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When the power once again goes out in the middle of the Griffin's nightly television viewing, Peter takes the opportunity to recount the story of the second instalment of the Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back. What follows will be familiar to anyone who caught the original Star Wars-themed Family Guy spoof, Blue Harvest, but this time there are more characters, more action, and less humour.

 Something, Something, Something, Dark Side
As someone who enjoyed Blue Harvest I was really looking forward to what the Family Guy team could do with the best of the Star Wars films. The table read preview on the Blue Harvest DVD hinted at some amusing stuff, so imagine my horror when I found that not only had most of those jokes failed to materialise, the creators had neglected to write any more to replace them. Okay, so maybe that’s being a little harsh, but there’s certainly nothing here to match Blue Harvest’s best moments, or even the best moments of the average Family Guy episode. Maybe it’s because I’m English and I don’t get some of the references, but a lot of the gags left me cold. There’s also a lot of repetition from the show, which is safe and familiar, but not exactly pushing any comedy boundaries. I also found the uncensored swearing less amusing than the normal bleeped profanity—it just felt forced and uncomfortable—and the casual misogyny and racism is starting to wear a little thin as I get older.

Still, for all of its faults there are some genuine laugh out loud moments. The opening crawl deservedly rips into Fox executives, there’s an amusing line about ‘sucking Dak’, and a great call-back to an earlier gag when a ‘giant robot camel—or AT-AT to the rest of us—skins it knee. I also laughed the non sequitur pie joke and Stewie-Vader’s ‘Wonder Woman’ line. Then there’s yet another gag at the expense of Seth Green and James Woods pops up in a cameo, which is always nice. I would like to claim nerd points by exposing one factual error though—there is only one year between the events of Empire and Jedi, not three as stated in the episode. I should be a consultant.

 Something, Something, Something, Dark Side

Video


Something, Something, Something, Dark Side arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080/24p AVC transfer, but the episode is actually presented in pillarboxed 1.33:1 within the native 1920x1080 frame. On the whole the image is very pleasing, with bright primary colours and solid black levels throughout. When compared to the accompanying DVD version of the episode the BD version's superior resolution allows for a more detailed image that is crisper and without compression artefacts. As with Blue Harvest the most impressive sequences are those modelled directly on scenes from The Empire Strikes Back, with numerous highlights including the opening shot of a Star Destroyer launching probe droids, the AT-AT attack, the asteroid field sequence, and the Cloud City approach. It’s not going to win any awards when compared to big-budget animation, but it’s certainly the best looking Family Guy episode you’re likely to see for some time and it’s hard to see how the BD could look any better given the source material.

 Something, Something, Something, Dark Side

Audio


The disc's DTS-HD Master Audio track is my first Family Guy high definition audio experience. It's a predominantly front-based affair, but there are numerous discrete effects such as TIE fighters flying overhead, laser blasts, and even the welcome sound of the Wilhelm scream. Dialogue is clear and there’s also some decent bass during the action scenes, particularly on Hoth and whenever lightsabers are involved. The various Star Wars sound effects all sound fantastic, but the score is the absolute star of the show. Listening to John Williams' amazing music in full high-definition glory was nothing but an absolute pleasure, and the way that it’s been woven into the episode is brilliant. Like the video, the audio is limited by the relatively humble source material, but it’s one of the better sounding episodes and a step up from Blue Harvest.

Extras


Commentary by Executive Producers Seth MacFarlane, Mark Hentemann and David A. Goodman, Writer Kirker Butler, Director Dominic Polcino and Actor Seth Green: As with most of the Family Guy yak tracks, this is a pretty entertaining cast and crew commentary. Despite the best intentions of the creative team it frequently strays off-topic when actor Seth Green interjects with some random comment, but that's the real beauty of Family Guy commentaries. In fact, this is actually funnier than the main feature.

 Something, Something, Something, Dark Side
Family Guy Fact-Ups: The clue is most definitely in the title here. This is the disc's trivia track, which pops up with relevant and often amusing information throughout the entirety of the episode.

The Dark Side of Poster Art (09:18): This is a short look at the process of creating the episode's poster artwork, which was obviously based on the original theatrical poster by Roger Kastel. It includes video diary and interview footage with both Mick Cassidy and Joe Vaux, the latter of who is apparently mentally unhinged. Still, it's an interesting look at the way the artwork was created and the finished piece looks great.

Animatic Scene-to-Scene with Commentary by Director Dominic Polcino (06:36 HD): Director Dominic Polcino talks us through a few comparisons between the hand-drawn animatics and the finished episodes. It's worth mentioning that this will apparently be the last time that the animatics are hand-drawn, as the show will be moving towards the use of computers. This will appeal to the more technically minded viewers.

 Something, Something, Something, Dark Side
Something, Something, Something, Dark Side Table Read (49:27 HD): The cast and crew perform an almost-complete table read of the final script. Actually, I say final, but there are numerous scenes that aren't actually in the completed episode. A lot of the scenes sound really great, particularly the Wookie version of The Office and various non-sequitur moments that are funnier than anything in the final episode. If I’m honest I actually found the material funnier when presented in this round-table format than in the completed episode itself.

Episode VI: We Have a Bad Feeling About This (AKA Jedi) Table Read (02:26 HD): This is a short table read for the upcoming Return of the Jedi parody. It's similar to the early Something, Something, Something, Dark Side table read that appeared on the Blu-Harvest DVD, but hopefully not in that all of the funny jokes get cut out between now and the actual air date.

DVD and Digital Copy: As one of Fox's 'Triple Play' releases, the set also includes a DVD and Digital Copy of the film. As I've said in previous reviews, I'm not a huge fan of digital copies, but I do rate the inclusion of a standard DVD that can be used in another room or on a PC (for those not lucky enough to own multiple BD players).

 Something, Something, Something, Dark Side

Overall


Maybe it's that I am just not as into the show as I used to be (I'm a much bigger fan of American Dad these days), but Something, Something, Something, Dark Side didn't really do it for me. There were one or two gags that made me laugh out loud, but that's not nearly enough in a fifty-plus minute comedy show. What's worse is the extras reveal that some much funnier gags were originally written, so why are they not in the final episode? Technically the BD is pretty sound though. While the visuals don't come close to capturing the glory of the best animated or live-action transfers, they do serve the episode well. The audio is also a notch up from that found on the Blue Harvest DVD. However, I actually found the extras disappointing compared to that release (which included an entire episode of Family Guy as a bonus). If you're a fan of the episode or the show in general this is probably worth checking out, but it's not MacFarlane and co's finest hour.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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