TV crossover episodes or ones that mash together a couple of familiar franchises are often more interesting in theory than when the finalized version hits the screen. It's difficult to find the right balance between the characters and to keep the best aspects of each show intact while still fully integrating everything together.
One special that seems to have solved all these challenges is the impressively well-constructed "Phineas And Ferb Star Wars," which airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT Saturday on Disney Channel. The episode is a parallel telling of many of the events from the original film, using a combination of familiar "Star Wars" characters as well as all of the "Phineas and Ferb" favorites. The result is a show that plays less like a promotional stunt and more like what the film might have looked like if it had been originally produced by Disney as an animated film.
The special begins with the familiar "Star Wars" roll of text explaining the premise, though it's quickly clear this is going to be something very different. Especially when it ends with the reassurance to not worry because "none of this is canon."
Phineas and Ferb are youngsters on the desert planet Tatooine and they're friends with Luke, who seems to spend a lot of time gazing off into the distance. Any worries "Phineas and Ferb" fans might have about the special will likely end early on when they hear the duo singing "We love Tattooine," a hilarious number that somehow manages to be catchy while still referencing a basket full of familiar movie facts.
I won't spoil the film by talking too much about the plot. But Candace is there (aided by Baljeet and Buford) as a junior stormtrooper trying to "bust" the rebels. Isabella is the captain of the Centennial Chihuahua and she also happens to have a rivalry going with Hans Solo. And let's not forget Darth Doofenshmirtz, who claims to have come up with the original plans for the Death Star. Although he had originally planned for it to be a handheld nutcracker.
"Phineas And Ferb Star Wars" retains the best of "Phineas And Ferb" while including an impressively funny collection of "Star Wars" references, inside jokes and facts that only a hardcore fan might catch. Two of my favorites include a mention of the hated Jar Jar Binks ("You can't blame him, he's been retired for like, 20 years"), to a nod from a scene in the original movie where a man falls out of the bottom of the Death Star. It's all good fun and the jokes are respectful of both properties while still tweaking the expectations of fans.
Before I watched the special, I was a bit nervous about what I'd see. Last year's special "Phineas And Ferb: Mission Marvel" was clever, but it struggled to rise above the weight of the iconic Marvel characters and create something new. "Phineas And Ferb Star Wars" solves those problems and it's a special that is likely to be as popular at "Star Wars" gatherings as it will be with fans of the animated TV show. And speaking of "Phineas And Ferb," there's even something in there for long-suffering Phinbella shippers.
It isn't often that a crossover episode rises above its origins, but "Phineas And Ferb Star Wars" manages to do that quite handily. It lightens up an often oppressively serious "Star Wars" canon while it gives the characters from "Phineas And Ferb" room to breathe outside of the familiar "what are we going to do today?" premise that guides nearly episode of the animated series.
This is just a super-impressive piece of television and if I have one complaint, it's that it would probably be even more fun to watch in a movie theater.
"Phineas And Ferb Star Wars" premieres on the Disney Channel on Saturday, July 26th, 2014 at 9:00 p.m. ET.