Michael F. Davis became obsessed with Star Wars after repeated viewings of Empire Strikes Back on VHS and a 1983 viewing of Return of the Jedi in movie theaters. He also saw all the Special Editions in the theater, bought all the Shadows of the Empire tie-ins, and even took a bus trip to Maine to see The Phantom Menace.
His most valuable Star Wars collectible is a 1997 Taco Bell Boba Fett Balancer. He is currently employed as a Librarian in the US and you can find him on Instagram but has always has his sights on a galaxy far, far, away….
Let’s face it. The Star Wars Holiday Special is a horrible TV program. And not very special. I have no doubt that before the night of November 17, 1978, George Lucas and company thought they made a great thing. Boy, were they wrong! Lucas himself has always hated it and wants to destroy all copies of it. Now, on the 40th Anniversary of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, I wanted to give it a more modern point of view.
Remember, since that Holiday Special, we’ve had Empire, Jedi, Ewoks, Droids, Clone Wars, Prequels, and now, Sequels. Nothing else, except for the combined might of Jar Jar Binks and Jaxxon has ever come close. Keeping all these different Star Wars threads in mind, I decided to brave this Special and watch it again. But, in order to keep my sanity, I watched it with the Rifftrax audio track.
The Special is meant to be like one of the many variety shows on TV during the late 1970’s (of which there were at least several dozen). It’s usually filled with comedy and musical numbers.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Happy Life Day, everybody! We’re on the Wookiee planet (later known in-canon as Kashyyyk) as evidenced by The Wookiee Storybook matte painting.
- NO WOOKIEE SUBTITLES! They all sound like sick parrots, dying goats or a Siberian Husky I used to know. Did I mention we have no idea what they’re saying?
- The Wookiee costumes were made by THE Stan Winston, years before Predator, Aliens or T-1000.
- Itchy: Chewbacca’s geriatric father. He has no teeth and his jaw-line is borderline obscene. He yells at Lumpy a lot.
- Malla: Chewie’s wife. Star Wars fans thought she was becoming part of the canon when a scene from the Solo trailer showed Chewie touching heads with a fellow Wookiee.
- Lumpy: Chewie’s super-annoying son. If this Special isn’t weird enough, he watches a holographic dancing troupe, prancing around to awful synthesizer music.
- Luke Skywalker appears on-screen, fixing some kind of fog machine. I bet Mark Hamill wishes he was drinking the breast milk of a sea cow on a distant planet. Also, for some reason, he appears to be wearing a ton of pancake makeup and an Ellen DeGeneres haircut. More like Debbie Hamill, amiright?
- Art Carney comes into the program now with his fuzzy, wide-open shirt. Back in the day, he was an old-school comedian. In the 1978 Holiday Special, he was overacting and eating scenery like nobody’s business.
- In the scene where Art Carney deals with a 1970’s Porn-Star Mustache Imperial Officer, he tries to sell him a personal groomer. I half-expected them to start singing “What Do You Buy A Wookiee (When He Already Owns A Comb)?”
- And now, Harvey Korman as a 4-armed female alien chef at his most annoying. Another old-school comedian at work.
- The most uncomfortable part of the whole experience: Art Carney plays Itchy’s porn dealer. He sets up Itchy under a ‘70’s industrial hairdryer and the old Wookiee proceeds to watch the then-futuristic VR Porn, starring Diahann Carroll, in front of his family. Like the rest of the guest stars, Carroll was a ‘70’s singing star who was probably releasing a new single. Did I mention the crystal background and silly sci-fi wig?
- Anthony Daniels as C-3PO continues his Star Wars tradition of being the only actor to portray his character in ALL mediums.
- It’s time for another musical act! This time it’s Jefferson Starship performing “Light the Sky on Fire.” During this time, Grace Slick was out of the band and reinvented itself as some kind of ‘70’s Prog-Rock outfit. According to Wikipedia, they had “recorded the single “Light the Sky on Fire” (#66 US Billboard Chart) for television’s Star Wars Holiday Special. It was released as a promotional tie-in to the special (backed with “Hyperdrive” from Dragon Fly), and was also included as a bonus with their greatest hits album Gold (1979), which highlighted their work from 1974’s Dragon Fly to 1978’s Earth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Starship).” In 1985, the band releases “We Built this City.”
- Now it’s time for the Star Wars Cartoon, universally acknowledged as the best part of the Special. The first appearance of the mighty bounty hunter Boba Fett. Looking at the animated character, I am so glad that the new show The Mandalorian looks incredible. But there is a tie to the Holiday Special: Director Jon Favreau posted a picture online of a rifle that looks incredibly like its animated counterpart.
- The Han Solo animation looks absolutely awful. But that’s ignoring the fact that the cartoon’s plot has no purpose whatsoever. And all the animation is pretty awful, compared to say, The Clone Wars.
- Another Harvey Korman pointless scene with him as some kind of human-looking droid that is malfunctioning. Did I mention the overacting?
- ALERT ALERT! The Empire wants all its citizens to watch the following video. And…it’s Bea Arthur in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Why is this mandatory viewing?
- She then proceeds to talk with a series of live Kenner Action Figures (and for some reason, a giant mouse) and yet another Harvey Korman character (who obscenely drinks from a hole in his head). How is Greedo still alive and Ponda Baba have 2 arms?
- Bea Freakin’ Arthur then proceeds to SING “Goodnight but not Goodbye” to the theme of the Cantina song. Her show, Maude, had only ended a few months before and The Golden Girls wouldn’t premier until 1985. Thank you for being a friend.
- Han Solo in action! He throws a hapless Stormtrooper over the railing, complete with the patented Wilhelm Scream!
- Our Trooper’s ID Number? B4711. Something tells me nobody in the 501st is clamoring for that designation. Any competent Imperial investigator would see right through Art Carney’s BS, find the body and burn Kashyyyk to the ground.
- Now the Wookiees have ball-shaped candles and are wearing red Snuggies.
- Carrie Fisher sings and leans on Chewie for support (to the tune of the Star Wars theme). The whole gang is now together, despite a heavy Imperial presence on the planet and the Rebels basically committed the biggest crime in the galaxy.
There. I’ve endured The Star Wars Holiday Special so you don’t have to. But would any true Star Wars fan NOT want to watch it? Yes, it’s horrible, but Star Wars fans are relentless, and watching it with full knowledge of the awesomeness that comes after 1978, makes it a little sweeter.