Like most fans of online video, I’m a sucker for a good Star Wars reference, and so Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager has long been on my radar. Produced originally as a Channel 101 series by Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda, Chad was an early success story in the world of online video. The first episode has racked up 8 million views since July 2006, and Sloan/Yonda’s depiction of the Empire’s most bad-ass Sith lord’s younger brother, who works as a slightly bumbling Wisconsin grocery store manager, has become an in-demand online celebrity, covering Tay Zonday’s Chocolate Rain, meeting Obama Girl, and doing a Rifftrax commentary on Star Wars: A New Hope.
But Chad Vader doesn’t exactly come off as cutting edge these days; the first episode of season 2, released yesterday, is just more of the same old thing. With a storyline focused around the sale of the grocery store, the new episode offers little of what made this show was so exciting to begin with.
Sure, maybe Chad has a crush on his new boss’s secretary, but given that the first episode of season 1 began with Chad using his Force powers to swipe the checkout girl a bouquet of flowers, it’s hardly much in the way of escalation for the character. Nor has the series upgraded its production values from the first season’s old-school look and feel; it’s not even shot in widescreen.
The best thing going for Chad is Sloan’s performance as the voice of Chad Vader, which is dead-on James Earl Jones, to the point that one of Sloan’s many side gigs is supplying the voice of Darth Vader for Star Wars video games. The quality of the imitation means that moments like Vader disciplining the deli counter guy with a Force chokehold are actually believable as the actions of a master of the Dark Side — which is when the joke of the series is operating at peak hilarity.
Chad still benefits from a funny premise and talented performers, but what was great on Channel 101 in 2006 is only so-so today. Hopefully future episodes pick up the pace, because there’s nothing more embarrassing than when a web series shows its age.