Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Craptacular Star Wars Holiday Special

Just how awful was The Star Wars Holiday Special? So bad that it only aired once and has never been released on VHS or DVD. So bad that George Lucas himself alienated himself from the project. So bad that Conan O'Brien has used a clip from it to embarrass Harrison Ford during one of his appearances as a guest on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. So bad, that the only thing that could make it better would be for Bill Murray to make a cameo as his SNL Nick the Lounge Singer character crooning his made-up lyrics to the Star Wars theme.

Actually, it's quite surprising that Bill Murray didn't make an appearance in the 1978 train wreck, because Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman, Starship Airplane and Art Carney did. It's almost like the producers tried to turn the Star Wars legacy into a comedy variety show--in one segment, Bea plays a singing bartender and Harvey is a four-armed alien who tries to romance her and consumes alcohol (or whatever concoction they imbibe on the planet Tatooine) by pouring it into a hole in his head. The comic relief is well intended, but it's also a little embarrassing. The storyline also takes place on "Happy Life Day" (the equivalent of Christmas) and introduces us to the disturbing notion of Wookies procreating; we discover that Chewbacca has a wife, son, and father. It also introduced the character of Boba Fett (via a cartoon) and features Carrie Fisher as Princess Leah singing at the end. 

All of which, I'll admit, sounds intriguing. I've never seen the special in its entirety and I don't even remember it as a kid, but the clips are out there and it's possible to watch the whole thing on YouTube. George Lucas loathed it, and told fans that it didn't match his vision of Star Wars. TV Guide ranked it number 11 on their "25 Most Hilarious Holiday TV Moments", mentioning that it was "unintentionally hilarious". The toy company Kenner was planning on creating characters of Chewbacca's family, but after the poor reception the special received, it canceled them. Supposedly prototypes still exist; I would imagine they're worth quite a bit of moolah. 

Here's some clips from the program; you can judge for yourself. And I'd like to wish all of my readers who celebrate a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Life Day!


Harvey and Bea's romantic interlude seems so out of place in the Star Wars story:

Some say that Bea's performance was one of the better parts of the special. 

11 comments:

Keir said...

Itchy and Lumpy? What the hell kind of names are those for wookies?! I admit, Chewbacca's wife is a catch, but why would they choose to name their kid Lumpy?
Have to say, I miss that holiday specials. Probably wouldn't bother with them now, but I remember as a kid looking forward to them and getting excited as the time grew near to airing. Another thing we've lost...

Teena in Toronto said...

Happy holidays :)

Desiree said...

Oh my God, I thought this was just a joke! I didn't know the Star Wars Christmas special was real! Thank you for sharing. This is...hard to watch. But as always, hats off to Bea Arthur.

Chelly said...

Great write up Pam! I have not seen this one. Wow.

PS: hope you had a lovely Christmas! :)

Pam@GoRetro said...

Keir--I know, dreadful! Chewbacca's "voice" always bothered me so listening to all of those wookies during the opening sequence is very annoying to me, like fingernails on a chalkboard.

There are some specials still being shown today--Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, etc. However, The Grinch is only shown on cable as well as some of the lesser known specials.

Teena-thank you, and same to you!

Desiree-yes, unfortunately it does exist...the opening credits are priceless! And I agree about Bea.

Chelly-George Lucas would have preferred that no one had ever seen it. I hope you had a nice Christmas as well!

Darrin.. said...

HA! Thanks for the memories! I don't remember it being such a stinker when I was 8 years old. I was such a huge STAR WARS fan, ANYTHING STAR WARS related was like candy to me!

Darrin.. said...

P.S.: Happy Life Day!

Nick and Nora Charles said...

Oh dear. I was a big Star Wars fan as a child - I was 7 when it was released.

I don't think Australian audiences were inflicted with the Christmas special (if so, I've blotted it from memory).

However I do remember a couple of dodgy Star Wars themed albums floating around the house including this gem - http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/File:Galactic_funk.jpg

42N said...

Although I don't remember watching this Star Wars tv special, chances are I did. These clips prove that if I had missed the original air date of the special I didn't miss much.

Things got weird on the SW series after the first three movies. Craptacular is the correct word for it.

Thanks for the laughs Pam. Keep writing this blog. I really enjoy reading it and remembering the 1960s '70s and '80s through your recollections.

Amanda By Night said...

This holiday special is INSANE. But I have the song sung by Bea Arthur on my iPod. It's more because I like Bea, cuz it's not that great of a song! :)

Anonymous said...

I love reading the comments. Especially when some think it was a made-up joke. (Ahh, Luke, let me tell you about the Wookie Holiday"). Isn't reality crazy?

Excellent write up giving people the skinny on this Star Wars legend. However, I was in my teens when this aired and we (my SW friends and I)awaited this with great anticipation. See, other than the movie in the theaters, there was very little on SW at the time. Only thing that comes to mind is the Making of special. So when we heard that ALL 3 stars of SW (Carrie,Mark and Harrison) were going to be in this we were excited. And then we heard that a new character was to be introduced that would be in the next movie, so well, we just HAD to watch this thing. It had to be great with all this in it, right?

Man, we kinda liked the animated sequence, but this special really blows. It was bad back then and having seen it recently again, it's still bad. Ya gotta see it all the way thru to truly appreciate it, it's so bad it's good. And for a few moments I was a teen again glued to the tube.

But seriously kids, it's way better than Phantom Menace. Ain't it,George?:P

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