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‘Family Guy’ Producers May Take Whack at ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Next

September 24, 2007 12:30 PM

Sunday night’s one-hour “Star Wars” parody episode of Fox’s “Family Guy” was such a ratings success that producers are considering devoting an episode to “The Empire Strikes Back” next year.

The season premiere featured characters from “Family Guy” performing a compressed re-enactment of the 1977 film, using the original sound effects and John Williams’ musical score.

Posting a 5.5 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, the episode was the highest-rated “Family Guy” since the show returned to Fox in 2005 (full weekend ratings will be posted soon). A spokesman for 20th Century Fox Television said there’s no official announcement on a sequel, but doing “Empire” next year “seems likely.”

In an interview conducted before the episode aired, executive producer Chris Sheridan said the staff wants to do “Empire” if Sunday’s episode performed well. The parodies could give “Family Guy” an annual format-breaking event like “The Simpsons’” popular Halloween episodes.

But if you missed last night’s episode (titled “Blue Harvest”—the production code name of “Return of the Jedi”), future viewing opportunities are scarce. The day after airing, “Family Guy” episodes typically are available on Fox’s video player, or for purchase on Xbox 360 and other electronic retailers. For the time being, Fox is holding back “Blue Harvest” and has no current plans for an encore presentation. Fox also kept the episode off iTunes, where it uploaded premiere episodes for several other shows last week. (Note: A reader pointed out in the blog comments that Adult Swim airs "Family Guy" encores. According to the network's Web site, "Blue Harvest" is slated for Oct. 14 at 11 p.m.).

The parody was produced with the full cooperation of George Lucas. The unusual partnership between the envelope-pushing cartoon and the famously protective “Star Wars” creator was part corporate synergy, part creative respect.

“This is a relationship that’s built over time,” Sheridan says. “There are a lot of ‘Star Wars’ fans on staff. We do ‘Star Wars’ references on the show. Lucasfilm has been a fan.”

Parody doesn’t necessarily require the permission of a copyright owner. When “Family Guy” had the idea to do a full “Star Wars” parody, with some scenes matching shot-for-shot the original film, producers sought out Lucas for a couple of reasons. First, Fox distributes the “Star Wars” films, so there’s an existing relationship to protect. Second, “Family Guy” wanted access to the film’s original sound effects and music.

Then things got a little tricky. “Family Guy” writers wanted to retain the show’s wicked (and sometime lurid) sense of humor, without alienating Lucas.

“‘Family Guy’ is a pretty edgy show. There was some thought of [what Lucas might think] in the process, but we wanted to stay true to our show,” Sheridan says.

There were a few minor concessions, such as getting rid of some double-layered incest humor between Luke Skywalker (played in the show by the family’s teenage son) and his sister Princess Leia (played in the episode by Chris’ mom).

“There was a couple things that they wanted us to tone down, but we’re used to getting those kind of notes from Standards,” Sheridan says.

UPDATE: Why is Fox being stingy about making "Blue Harvest" available online? Because 20th Century Fox Television is fast-tracking a special DVD of the episode, sources say. The DVD will feature an extended cut of "Harvest," possibly include an interview with George Lucas and other features. Running time and release date are not nailed down.


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Comments (15)

DarthCharlie:

No rerun? WRONG...sort-of. Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block of programming will air the Star Wars episode in three weeks.

Starwars.com (the official Lucasfilm site) have clips from the show here:
http://www.starwars.com/video/view/000550.html

And you can read about what Seth McFarlane and Alec Sulkin thought of the Star Wars spoof here as well:

"Family Guy" Creator Reveals Star Wars Cred
http://www.starwars.com/community/news/rocks/f20070921/index.html


"Family Guy: Blue Harvest" Writer Channels the Force
http://www.starwars.com/community/news/media/f20070920/index.html


Aphex:

Wow no reruns!, I guess this is FOX's way of telling us:

"please download this episode via bit torrent or other file-sharing services"

But people would never do that, right? ;-)

I thought "Blue Harvest" was great last night! (The tricked-out TIE straggler is an awesome example of this!) I thought the scene-for-scene images were great- the CGI used was very loyal; there was some strong dedication to detail here for the final product. You could also tell in some show that they borrowed from the Special Edition version as well- particularly when the Millennium Falcon makes her escape from Mos Eisley.

