Now here is a bunch of nerds that get it. I saw a screening of the second Robot Chicken Star Wars episode at Armageddon Expo in 2010 (I think) when Seth Green and the others were guests. It was tremendously fun being surrounded by nerds who were enjoying themselves as much as I was, and who often started laughing before the punchline because, like me, they could see it coming.
Robot Chicken had previously made various Star Wars sketches on the show, but it wasn’t until George Lucas actually saw one that they were given permission to produce a full half hour episode (the sketch was the Emperor yelling at Vader over the phone about the Death Star getting blown up at the end of A New Hope, a sketch which just had it’s ten year anniversary).
The important thing was they didn’t take the obvious route by doing a Big Bang Theory and making a thousand jokes about how dumb and nerdy things were. Most of the Big Bang Theory can be boiled down to “look at how weird they are, isn’t it hilarious?!” Robot Chicken, across three special episodes, did a great job at not doing that. One example being a sketch where Jar Jar Binks meets Vader and is shocked at how different and deformed he now is. The writers didn’t resort to pointing and laughing at Jar Jar. They just made him hyper and shrill and annoying.
I really love these parodies. I personally think they’re superior to the Family Guy episodes which is why I watch the Robot Chicken episodes second; to save the best for last. Some of the jokes are obvious, some are subtle, and some are brilliant.
Some sketches about bad motivators and picking up power converters at Tosche Station may confuse casual viewers but that isn’t to say the whole thing is inaccessible. There is a healthy blend of all kinds of jokes. Watching them really feels like you’re with a group of friends making jokes about Star Wars which, incidentally, is basically what the episodes are.
Another thing Seth Green said, while commenting on the humour of the show was “We love to emphasise the mundane in the extraordinary, and Star Wars was perfect for that. You have something that’s intergalactic, and yet there’s got to be some textural machinations of day-to-day business: How can you run an industry that large without paperwork? And where are the bathrooms?”
These guys get it, which is what makes the episodes so damn effective. Rather than making fun of Star Wars, they’ve subverting it and adding everyday details to a space opera. Vader trying (and failing) to figure out how to work his new suit after first receiving it, Greedo’s mother calling him after he failed to show up for Sunday lunch, the Wampa’s sad life after Luke cut off its arm. This was made by fans for fans which is apparent when you see the level of thought and details that have gone into making the episodes.
Something I particularly liked in them was Seth MacFarlane portraying the Emperor with a sympathetic tone. He presents Palpatine as simply a poor evil dictator trying to get through the day without crying or yelling at his incompetent apprentice. I’m hoping that they will do some new episodes now there are four new Star Wars films (soon to be five!).
My recommendation for watching these is the same as the Family Guy ones: get some drinks and a few friends and you’ll have a great time.
– Tim Baker