I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted what a phenomenon Star Wars was going to be. I’m sure George Lucas and the rest of the cast and crew had high hopes that it would make money. But I don’t think even they could’ve seen how big a cultural impact it would have in the world! They were probably caught off guard with how much the entire world was swept in by this story that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The massive success of Star Wars prompted the greenlight for Empire Strikes Back… but what were they going to do in the meantime?
Make a Holiday Special, of course! And thus was born worst things that came out of George Lucas’ mind. Yes, even worse that The Phantom Menace! Okay, technically, the Star Wars Holiday Special wasn’t Lucas’ brainchild; it was the product of the CBS network. George Lucas did come up with the entire Life Day scenario but that’s about it. So, congratulations, Phantom Menace! You’re still the reigning champ when it comes to the worst George Lucas Star Wars product ever!
I remember watching the CBS’ Star Wars Holiday Special on TV when I was a kid just a couple of years after the release of Return of the Jedi. It was shown, predictably during the Christmas holiday season and the station that broadcast it was showing all of the Original Trilogy films each Saturday during the month of December. But, there are only three films! What did they do to fill in that extra week? That’s where the Holiday Special comes in!
This was way before the era of cable TV and the Internet so no one really knew all that much about The Star Wars Holiday Special and what it was going to be like. I didn’t even know the thing existed before I saw it! And even as a kid, I knew it was one of the most awful things I saw!
I will say it’s aptly named because the Star Wars Holiday Special isn’t actually about Christmas. It would be silly if a bunch of aliens celebrated the birth of an Earthling, right? So, the plot actually is all about Chewbacca trying to get back home to his family on the Wookie home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day. But, instead of showing the adventures of Chewie and Han Solo and all the trouble they had to endure to actually get the Wookie back home in time, the Star Wars Holiday Special decides to focus on Chewie’s family instead… with no subtitles or anyone to translate what any of them are saying. Oh joy.
What follows is a mind numbing mess of separate stories, allegedly funny skits and just a bunch of weird show numbers. It boggles the mind to think that there were people who read the scripts and thought, “Yeah, this looks promising!” Even when the thing was being filmed, I can’t believe that the producers thought it was fit for broadcast! What makes it doubly sad is the looks on the faces of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and especially Harrison Ford whenever they’re on screen. I get a mixture of sadistic joy and empathy for Harrison Ford as you can really tell he doesn’t want to be there. But, God bless his soul, he tried his best to hide his contempt!
What makes this especially painful to watch is how disconnected it feels from any Star Wars product. You just know CBS just wanted to capitalize on the Star Wars craze and, for one reason or another, was granted the license to use the franchise as well as the stars from the actual films! But nothing really fits into the entire Star Wars mythos so seeing Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca actually playing a part of it looks really awkward.
For how awful it is, I will say a couple of good things about the Star Wars Holiday Special. The costumes for the the Wookies actually look pretty good. They look like they were really high quality outfits. I’m guessing these were some extra costumes that were made for the movies but weren’t used for one reason or another. But the best thing about the entire special was how it elevated the bounty hunter, Boba Fett. He was just a minor side character in the films. But in the Holiday Special, they showed what a cunning character he actually is. The animation may not be all that good but the story was pretty solid.
However, besides that, the Star Wars Holiday Special is a special kind of mess. All of the live action segments were just weird and seemed to go on forever. They even got some big name stars of the time to take part of this atrocity. Stars like Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll and Harvey Korman were in this. Even Jefferson Starship was in this! I guess these people were enticed by the Star Wars brand and they just wanted to be a part of it in some way. Too bad it had to be in this capacity.
There’s also a lot musical numbers in the Star Wars Holiday Special. Jefferson Starship isn’t the only one playing music here! Bea Arthur sings while tending to patrons in a cantina for some strange reason. Chewie’s father apparently has a thing for singing humanoid females as that’s what he watches in his porno viewer (that’s the only way I can describe it). Oh, and if you ever, ever wanted to see Princess Leia sing… something, the Star Wars Holiday Special has you covered.
Is it just me or does Carrie Fisher look high in this scene? Can’t blame her, though. I’d be high, too, if I had to be in this!
Despite the Star Wars Holiday Special being almost absolute garbage, I actually have to recommend fans watch it. Yes, it’s goofy and stupid but almost to a “so bad that it’s good” sort of way. I can’t say it’s enjoyable if you take it seriously. But, if you know how awful it is going it, it is possible to like it. When I first saw this as a kid, I didn’t have that luxury but I watched the entire thing anyway because it was Star Wars. I knew it was bad… but it was Star Wars!
Now that I’m older, I can fully appreciate how terrible it actually is and why George Lucas is quoted as saying “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.” I’m glad he never got the time to do it, though. Even a huge abomination as the Star Wars Holiday Special still holds a special place in my heart as, even though it’s a farce, it was still something I remember with a weird fondness. The Star Wars Holiday Special was a part of my childhood and, even though I do know how bad it is, I can still look back at it and relive that special moment when Star Wars was truly an event. The Star Wars Holiday Special isn’t something you watch; it’s something you have to experience for yourself.
But… if you want to watch it now in all its glory, well… here you go!
Have you seen the Star Wars Holiday Special? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!