"The Star Wars Holiday Special" by Jon Bradley Snyder From Star Wars Insider
magazine #23, 1994: December 1978. Mom and Dad fret over "Dynasty" and the
NFL playoffs, but Junior sits in rapt attention in front of the television,
oblivious to the plight of Crystal Carrington and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For Junior, TV is about to take on a new meaning. In a few moments CBS will
turn his TV into a vessel for "Star Wars." The "Star Wars Holiday Special"
the single greatest television event of all time for seven- to 15-year
olds is about to go on the air. Looking back from an age where home
video, pay-per-view and interactive movies on CD-ROM are the order of the
day, it seems strange that a "Star Wars" TV special could generate such interest.
But if you lived through the "Star Wars" phenomenon the first time around,
you know that many of the things we now take for granted, like the trilogy
on home video, seemed like an impossible dream in 1978. If you wanted "Star
Wars" at home, you had to buy a grainy Super 8 film loop that cost a bundle
and only had eight minutes of footage. "Star Wars" on TV, for free, seemed
like a gift from heaven. Perhaps it was the incredible anticipation of this
show, followed by its rapid retreat into obscurity that created [the program's]
legendary cult status. Everybody remembers when it came out, but few have
seen it again in the 15 years hence. It is the missing link in the "Star
Wars" universe, the one episode that has never been committed to home video.
The Star Wars Insider was lucky enough to get a hold of a copy of the "Star
Wars Holiday Special" We've given it an excruciating viewing through 1994
eyes and to be quite honest, it's pretty... silly. Time has not been kind
to the Holiday Special, yet that's precisely its charm. Unlike the "Star
Wars" films, which have a timeless quality, the "Star Wars Holiday Special"
will forever be stuck in 1978, which is great nostalgia if you were there,
great history if you weren't. The show centers around Chewbacca's family,
his wife Malla, his father Itchy, and his son Lumpy. Lumpy looks like Adam
Rich with fur, a long-haired gangly precursor to the Ewoks. Chewbacca is
desperately trying to get back to his Wookiee home planet to celebrate the
sacred Wookiee holiday of Life Day. Imperial troops overrun the place searching
for the Rebels, and the plot revolves around the Wookiees attempting to go
about their daily lives amidst stormtrooper interference and the suspense
of whether Chewbacca will make it home on time. The show includes appearances
by Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, and the voice
of James Earl Jones. The supporting cast includes TV vets Art Carney ("The
Honeymooners"), Bea Arthur ("Golden Girls") and Harvey Korman ("The Carol
Burnett Show") who provide the comic relief so the "Star Wars" stars don't
have to crack a lot of slapstick. Mala calls Luke on the video phone trying
to find out what's up with Chewie. Mark Hamill assures her everything's all
right. Hamill is sporting the worst haircut ever. In fact, both he and Harrison
Ford had blowdried hair-don'ts instead of the rockin' wind-swept hairdos
they had in the movie. But if you were a kid this didn't matter much, as
long as they kept intercutting space scenes from the film, which the producers
deftly used to duck the high cost of shooting new space scenes.
The show has many musical numbers, one of the most bizarre of which is when Itchy throws on the helmet of his "mind evaporator" and has an erotic virtual reality experience (this thing was years ahead of its time) with Diahann Carroll, who tells him, "You're adorable. I am your fantasy, I am your pleasure. This is our moment in time." Woah! Kinky space love! Another music sequence involves a box that shows a holographic Jefferson Starship video. One wonders what the Starship thought about riding the "Star Wars" wave. But they were good sports and gave their all; the lead guitarist even picks a solo with his teeth. At one point stormtroopers cluster around the TV to watch a show about Tatooine, which is really just a guise to get back to the cantina and do a musical number with Bea Arthur. It's worth noting that this scene is introduced with a short loop of Mos Eisley spaceport footage that was shot but never appeared in the original film. A small Mos Eisley alien scurries away from a big stilt creature in a short clip that has never been shown publicly anywhere else. The undisputed highlight of this show is the funny, fast-paced cartoon that introduces Boba Fett to the "Star Wars" universe. Produced by Nelvana Animation Company, this cartoon stands head and shoulders above their later efforts with "Droids" and "Ewoks." Searching for Han and Chewie, Luke crash lands his Y-wing. He pops the canopy and look out! It's Boba Fett, Dino-Rider! Fett presents himself as a friend, but when Luke offers to feed his hungry dinosaur, Fett remarks, "You are foolish to waste your kindness on this dumb creature," foreshadowing his treachery. This is the first and last time you'll ever hear Han Solo say, "Our friend Boba."
The show ends with a tearful reunion with Chewbacca and family. Everyone gathers round as Carrie Fisher sings the Life Day song. This is pure torture, not because Fisher can't sing, but because it's so schmaltzy. Lyrics set to the tune of the "Star Wars" theme? Yeecchh! In the end it's not hard to see why the Holiday Special has been kept under wraps. The production is silly, and you can do better visual effects on your home computer these days. Still, it's fun to watch and a great trip back to 1978.
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