The Star Wars Holiday Special

Year: 1978
Production Co: Smith-Hemoin Productions
Director: Steve Binder
Writer: Pat Proft/Leonard Ripps/Bruce Vilanch/Rod Warren/Mitzie Welch
Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, James Earl Jones, Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, Diahaan Carroll, Mickey Morton, Paul Gale, Patty Maloney

George Lucas said he wanted to round up every copy ever made and smash it with a sledgehammer (too late now it's on the Internet). Carrie Fisher said she puts it on during social gatherings at her house when she wants people to leave. Just how bad is it?

Here's the thing. Despite everything groundbreaking about it, Star Wars was at its heart a kids' movie. As Lucas himself commented when the Disney purchase was going through, a lot of people in the industry said Star Wars could have been a Disney movie when it came out.

So I, along with the hundreds of millions of other Generation Xers not yet old enough to ride a bicycle properly and in love with anything even peripherally related to Star Wars, would have happily watched Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie read the phone book.

If you watch it now with the benefit of adulthood and a whole lot of hindsight, you can clearly see that despite all the love for the franchise, the Star Wars name was always skirting the sharp edge of ridiculous. After all the dumb tie-ins, plans for musicals and other ill-advised properties in the Star Wars universe, this was the first time it tipped over into self-parody.

It's also a bit of a curio because the variety show format was very much a product of its time, something young TV watchers today would be bemused by. But true to the style of the era, the central story branched off into related vignettes that featured a cast of bizarre guest stars (Bea Arthur as a Mos Eisley Cantina barmaid, Art Carney as a trader and rebellion sympathiser, a juggling and acrobat act – you get the idea).

The story deals with Chewbacca trying to get back to his family on Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day, he and Han pursued by the Empire gunning for any rebel fighters involved in the destruction of the Death Star.

But most of the action is with his wife Malla, his father Itchy and son Lumpy waiting for him, and boy, is it a slog. Where Lucas wrangled special effects that look seamless to this day, CBS gave the two directors – the first one walked – a budget befitting a TV show (ie low) and the schmaltzy syrup is piled on thick. When Fisher sings the final song as Leia, smiling and gazing adoringly up at Chewie, it's no wonder she turned to alcohol and drugs to get through life.

Lucas had little to do with it, presumably signing off on CBS using his characters (the network presumably writing some fat cheques to the actors to reprise their roles). It was shown once on TV and has never been rereleased or officially mentioned again, and with good reason. If you're looking for a silver lining to the dark cloud, it does contain the first appearance of Boba Fett in an animated sequence.

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