The Old Fan’s Commentary On
The Star Wars Holiday Special
My brain hurts. Just watching this was a chore. I’ve now seen it five times in my life, which was five too many. I can’t even introduce it properly because it’s terrible in ways that are beyond description.
I wouldn’t watch it in advance, despite the fact that I’ll be streaming it from a YouTube version that’s been available for years. In this case, I strongly advise that you pay attention to my commentary rather than the Holiday Special.
It’s really bad. It’s not so bad it’s good, it’s just bad.
It was bad when I first saw it in 1978. It only aired once and never again. It has never been released on any form of home video or official streaming. It survives because by 1978, people were starting to buy VCRs.
The Holiday Special is so bad that George Lucas has disowned it, saying:
“If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”
Fortunately (or not) for posterity, the Internet means that it will never die.
This commentary is about my feelings when seeing this bizarre monstrosity for the first time. It’s the only kind of commentary I can make.
I’ll not be playing The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy this week. The Holiday Special is about 1:40. I was faced with the choice of either leaving in H2G2 and stretching this madness into two weeks; or save your sanity by bumping H2G2.
I chose to save your sanity. H2G2 will be back next week.
Also next week: the Old Fan’s Commentary On Forbidden Planet.
To set the stage:
It’s 1978. Everything we’ve come to take for granted didn’t exist. There was no streaming, no Blurays, no DVDs, no CDs, no personal computers of note, no Internet, and even the telephone was only a land-line to your house. VCRs were beginning to hit the market. Cassette tapes had become the medium of choice for personal music.
Star Wars had hit a year before and changed everything. There were no summer blockbusters before Star Wars. There were no gigantic merchandising enterprises before Star Wars. There was no science fiction of note except very, very infrequently before Star Wars.
Star Wars changed everything.
When the Special aired around US Thanksgiving, Lucas was at work on the sequel to Star Wars. I don’t recall if he’d named it at that time. I’d been actively in fandom for at least a year, having joined Star Base Andromeda by then.
While we thought it odd that there would be a holiday-themed special in Star Wars, it could work. The notion of a Wookiee Life Day — if fleshed-out — could be a parallel to Christmas.
What we got was incomprehensible. There were really only two good things about it:
- The entire main cast was in it. According to Harrison Ford, it was stipulated in their contracts and they had no legal way out.
- The cartoon introducing Boba Fett.
Beyond that, it’s a bizarre attempt to fit a variety show into Star Wars. To call this an epic fail would do a disservice to all other fails. It has, among other things:
- Carrie Fisher is obviously out of her mind on blow.
- Mark Hamill is recovering from a car accident that severely injured his face. They put a ton of makeup and a wig on him to (unsuccessfully) hide it. He looks like a cardboard cutout.
- Chewie’s wife is named Mala — but his son is named Lumpy and his father Itchie.
- More than half an hour of un-subtitled Wookiee noises.
- Harvey Korman in multiple roles. The worst is some guy in the Mos Eisley Cantina who pours booze into a hole at the top of his head.
- Art Carney as some kind of rebel sympathizer who’s around primarily to translate the Wookiees. That, and to give Itchy some VR porn.
- Bea Arthur as a singing bartender at the Mos Eisley Cantina.
- Jefferson Starship
- The Wazzan Troupe
Really. It’s all in there — and more. It’s rather indescribable, hence the commentary.
We’ll be streaming the video via YouTube, so feel free to follow along. Again, I advise not watching in advance, nor listening to anything other than my commentary. It’s quite possible to go mad attempting to figure this out.
If you want to follow along, the video is right here; or you can see it at: