'Family Guy'

'Family Guy' Star Wars Episode

When it was announced that "Family Guy" had been given permission to do a "Star Wars" parody for its season premiere, I had a pretty good idea of how the episode would go.

Peter Griffin walks in on Meg's messy room and says, "Geez Meg, you're an even sloppier roommate than Bib Fortuna."

Cut to: Bib Fortuna trying to clean up his apartment, but constantly knocking things over with the long, wormy things sticking out of his neck.

Or Quagmire starts flirting with an ugly woman and Cleveland says, "This is even worse than the time you got turned on by a Sarlacc."

Cut to: Quagmire staring at the disgusting tentacled surface of the Sarlacc yelling "Giggity, Giggity."

Too geeky? My apologies.

In any case, "Family Guy," a series often accused of sacrificing coherent narrative for non-sequitor digressions, gets a surprising boost of creative energy from the season premiere titled "Blue Harvest" (if you don't get the in-joke, you may want to skip the episode). Not only does the officially authorized "Star Wars" story (along with music, specific images and sound effects) yield one of the series' most consistently funny episodes, but it also provides Seth McFarlane with a structure that helps the episode hold together even at a slightly padded hour.

After the most minimal of introductions -- the Griffins are watching Sunday golf when the power goes out, forcing them to entertain themselves -- Sunday's (Sept. 23) "Family Guy" shifts right into the narrative of "Star Wars IV," only barely condensing "A New Hope." Chris is Luke, Lois is Leia, Stewie is Darth Vader, Peter and Brian are Han Solo and Chewy, Quagmire and Cleveland are C3PO and R2, the pervy old man is Obi Wan and Mila Kunis must have had something else to do, because Meg only pops up in a brief cameo.

Rather than delivering a "Family Guy"-style episode of random-cutaways, "Blue Harvest" plays with a nearly "MST3K"-style wit, poking reverential fun at the beloved movie in the same way that millions upon millions of Lucas-loving geeks have done over the years. Why does the cantina band on Mos Eisley only know one song? Why does the movie repeatedly grind to a halt to genuflect at the altar of John Williams and the London Philharmonic? And why didn't somebody just board up that one weakness in the Death Star that any engineer could easily see on the blueprints? There are still a few moments of typical "Family Guy" indulgence, but they're the episode's weakest parts, particularly when Obi Wan pauses to serenade Luke with "I've Had the Time of my Life." While not quite as profanely clever as the classic "Clerks" debate about the fate of independent contractors on the Death Star, "Family Guy" achieves something of the same effect.

It's a slight disadvantage that the "Family Guy" homage to "Star Wars" has to come so close on the heels of the similarly gentle mockery on "Robot Chicken." Preferences between the two George Lucas-endorsed send-offs are likely to be split, but "Family Guy" addresses any controversy in a conversation in which Peter and Chris (voiced, of course, by Seth Green, also a co-creator of "Robot Chicken") discuss whether or not "Robot Chicken" is watched by enough people as a creative precedent. There's actually very little punchline overlap between the two, but as funny as the "Family Guy" episode may have been, nothing in Sunday night's hour can compete with "Robot Chicken's" Admiral Ackbar cereal (Now with brine shrimp!).