“The Star Wars Holiday Special – What Were They Thinking?”

“If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”

  – George Lucas, Creator of Star Wars

For years now, I’ve heard people speak about the dreadful, infamous, unwatchable, “Star Wars Holiday Special,” which was broadcast only once in America, on CBS television on the evening of November 17, 1978. The trouble for me was that while I certainly valued the opinions of many of those, with whom I knew I shared similar cinematic and television tastes, I had yet to view the widely hailed abomination with my own eyes. I sat down and watched the ‘so called’ special last week. (It can be found on the internet.) As far as I was able to ascertain after viewing it, there was only one thing special about the entire haphazard production, and that involved the most popular bounty hunter in the galaxy, Boba Fett, but more on that later in the blog.

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I can say with absolute certainty, that the majority of the ninety-seven minute adventure, family, musical, Sci-Fi special was a complete and utter waste of time, and quite frankly a struggle to get through. It was co-directed by Steve Binder, (Melinda: First Lady of Magic) and David Acomba, (Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave), although, he is not officially credited, and more power to him. This anything but ‘special,’ special was written by Pat Proft, (The Naked Gun), Leonard Ripps, (Full House), Bruce Vilanch, (Get Bruce), Rod Warren, (Donny and Marie), and Mitzie Welch, (The NBC All Star Hour). Having now seen it first hand, I will restate part of the title of this blog: what were they thinking? Aside from the all too brief opening, which featured iconic characters Han Solo and Chewbacca, whose brain child idea was it to have the first number of minutes feature nothing but the animalistic, un-translated language of Chewbacca’s wookie family? Don’t get me wrong, I love Chewbacca; for that matter, I love the Star Wars universe, especially the films in the original trilogy, but this production was a death star ripe for destruction from the very start.

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The flimsy premise is as follows: Chewbacca is traveling back, via the Millennium Falcon, to his home planet of Kashyyk to celebrate Lifeday with his father Itchy, (Paul Gale) wife Malla, (Mickey Morton) and son Lumpy (Patty Maloney). The only problem standing in his way is the forces of the Empire, who are hunting down the rebels and anyone sympathetic with their cause for peace in the galaxy. The special, which was aired in-between “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,”(1977) which, at the time, had become the highest grossing movie in history, and “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back,” (1980) featured token appearances by most of the original cast members: Mark Hamill, (Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi) Harrison Ford, (Raiders of the Lost Ark) Carrie Fisher, (When Harry Met Sally) Anthony Daniels, (Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Peter Mayhew, (Killer Ink) and James Earl Jones, (The Lion King) as the voice of Darth Vader. The one notable absence from the special was Oscar winning actor Alec Guinness, (The Bridge on the River Kwai).

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The special also featured several guest stars: Emmy award winner Bea Arthur (Maude) as Ackmena, a bartender who is working on Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine at a place in Mos Eisley that resembles the Creature Cantina from Episode IV; fans of the film will instantly make the connection and recognize the location. She sings “Good Night, But Not Goodbye,” to her alien patrons and dances with one or two, in an attempt to calmly get them out the door and on their way home because the Empire has ordered the entire planet to adhere to a curfew; Academy Award winner Art Carney (Harry and Tonto) portrays Saundan, a good hearted trader, who attempts to try and comfort Chewbacca’s family while they are waiting for him to safely arrive home. There were three other characters who were all played by “The Carol Burnett Show’s” Harvey Korman: Chef Gormaanda, who I imagine was supposed to come across as the alien version of Julia Childs – it was an exercise in pure television torture getting through that particular scene; the love sick bar patron, Krelman, who is pining for Bea Arthur’s Ackmena, who thought that when she had told him on a previous evening to “come back and see her again sometime,” that she was making advances toward him; and the Amorphian Instructor, who assists Chewbacca’s son Lumpy. There were also musical performances by Golden Globe winner Diahann Carroll, (Julia) as Mermeia Holographic Wow, who sings “This Minute Now.” She is supposed to be a creation of virtual reality brought to simulated life by a machine called a “Mind Evaporator,” which Carney’s character gives to Chewbacca’s father for entertainment. In addition, there is also a lip-synched performance by The Jefferson Starship of their song “Light the Sky on Fire.”

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In this blogger’s opinion, and I know I am not alone in the following mindset, the only redeemable aspect of the holiday special was getting to watch the first ever appearance of Mandalorian bounty hunter, Boba Fett. Voiced by Don Francks, (La Femme Nikita) Fett was introduced to fans during an eleven minute animated sequence, which was produced by Nelvana Studios of Canada. Ironically, it was the original director David Acomba, who is responsible for getting that segment into the show, which serves as an interlude between the first and second parts of the special. Nelvana Studios would continue to work within the Star Wars universe on the animated series “Droids,” (1985), and the two season animated series “Ewoks,” (1985-1987).

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Trivia buffs take note: The dress Diahann Carroll wore was designed by renowned, American fashion designer, Bob Mackie.  During the cantina scene, the viewer will see a white rat, that particular creature was made for the 1976 movie “The Food of the Gods.” In addition to the first appearance of Boba Fett, the holiday special also made history when James Earl Jones was given credit for being the voice of Darth Vader. He would not receive the recognition again until “Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” which was released in 1983.

If you are a fan of Star Wars, then probably like me, you will want to see the holiday special at least once, but don’t expect to enjoy it. I’ll reiterate I found it to be a complete and utter waste of time, with the exception of the animated Boba Fett segment. After viewing it, I can understand why I have heard fans speak so ill of it all these years and are so disheartened by its association to the beloved Star Wars franchise.

 

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About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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One Response to “The Star Wars Holiday Special – What Were They Thinking?”

  1. I remember seeing this years later thinking “How bad could it be?” Whoever made this show must have felt a great disturbance in the Force that day.

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