Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cloning Star Wars: Nine Best Spoofs

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is in theaters, with some critics carping that it is almost a parody of the original live-action films. Which led us to think: Are there better parodies of George Lucas' influential saga out there?

Yes the answer is, as Yoda himself might say. Herewith a list of the top nine Star Wars spoofs from film, television and other media.

1. Clerks, film, available on DVD. Perhaps the most eloquent Star Wars geek on record, director Kevin Smith crafted dialogue about the issue of contract labor on the second Death Star in Star Wars: Episode VI--Return of the Jedi. Collateral damage or deserving collaborators? The debate rages on.

2. Spaceballs, film, available on DVD. Mel Brooks aimed his blaster at the first Star Wars and other SF films. Spaceballs mimics famous scenes and characters in extreme and ridiculous ways, making fun of merchandising and the famous plot twists of the series. (This story continues below the image.)

3. "Stephen Colbert's Green Screen Challenge," featured on The Colbert Report. In 2006, Colbert filmed a segment of himself mimicking the lightsaber moves of disgraced high schooler Ghyslain Raza--the infamous YouTube "Star Wars kid"--then invited his fans to improve it. Creative fans placed Colbert in battles with Darth Maul, opening a door for George W. Bush and dancing in silhouette in an iPod ad parody. Lucasfilm itself eventually contributed an entry in which Colbert destroys all the droids from the opening of Revenge of the Sith. The winner turned Colbert into a video game.

4. Family Guy: Blue Harvest, available on DVD. The Fox animated show has managed to insert a Star Wars joke in almost every episode. But in 2007, it finally went one better, with an hourlong episode dedicated to the movie. A follow-up, based on Star Wars: Episode V--The Empire Strikes Back, is already on track for next season.

5. Troops, short film, available at Animator Kevin Rubio's short film melds Fox's reality series Cops with Imperial stormtroopers on Tatooine. The film's deadpan accurate take on both franchises raises disturbing questions: What if Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, and not the stormtroopers, had destroyed themselves? Setting a Jawa's head on fire was pretty sweet, too.

6. "Jedi Knights Sex Scandal," Chappelle's Show sketch. Comedian Dave Chappelle's sketch featured a 60 Minutes-style news crew investigating a sex scandal among the Jedi knights. Poor Darth Vader, shown in silhouette to protect his identity, admitted being molested. The piece was a knowing satire of both Lucas and the Catholic Church sex scandals.

7. The Star Wars Gangsta Rap. Internet animated music video, available on The first winner of the Audience Choice Award in the Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards, this video used the hip-hop idiom to retell the saga's story, changing up the rap and melody as needed. The animation is adorable, especially in the "Special Edition" enhanced version, and the tune is just catchy. Try not to sing, "I'm your father, I'm your father" in rhythm after you hear this.

8. "Star Wars Auditions," Saturday Night Live sketch, first aired Jan. 11, 1997. Kevin Spacey as Christopher Walken reading for the role of Han Solo. Darrell Hammond as Richard Dreyfuss in C-3PO's gold armor. Norm MacDonald as Burt Reynolds as Darth Vader and Ana Gasteyer as Barbra Streisand as Princess Leia. 'Nuff said.

9. Robot Chicken: Star Wars. TV special. A collection of Star Wars-themed sketches from the stop-motion-animated show featured Emperor Palpatine mocking Darth Vader after the destruction of the Death Star and Lucas riding a nerd through a convention crowd. And that's really Lucas' voice. --Fred Topel

Sunday, August 17, 2008

News and information about meteor showers, solar flares,
auroras, and near-Earth asteroids

Monday, August 11, 2008

Congrats Paul!

Paul Stanley, the legendary co-founder and frontman for KISS, and his wife, Erin, are expecting their second child together, PEOPLE has learned exclusively.

Erin, 36, an attorney, is due this winter.

"Erin and I are thrilled and can't wait to meet our newest addition," Stanley, 56, said in a statement to PEOPLE. "We've been extremely blessed and we're excited to see what the future holds. I often joke that I've traded the Viper Room for the diaper room, and it looks like my tour's been extended!"

