With his ongoing interaction with George Lucas and Star Wars, Seth Green and his cronies at “Robot Chicken” have been put in the envious position of both admiring the Star Wars pantheon but also being able to make fun of it. With “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III”, the balance becomes more dynamic with the aspect that while the spoof element are distinctly in play, some more dramatic elements of sorts are being explored. Situated almost as a biopic in reverse with the Emperor in addition to the manic channel change progression thrown in, there is more a narrative progression to the proceedings than ever before.
Beginning with the song “Teenage Wasteland” as Palpatine is being thrown to his death, the episode takes on a vast gamut. The great homages are there. One particularly reverse engineered one is a take off from “A New Hope” where Ben informs Luke after his Aunt and Uncle died that he has a new Sandcrawler. It cuts to the Crawler jumping a chasm just like the Ferrari jumped a hill to John Williams’ music in “Ferris Buellar’s Day Off”. Another that definitely works to this aspect is when Vader gets his suit at the end of Episode III. Instead of becoming melodramatic, it turns into a disco across the Death Star with some new music cues which plays undeniably funny.
Some of the more dry and dark somber comedic tones plays in three separate sets. One involves two Stormtroopers accidently setting fire to Owen & Beru’s place on Tatooine. Luke’s relatives come out engulfed in fire, screaming while the guilty stormtroopers try to sneak away. Another is when Luke is filling up at a space gas station. The person pulling in next to him is the Ice Creature whose arm he cut off during the Hoth Excursion. The use of moving cameras and POV is the most advanced element of technical work yet. It is also very Stephen King-ish in its delivery with some actual emotional connotations. The last segment of note in this pantheon is when a Stormtrooper accidentally kills an Ewok in the forest. When he tries to put the bear out of its misery, he causes it more pain. It turns out all his friends walk in on the violence. Again very interesting dynamic which hopefully translates to the “Star Wars” project Green and Lucas are developing for future production.
At nearly an hour long, the project is undeniably ambitious. The addition of actual Star Wars cast members like Billy Dee Williams and Ahmed Best obviously adds credence in addition to Seth McFarlane (who creates his own odes on “Family Guy”) who voices The Emperor with a bit of Stewie to boot. The third special of Robot Chicken in its ode to “Star Wars” is both interesting and flawed in a great way which makes its intent all the more realized.
“Castle” is predicated, like many of its predecessors, on the nature of the chemistry of its two leads. The key ideas revolve around how to keep the texture going without giving into it. Danger helps in spades in that it creates an upper register. The angle that tends to work is placing the characters outside their comfort zone. At the end of Season 2, that motif, with the lead characters intertwined in other relationships, seemed to satisfy that. In returning in the Season 3 opener [“A Deadly Affair”] the effect seems to be more castrating than anything. The intent, it would seem, at a certain point, would be to allow Beckett the ability to untangle herself from her own neurosis. This is a similar quandary that befits Mika and Pete on “Warehouse 13” but the inherent difference is that their drama seems to have mythology unfolding behind them on the aforementioned show. “Castle” needs to bring the problems of last season with unfettered consequences to bear allowing the emotions to spill at a certain point without consummating whatever connection is being made. It is a hard balance. The unraveling basis one should look to is “Northern Exposure” where a similar instance occurred between the lead characters of Joel and Maggie. Again, their chemistry was palpable and, for a while, they found a chance to save it in the texture that the lead female couldn’t wrap her mind around the relationship because it affected her independence. That is inevitably the case here as well. Castle himself is broken in many ways. Beckett likes to fix things which inevitably will cause whatever puzzle they make together to smash into a wall. While the new season at the inset doesn’t seem to answer these questions, it continues to show the boundaries being broken down but ignores others (like Castle’s supposed Hamptons relationship). Life is fickle and especially with Castle’s luck, it will come back to bite him.
“Terriers” [Wednesdays/10pm] has the structure of a comedy but in many way plays like a broken record. Like the aspect of “The Cleaner” on rival cable network A&E, the leads in this new series from FX are wholly broken and that is what makes them interesting to watch. The darkness might play a little too raw for some viewers but it becomes about the balance between the humor and the brimming drama. Donal Logue plays Hank, an ex-cop seemingly bent on his own destruction in very improbable ways. Like a Fisher King doing good deeds on his road to calamity, there is a throughline that points to something bad happening along the way. Michael Raymond James, late of “True Blood”, brings alot of brevity as his would-be partner Britt who has problems of his own. Having talked to Michael at Summer TCAs where he revealed that he and Donal crashed in the same house while shooting the first season [which had already been fully shot], what works the best is the easy going manners between the two of them and how that is balanced by Laura Allen who plays Katie, Britt’s girlfriend.
Over the first three episodes, the sense of Hank’s self-destructive sensibility also begins to affect everyone around him as if he has begun to form a deep black hole where some good is done but ultimately a price is paid. In the third episode which co-stars Olivia Williams, the morality and mortality of Hank begins to take a more realistic turn. Ted Griffin, who wrote “Oceans 11” and created this show, knows how to mix humor and drama but having Shawn Ryan, who worked on FX’s “The Shield” and recent a season of Fox’s “Lie To Me” as show runner shows an interesting balance. Like “Sons Of Anarchy” but with less operatic overtones, “Terriers” has the possibility of great television simply because it understands that human nature is about high and low points wherever they exist. Out of 5, I give it a 3.