.

The cringe-inducing holiday special was never repeated or released to home video, though priceless snippets – such as Princess Leia crooning a non-denominational carol set to the "Star Wars" theme – can be found in that vast galaxy known as the Internet.

Lucas couldn’t have been too happy about “South Park” episodes where he and Steven Spielberg were eviscerated for making changes in re-releases of "Star Wars" and "ET," respectively, and for daring to revive the "Indiana Jones" franchise in 2008. “South Park” creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, clearly are “Star Wars” devotees, much like Green, Senreich and “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane. But instead of offering homage, the “South Park” crew used pointed humor to express feelings of betrayal.

That’s emblematic of the love-hate emotions Lucas and “Star Wars” generate. A new film, “The People vs. George Lucas,” is filled with fans who made their own “Star Wars” tributes and spew anti-Lucas rants about the series’ three prequels, among other perceived blasphemies.

The strong feelings demonstrate how ingrained into the pop cultural psyche “Star Wars” remains, more than three decades after the first cinematic voyage into a galaxy far, far away. The reactions also show that some fans believe they – and not Lucas – are the guardians of the “Star Wars” legacy. Which may be taking things just a tad too far, far away from reality.

Lucas is secure enough in his position in cinematic history to mine the world he created for some laughs. So as Lucas offers his latest contribution to the “Star Wars” oeuvre, may the farce be with him.

 

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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