Time for a quick raise of hands: How many of you are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network? Really? That’s not as many as I’d expect, especially since it is—in my not-so-humble opinion—the best show on television.
What’s keeping you from watching it? I know some of you don’t like the Star Wars prequels—which I won’t hold against you (this time)—and that can be a deal breaker for some you. By all accounts, though, The Clone Wars is what people who didn’t like the prequels wanted the prequels to be. And for those of us who did like the prequels, that bright and shining silent majority, The Clone Wars is some of the best Star Wars we’ve seen—ever.
Season 4 is just about to start, and I have to tell you, it’s as good a time as any to start watching. The show hasn’t been so linear that you’ll be lost if you jump on now, and to say they’ve improved everything about the show over every season would be an understatement.
I had a chance early in September to go to the Season 4 kickoff event in Long Beach, Calif., and was able to see the season-premiere episodes on the big screen. I have to say, my breath was taken away. Since the episodes take place on the underwater world of Mon Calamari—Admiral “It’s a trap!” Ackbar’s homeworld—the episodes were screened at the Aquarium of the Pacific for fans and the press alike. I was able to talk to all the talent on the show, and the one thing that was unanimous—both among the working press and cast and crew at the event—was that the show has taken a quantum leap forward in animation and storytelling, proving once again what Lucasfilm is capable of.
The show has something for viewers of all ages and levels of fandom. On the surface, kids will enjoy the action elements and the feel of the Star Wars universe through the eyes of Anakin Skywalker’s 16-year-old padawan, Ahsoka Tano. I can also personally attest to the fact that they love all of the comedic moments on the show. For adults, there is so much rich film history and excellent writing on display that it might as well be taught in film classes. There have been episodes based on classic films ranging from Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (Padme is sent to spy on a former lover and Separatist spy; her bodyguard is also her jealous secret husband) to Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (Ahsoka loses her lightsaber in the seedy underbelly of Coruscant and has to enlist the help of a Takashi Shimura-like Jedi Master to find it), and all points in between. One of my favorite things to do is watch for references to other films that are executed beautifully in the Star Wars universe. I’ve picked up bits of The Third Man, Seven Samurai, King Kong, Godzilla, Predator, Jaws and dozens of others.
And for Star Wars fans, there are appearances by all of your favorite side characters that you’d never expect had much more story beyond their limited roles in the original six-film saga. Peter Cushing’s character from A New Hope, Governor Tarkin, makes appearances in a series of episodes that are equal parts The Great Escape and The Guns of Navarone. Boba Fett’s upbringing has been explored, Chewbacca the Wookie has made appearances on the show, and the Season 4 premiere features Admiral Ackbar himself, altering his trademark exclamation to, “It’s an attack!”
My last word about the show is that there is no one in feature or television animation producing work that is more visually stunning save (possibly) Pixar. This is a must-watch show and some of the best science-fiction space-adventure television has ever seen. The Clone Wars airs Friday nights on Cartoon Network.
Bryan Young is the editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.