One of the biggest hang-ups for me, though, was after Peter entered the episode. After that, there were long gaps of Peter-ness with either his very repetitive conversations (on a cell phone with his mom after the TIE Fighter attack), confusing issues (the couch), and it really started to bog down the pace of the show. Peter might be the 'star' of "Family Guy", but he isn't really the star of "Blue Harvest".

Also, I was expecting more of Stewie as Darth Vader to expand on his whole regular world-domination thing. I mean, he *finally* gets to be more menacing than Lois, and they don't share any scene other than the assault on the ship at the beginning! He was good at first, and then the writers kinda, like, forgot he was there. He didn't speak again after Alderaan was destroyed!

I would, however, really like to see how they can twist "Empire" around being that it is so dark to begin with...

You know how much I love my Family Guy, own all the DVDs and I even use a Stewie keychain (and I'm 46 and don't live in my parents' basement, if you can believe that, but fell asleep before it ended.

I didn't get some of the jokes since I've only seen Star Wars Episode Four once, when it premiered in 1977. thirty years ago.


Am I the only one?

Hold the episode, be my guest. It didn't work for me.

Bo:

Hilarious. Can't wait for the Empire Strikes Back episode.

Terry:

How does a 46 yr old who claims to love Family Guy only see Star Wars once? And that was 30 yrs ago?

What a phony this Joe Bua is.

Vanessa:

I loved this one... When they showed the intro to Doctor Who I could not stop laughing... I miss Tom Baker as the Doctor but David Tennant is a much better looking Doctor Who...

Not a phony.

Now, I hope you're not going to write "phony" on my car in spray paint or complain about how I fake playing player pianos.

See, I am a Family Guy fan.

And, I love Tennant as the new, tenth Doctor.

Eccleston was just too, uh, creepy looking.

Not that I need to quantify my Family Guy bonafides to anyone, but ...

http://iamatvjunkie.typepad.com/i_am_a_tv_junkie_a_blog_f/2007/09/my-love-for-fam.html

Click that link.

Juice:

They shouldn't wait a whole year to do more star wars episodes....come on!

Joseph:

Do you think they will make a starwars family guy episoid were it is based of starwars episiod 1,2and3? it would be cool to se stewy as anikan since anikan is my favorit caricter in starwars and stewy is my favorit caricter in family guy.

I managed to see this online and while it being not as off the wall as I (and many other Star Wars/Family Guy fans) would have liked - it still did a great job of keeping me giggling... I still would have looked at the Binary Sunset and have John Williams and The London Symphony Orchestra play behind me - LOL!

It is more for Star Wars fans than anything. Even though a lot of people know the story - it kept it rolling like it was a normal episode.

As for that - a parody of "Empire" would be awesome! Having Greased-Up Deaf Guy as Lobot, Mexican Quagmire as Lando (Now that would be cool) or Neil Goldman as Boba Fett - and god knows what they will do for "Jedi"... Just hold back with An Ewok Adventure and The Battle For Endor - LOL!

Strut:

This thing sucked. Don't get me wrong, the animation was great and Darth Stewie was great, but the whole Obi-wan/Child molester thing was just plain disgusting and I can't believe more people weren't put off by it. In general, Family Guy sucks and I'm amazed that Lucas allowed this project to go forward. If they wanted to do something like this, they should have given it to the South Park guys. South Park is actually funny and entertaining. The only entaining part of Family Guy is Stewie. The rest is badly written garbage. TWO THUMBS WAAAAAY DOWN!!!!

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