The Star Wars Holiday Special: Boring fans for 31 years
The infamous Star Wars Holiday Special aired for the first time on CBS on November 17, 1978, 31 years ago today. The Holiday Special was created as a bridge between the original Star Wars in 1977 and The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. It was a way to keep Star Wars “on people’s radar”.
The Special was neither written nor directed by George Lucas. Lucas only allowed the use of his Star Wars characters and environments. The Special was produced by the same group that created the Brady Bunch Variety Hour (itself a famously bad variety program). Lucasfilm does not regularly comment on it and has never officially released it on home video nor has it ever been broadcast since the initial airing in 1978.
Lucas famously said that if he had the time and a sledgehammer, he’d track down every bootleg copy and destroy it. And trust me, there are TONS of bootleg copies of the special out there. If you can’t find a bootleg copy for yourself, then you just aren’t looking hard enough, my friend. You can probably watch the majority of the Special on YouTube.
Is the Special really that bad? Yes it is. The format is similar to variety specials that were popular in the ’70s. The main story involves Chewie and Han as they are racing back to Chewie’s homeworld for Life Day, a generic Star Wars version of Thanksgiving. The story goes back and forth following Chewie and Han and then following Chewie’s family (wife, son and father). Little to no action happens when the camera is with Chewie’s family. You may think I’m exaggerating but there is NO ACTION during Chewie’s family’s scenes. Periodically little vignettes are inserted into the non-action like Jefferson Starship or Dianne Carroll singing a song or Bea Arthur running the cantina (image above) or Art Carney mugging for the camera. You also get short visits with Leia and a Luke Skywalker with so much makeup on he looks like he’s about to perform Kabuki (see image below). To be fair, Mark Hammill had just been in a car accident a few weeks prior so they were covering up massive amounts of reconstructive surgery.
The one saving grace of this horrid Holiday Special was a short animated sequence in the middle. This sequence had everyone from the original movie with all the actors doing the voices, and it debuted a new character, Boba Fett.
The mysterious bounty hunter made his first appearance in this cartoon before making his big movie debut in Empire 2 years later. This short cartoon is still considered the best part of the Holiday Special by the majority of Star Wars fans.
So if you are bold, seek out a copy of the Holiday Special. I challenge you to sit and watch the entire thing without pausing to nap or picking up a book. It’s pretty hard not to try to occupy yourself during the mostly boring live action segments. But officially or not, the Holiday Special is an important part of the Star Wars Universe. If nothing else, it’s proof that there is something worse than the Star Wars prequels.
Happy 31st birthday to the Star Wars Holiday Special.
To see more info and images from the Holiday Special check out this website.
UPDATE! Read the sequel to this article here where I discuss vintage memorabilia released for the Star Wars Holiday Special.
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