Chewbacca and Han Solo travel to Chewie’s home planet, where we get to meet some of the fuzzball’s family members. Luke Skywalker is there, along with C-3PO and R2-D2. Princess Leia even sings and Darth Vader makes an appearance. No, I’m not giving spoilers to Episode VII; I’m talking about the “Star Wars Holiday Special”!
These past few weeks you’ve likely re-watched many of the “Star Wars” movies in order to catch up before heading to the theater to see “The Force Awakens.” Yet you may have missed this 2-hour gem from 1978 that aired on television just one time. It has never been rebroadcast or officially released on home video. Odd for something that came on the heels of the first “Star Wars” film, which has grossed over $300 million. However, there’s a reason the “Star Wars Holiday Special” disappeared.
Anthony Daniels, who plays C-3PO, calls the show, “The horrible Holiday Special that nobody talks about.” American film critic Nathan Rabin said, “I’m not convinced the special wasn’t ultimately written and directed by a sentient bag of cocaine.” It even ranked #1 in What Were They Thinking?: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. Author David Hofstede called it “the worst two hours of television ever.” Was it really that bad? The answer is yes.
I remember seeing it as a kid. The story revolved around Life Day, an occasion celebrated by Chewbacca and others on his home world. Chewie takes pal Han Solo to his planet for the celebration and to meet his family: Father Itchy, wife Mallatobuck, and son Lumpy. I wish I were making this up, but that’s what they were called. Before they can celebrate the true meaning of the holiday, they are forced to evade those pesky storm troopers, and thereby the action ensues.
The highlight of the special is Bea Arthur’s appearance as the barkeep Ackmena, serving patrons at the famous cantina on Tatooine. This was one of Arthur’s first roles following the conclusion of her hit television show, “Maude,” and her rendition of “Good Night, But Not Goodbye” set to the “Cantina Band” theme must have been a proud moment for the Broadway star. Carrie Fisher also got a chance to croon. Leia gives a short speech on the meaning of Life Day and sings a song in celebration, to the tune of the “Star Wars” theme. Other stars also appeared in this 1970s debacle, including Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, the band Jefferson Starship, and Harvey Korman.
There was one positive note to this television disaster. The special introduced Boba Fett, one of the most popular characters in the “Star Wars” canon. There’s a piece of trivia many “Star Wars” disciples may not even know.
So when you see all the interviews and the plethora of items for sale promoting the latest billion-dollar sci-fi installment, don’t expect to hear or see any reference to the “Star Wars Holiday Special.” Conan O’Brien tried to corner Harrison Ford into talking about it during an interview, but Ford jokingly said he had no memory of it and that it didn’t exist. Carrie Fisher once told a “New York Times” columnist that she owned a copy of the special and shows it at the end of parties when she wants people to leave.
I would love to see it again, since it was 37 years ago when I last caught it. So if you want to get rid of a bootleg copy, it’s not too late to send this geek a Christmas gift.