The couple, who married in 2005, live in Beverly Hills with their son Colin, who turns 2 in September, and Paul’s 14-year-old son, Evan, from a previous marriage.

News of the pregnancy comes as Stanley recently completed the European leg of The Kiss Alive/35 World Tour, which encompassed 30 sold-out shows in seven weeks.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wire's Top 10 Brilliant But Canceled

It's the sad fate of every science fiction fan to fall in love with amazing, creative television shows only to see them struggle in the ratings and eventually disappear into the land of repeats and DVD box sets ("Own the complete series for just $24.95!").

It happened just this spring for Jericho fans, who got a mini-reprieve of seven episodes thanks to a whole lot of nuts (the kind you eat, not the fans themselves), but they too would eventually see their show ride off into the sunset like so many others before it. For too many of these on-the-bubble shows, the bubble popped before the rest of the world caught on to the genius that went into them. Fortunately, they live on in the memories of fans, including those of us here at SCI FI Wire.

We now present a list of the top 10 brilliant-but-canceled SF&F shows, as determined by SCI FI Wire's news editor and contributors. For the purposes of this list, the selections were made based on quality network shows that were not renewed after their first season. Bonus fan points (and sympathy hugs) if you remember them all.

1. Firefly, created by Joss Whedon. Fox. Original run: September 2002 to August 2003. Number of episodes produced: 14

Joss Whedon's high-concept space western was a difficult sell to mainstream audiences, television critics and even its own network, but it inspired a group of dedicated fans (called Browncoats, after the show's rebel fighters), who are still active today (as evidenced by their booth at this year's Comic-Con). Through their active campaigning, the Browncoats got more than some fans do. The 2005 feature film Serenity brought back the characters, resolved the relationships and tied up loose narrative ends. And it continues to live on in comic books, novels and games. Still, we can only imagine where the crew would have gone, say, in season six or seven.

2. Wonderfalls, created by Bryan Fuller and Todd Holland. Fox. Original run: March 2004 to December 2004. Number of episodes produced: 14

Before Pushing Daisies on ABC, Bryan Fuller teamed up with Todd Holland (Malcolm in the Middle) and Tim Minear (Angel, Firefly) to create this quirky series, about a cynical twentysomething souvenir-store clerk (Caroline Dhavernas) in Niagara Falls. When she begins hearing the voices of talking animal figures, she finds herself forced to actually care about helping others. The show expertly blended dry wit, unpredictable plots, a sharp cast and an unsentimental approach to sentimental material. Unfortunately, it got lost in a season of shows with similar concepts (like Joan of Arcadia, which lasted one season longer). Considering the network never really had any idea what it had, let alone how to properly promote it, the writing was probably on the wall from the beginning for this lost gem.

3. Now and Again, created by Glenn Gordon Caron. CBS. Original run: September 1999 to May 2000. Number of episodes produced: 22

Why CBS chose not to renew this inventive, funny, sad, well-cast, newfangled take on The Six Million Dollar Man is no mystery. Despite the intriguing concept of a man who is hit by a subway train and wakes up in a perfect, government-built body, the ratings for this show were not exactly stellar. Stars Eric Close (Without a Trace) and Dennis Haysbert (24) have since gone on to more high-profile gigs, but once upon a time they had great chemistry together as the restless, super-powered secret agent and his by-the-book handler.

4. Alien Nation, created by Kenneth Johnson. Fox. Original run: September 1989 to May 1990. Number of episodes: 22

The not-so-subtle pun in the title gives some indication of the allegorical themes at work in this series, based on the film of the same name. Picking up where the film left off, the show is set in a world where an alien slave ship has crashed on Earth and left its passengers stranded. Forced to assimilate into human society, they encounter the same kinds of struggles as any every other immigrant group throughout history. Except that they get drunk on sour milk and require three partners to procreate. Through the mixed-species partnership of a pair of police detectives--one human, one alien--the show explored issues of immigration, racism and cultural identity. Although it was canceled after one season due to budgetary pressures, Fox did bring it back in a series of five television movies.

