With about a month to go before the release of Star Wars The Force Awakens (is there a colon in there? Are we doing that?), anticipation is at its height. For some it’s actually brought Christmas down to the number two event in December, and with the last few TV trailers trickling out seconds of new footage by the week we’re looking for more and more things to scratch that Star Wars itch. The problem is, the movies themselves are already committed to memory and we’ve even caught up on the officially licensed animated ‘Clone Wars’ and ‘Rebels’ series from Disney XD. So with the aim of getting our Star Wars hit, here is a collection of less well-known or tenuously-linked fare. And as each of these entries will suit different moods and needs, they are in no particular order.
Family Guy Star Wars Trilogy
Chances are if you’re reading this list you’ll have already come across the Star-Wars themed Family Guy specials; ‘Blue Harvest’ (originally created for the 30th Anniversary of ‘Star Wars’), ‘Something, Something, Something, Dark Side’ and ‘It’s A Trap’. If not, then you’re in for a treat. Each episode retells one of the original trilogy movies with the characters recast with those from Family Guy; Peter as Han Solo, Chris as Luke Skywalker, Meg as the trash-compactor-monster, etc. The specials pick apart the original Star Wars universe with all the irreverent and offensive humour Family Guy is known for. So if you can handle your beloved franchise being given a good roasting, this is a perfect place to start.
Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episodes I, II and III
If you’re one of the people who have seen the Family Guy specials, you’ll remember the closing moments of each episode when Chris Griffin (voiced by Robot Chicken co-creator Seth Green) complains that Robot Chicken did Star Wars-themed episodes first. And indeed they did. These episodes are made up of short sketches, as is Robot Chicken’s wont, allowing a wider range of jokes unrestrained by having to follow the format of the movies. Again, there’s plenty of irreverence, but also a genuine love for the franchise (there’s a sketch about Dengar. You know, one of the other bounty hunters from ‘Empire’? The guy with the bandage/turban thing). With such a variety of jokes, you’ll definitely walk away with a favourite sketch or three.
Starring and co-written by geek-deity Simon Pegg, Spaced is a British sitcom about a man and a woman who pretend to be a couple in order to rent a cheap flat in London. And if that rom-com-esque concept puts you off, it barely gets a look in between underground robot fighting, CIA agents, and a venerable cornucopia of sci-fi references. There’s a particular slant towards Star Wars across the whole show; the second series came out just after ‘The Phantom Menace’ and… well, let’s just say it shows. Plus all 14 episodes were directed by Edgar Wright, who went on to direct Pegg and many of his Spaced co-stars in Sean of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End (collectively known as the Cornetto Trilogy). It may not be set in a galaxy far, far away, but any Star Wars fan will recognise themselves in the cast of this truly classic comedy.
Phineas and Ferb Star Wars
For some, this entry is the culmination of their worst nightmare – the ‘Disneyfication’ of Star Wars. However if you look beyond the apparent cash-in title you’ll find a loving, clever, and very funny entry in the Star Wars franchise (don’t worry, the traditional scrolling text at the beginning assures us that none of it is canon). Rather than putting the Phineas and Ferb cast in the place of the main Star Wars characters ala Family Guy, the story follows events that occur in the background of the original movie – it’s revealed that Rebel Agent Perry the Platypus was the one who stole the Death Star plans and delivered them to Princess Leia. While it works best for fans of both franchises (the use of Dr Doofenshmirtz’s evil jingle is a highlight) it is after all a Star Wars special episode, and a great way to see the original story in a new light. Speaking of which…
Following in the footsteps of ‘Mystery Science Theatre 3000’ the fellows at Rifftrax have created a new experience for watching movies. Their audio downloads simulate the experience of watching a film with a room of comedians chiming in with their own derisive commentary, and they have recordings for all the Star Wars entries (including the Holiday Special!). If you want a new way to enjoy the films you’ve seen time and time again, check out their website at Rifftrax.com.
What if Han Solo had his own show? With a concept like that you’d think said show would have run for years on end, but it’s a matter of record (and ongoing internet fury) that the show was unjustly cancelled after 14 episodes. But the episodes that remain are full of wit, action and space-western antics enough to sate any sci-fi fan. Mal Reynolds (played by Nathan Fillion) is Captain of a smuggling ship trying to outwit the all-powerful Alliance, who are indistinguishable from Star Wars’ Empire (there are no actual Stormtroopers, but they’ve got the drab-grey Officer uniforms down to a tee). The series gained such a following that a movie (‘Serenity’) was made to tie up the loose ends from the series. Even after ‘The Force Awakens’ has come and gone, ‘Firefly’ is the perfect thing to tide you over until the young Han Solo movie we’ve been promised.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Another space-faring adventure movie. The most removed entry in the recent Marvel film franchise (so you don’t have to worry about any of the other films’ continuity), ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ follows another cocky smuggler who gets unwillingly swept up in galactic warfare. There’s enough action, laughs and space-ness to last you until December 18th. And as well as a Han Solo analogue, there’s a definite Chewie vibe coming from the tall, monosyllabic alien Groot.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
This might seem the most out-of-place entry in this list, but bear with me. If you like epic, well-written stories set in a war-ravaged fantastical world with memorable characters, strange creatures and pseudo-spiritual subtext told across three parts, then ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ is the Star Wars for a new generation. That is until the upcoming, actual Star Wars for a new generation. It may seem high praise for a children’s show, but you’ll soon see how deserving it is of that praise. It boasts genuinely emotional storytelling with both complex heroes and villains, and clearly takes a cue or two from the original Star Wars trilogy itself. Soon we’ll have a Star Wars movie every year, but a year is still a long time, and what better way to make that time go faster than to invest yourself in a brand new world for 61 episodes of television. Oh, but don’t bother with the M. Night Shyamalan-directed movie. Just don’t.