You could argue that The Star Wars Holiday Special is the most wanted TV show in television history. Why? Because George Lucas once famously said, “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”
There can’t be many TV productions that effectively have a larger bounty on its head than Han Solo, but this once-shown, low budget TV special, shown on the CBS network on 17th November 1978 has gained more notoriety than a cantina full of wanted criminals.
We couldn’t possibly let this occasion pass by without honouring it, so here’s the thoughts from our team of Trackers. If you have any memories of seeing it, on its only television screening or on bootleg copies years later, comment below.
The Star Wars Holiday Special is almost like a “where were you, when you saw that?” moment. Living in the U.K. I had no idea that the Holiday Special existed until I was an adult collector. I attended a convention in Blackpool, Multicon, in 1998. For my friend James and I it was an epic journey, having driven in a Datsun Cherry from the south coast, in between the queuing for the autographs I managed to find a vendor who was selling VHS copies of the fabled Holiday Special. £20 later and I was the proud owner of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy….
When I returned home, within 20 seconds I was loading the video recorder and sitting down to watch. The tracking was all over the place and the quality poor, but I was about to witness history … just 20 years later.
What happened next was like a bad dream, like eating too much cheese before bed, I had an out-of-body Star Wars experience. What is this? Why are they doing that? So many conflicting emotions. That is not to say it didn’t have its highlights, but I have never, ever, watched it again. Being a toy collector, I’ve wasted money on worse, but on a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy….?
Then I woke up.
So, it’s the anniversary of the much-maligned Star Wars Holiday Special. Having seen it once in childhood and then more recently via the internet, it’s one of those things, that is definitely ‘of its time’ and hasn’t aged well to say the least.
Songs from our heroes, animated inserts, Bea Arthur of Golden Girls fame and a family of Wookiees may have made for a good stop gap to help push the toys back in in 1978, but it’s not without reason that it has never seen an official release either in the ‘70s or since.
Very much a vanity project and unfortunately the sort of thing that gives people who like to bash ‘The Maker’, more license and weight to the argument of ‘look what happens when George is left to his own devices’. It further suffered in my view when the Muppets so excellently worked Star Wars characters into one of their shows, proving that it was possible to showcase the franchise in a mainstream family show.
So, although I enjoyed it in the ‘70s, for me it should remain in the archives, perhaps next to the Ark in the warehouse seen at the end of Raiders….
The Holiday Special was something of a legend here in the UK. First off, most people thought the holiday it referred to was Christmas, but no, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in the old country. Further to that, the Holiday Special was one of those rumours British kids heard about as they devoured what little Star Wars there was knocking around in the early to mid-80s.
My first real-life encounter with the show was in1996, at one of Jason Joiners Empire Day events in Watford. I remember Warwick Davis was a guest there, showing a video copy of Return of the Ewok. It was Don Henderson’s final ever convention appearance, alongside Peter Mayhew and Jeremy Bulloch and there were only a few stalls, mostly loaded with Shadows of the Empire product, but- if my memory serves – that’s where I got my first VERY ropey copy video of the Holiday Special.
I got other copies down the years, on VHS, DVD and eventually download and one thing persists – it’s bloody awful, but to see the cantina creatures again, schvitzing in the Tatooine heat while Dorothy from The Golden Girls sang them out of the bar made it kind of worthwhile. To watch Harvey Korman as Chef Gormaanda, the look of perpetual bemusement on Harrison Ford’s face, to hear Carrie Fisher sing the Life Day song or endure Diahann Carroll dancing while an aroused wookiee leers on…in the weirdest way it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
And thank the Maker for Mark Hamill, who carries on like he’s making a full on Star Wars saga episode. Seriously, this is the prequel that made The Empire Strikes Back look so damn good.
And Boba Fett…yeah, maybe The Star Wars Holiday Special isn’t so bad after all.
A lot of fans now declare that you should watch Rogue One before A New Hope and you get a completely different perspective of Episode IV. In reality you have been able to do this since 1978. Watch The Holiday Special and Star Wars will never be same. I often wonder why Leia didn’t burst into song at after handing out the medals. I question if that Cantina fight would have happened if Ackmena (Bea Arthur) had been on shift when Kenobi and Luke walked in. Do you still respect Chewbacca when you see the evidence of his flirting in The Force Awakens knowing his partner and child are waiting for him on Kashyyyk?
The Holiday special also proves that Boba Fett is a force to be reckoned with compared to just his implied reputation in the films. Some people foolishly dismiss The Holiday Special as being some sort of amateur misstep in the history of the franchise, whereas I would argue that any project that tries to progress the story line through the medium of dance is braver than anything we have seen since.
Maybe next year on its 40th anniversary it will get the recognition it deserves.
I picked up a copy of the Star Wars Holiday special on VHS. It was grainy and ropey, but I got thru it the once. It was, and still is, a thing of legend. The best bit for me being a Boba Fett collector, is the first Nelvana animated Star Wars. Nelvana later made the ewoks and droids shows that I fondly remember watching as a kid.
There’s some great stuff in the Holiday Special. The use of Ralph McQuarrie paintings and the strangeness of Wookiee family life. In later years I’ve acquired a far superior DVD copy, and even the Fett cartoon was included on the BluRay saga set.
But you can’t beat a bit of Ackmena singing her cantina closing time song to the reused alien costumes from A New Hope.