5. Space: Above and Beyond, created by Glen Morgan and James Wong. Fox. Original run: September 1995 to June 1996. Number of episodes: 24

This futuristic war drama followed a squadron of marines known as the Wildcards aboard the USS Saratoga, the space-faring equivalent of an aircraft carrier. In addition to an alien threat and rebel AI mercenaries, the soldiers also faced conflicts closer to home, with the introduction of artificially bred humans and a potential government conspiracy. The show's dark tone, desaturated look, military backdrop and exploration of complex topics such as the moral ambiguity of war make this a predecessor of sorts to the more successful Battlestar Galactica. But back in 1995, the public wasn't quite ready for this kind of series, and the show failed to attract an audience wide enough to justify renewal.

6. The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., created by Jeffrey Boam and Carlton Cuse. Fox. Original run: August 1993 to May 1994. Number of episodes: 27

Clever writing, great production values and a brilliant turn in the title role by the one and only Bruce Campbell made this genre-bending SF-western-comedy a pleasure for those who were hip to its self-referential humor, witty dialogue and memorable performances. Unfortunately, that didn't include most of the viewing audience. Fox scheduled the show on Friday nights, a timeslot notorious for low ratings, with the exception of The X-Files, which just happened to premiere the same year. Seems that the network could only afford to take a chance on one low-rated show, and we all know how that turned out, so they're probably not regretting their decision (though they may be regretting that second movie right about now).

7. American Gothic, created by Shaun Cassidy. CBS. Original run: September 1995 to July 1996. Number of episodes: 22

Moody, atmospheric and sinister, this show from creator Cassidy and executive producer Sam Raimi was the epitome of subtle, character-driven horror. Featuring career-making performances by Gary Cole and Lucas Black, the series centered on a boy (Black) whose soul is desperately sought by the competing forces of good--represented by a small-town doctor and the ghost of the boy's dead sister--and evil--represented by Cole as the demonic Sheriff Buck. Notable veterans of this promising, terminated-before-its-time show also include Battlestar Galactica's David Eick and Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan (Traffic).

8. Jake 2.0, created by Silvio Horta. UPN. Original run: September 2003 to February 2003. Number of episodes produced: 16

NBC seems to have a hit on its hands with Chuck, but it's a safe bet that few of the show's viewers realize that the exact premise was already done in a little-seen show called Jake 2.0. Like its successor, Jake dealt with an affable, lovelorn geek (Ugly Betty's Christopher Gorham) who receives a computer upgrade to his brain (thanks to nanobots, in this case) and is recruited by the government as a spy. This was back in the early days of UPN, when the network was still trying to find its identity and looking for a breakout hit to complement Star Trek: Voyager. This didn't turn out to be it.

9. Nowhere Man, created by Lawrence Hertzog. UPN. Original run: August 1995 to May 1996. Number of episodes: 25

One of the most frustrating things that can happen when a show is yanked before its time is a denial of answers to a big, overarching mystery. That's what happened in the case of Nowhere Man, about a photographer (played by Bruce Greenwood) who takes a controversial picture in a South American war zone and suddenly finds his identity erased by a covert, possibly governmental, organization. Nowhere Man incorporated elements of The Fugitive and The Prisoner, but unlike those shows, it never got an epic final episode, leaving fans (dozens of them) to wonder forever (or for a few weeks, at least) about the significance of that fateful photograph.

10. Eerie, Indiana, created by Jose Rivera and Karl Schaefer. NBC. Original run: September 1991 to April 1992. Number of episodes: 19

Although it may not have featured big-name stars, this semi-anthology series engaged the few viewers it attracted with the story of a boy (Omri Kats) who moves to the titular town and becomes best friends with the only other normal kid on his block (Justin Shenkarow). Together, they investigate a series of strange phenomena in their neighborhood, including a Tupperware lady who seals her kids up in large tubs every night to keep them immortal and a pack of intelligent dogs who scheme to take over the world. The show's bizarre plots and offbeat tone helped keep it in the public consciousness, inspiring the creators to continue the storyline in a series of books. --Cindy White