Do you know who reviews Christmas movies and specials during December? ANYONE. Do you know who ‘cleverly’ does these reviews under a “Christmas in July” umbrella? People who can’t read a damn calendar. July is not the halfway point between Christmastime. THAT honor falls on June. With that in mind, it’s time to slice up one these Christmas specials, stick it through some skewers, throw it on the BBQ, and enjoy some out-of-season shish kabobs.
First on the menu: The Star Wars Holiday Special. Because if I’m going to do this, there’s no reason to fuck around.
Of COURSE I saw the Star Wars Holiday Special when it originally aired in 1978. I was nine years old, and it was not only my Force lovin’ duty, it was my birthright considering I knew I had to be an undiscovered Jedi myself. (If only the technology to measure my midi-chlorian count had existed at the time.) I don’t remember my exact thoughts on it from the 4th grade, but, I’m pretty sure I thought it was the Greatest Christmas Special Ever.
But that’s because 4th graders don’t know shit.
There is a reason that this had been buried in obscurity during those dark Pre-Internet years that followed. Hidden from the public conscience, it was practically forgotten, and for good reason. However, thanks to modern technology and internet “sharing”*, now everyone can access this steaming pile of Wookie dung.
Note: This will likely be the only Christmas movie/special I serve up that you can NOT find in stores or on TV. However, do not despair, for ancient texts point to a ‘bay of pirates’* willing to share what you are looking for. Also, there is a commercial free version currently on YouTube. However, the pirated version also contains some of the commercials that were shown during the ad breaks. The commercials themselves are practically worth the (free) cost of admission to view this disaster.
(*Sharing vs. Piracy, the quick version.- If you have a picture of a boat and I take it from you, either directly or surreptitiously, that is stealing, or “Piracy”. If you have a picture of a boat and then I get a copy of the same picture, leaving you with your copy, THAT is “Sharing”. This is my legal defense. For further questions, please see my attorney, Mr. Lando Calrissian.)
The Star Wars Holiday Christmas Special is one of those things that once you see it, you can never UN-see it. Be warned that if you STILL hold Star Wars to be a sacred story held in a magical universe that even Jar-Jar Binks couldn’t sully, you may not want to watch any of this. This makes “Episode One” look like Shakespeare. Barely two minutes of Art Carney is all it will take and you’ll be BEGGING for dialogue like “Hold me like you did when we were on Naboo.”
Was the special a cash grab by George Lucas? Was it intended to keep “Star Wars Fever” going between movies? Was it meant to help push all the Star Wars toys and merchandise? Was this just the byproduct of hubris and a satchel full of narcotics?
Not too long ago, I cracked open a nice bottle of Scotch, and set out to record my thoughts as I watched the Star Wars Holiday Special for the first time in over three decades. The world may never know the real reasons behind this atrocity, but just like the Holocaust or 9/11, perhaps by studying it we can prevent a tragedy like this from ever occurring again.
0:00 – Oh good, they’ve spared no expense. Meaning, they’ve clearly decided to use out-take footage from the movie instead of filming new stuff. But don’t worry, ‘cause Han is going to get Chewbacca home in time for Life Day! (A holiday that NEVER gets mentioned again in the Star Wars universe outside of this ‘special’.)
2:00- It’s like the person reading the credits has never heard of C-3P0 based on his inflection. That’s okay. Star Wars wasn’t that popular at the time.
2:30 – “Introducing Chewbacca’s Family….” Itchy! Lumpy! Malla! All names that sound like they came from a writer’s session where someone said “We need Wookie names like Itchy and Lumpy and Malla… but not actually THOSE names. Those are laughably bad.” but then they just got high and forgot to change them.
2:45- The list of celebrities is both overwhelming AND underwhelming. (BEATRICE Arthur! Art Carney! Dianne Carrol! Jefferson Starship! Harvey Korman!)
3:30 – 8:30- You’d THINK a scene with a Wookie family grunting at each other would be cute at the very least, but, sadly, no. After twenty or thirty seconds of various wailing and warbling with no OTHER discernable dialogue it’s just annoying and grating. This scene goes on for FIVE DAMN minutes. SERIOUSLY. Sure, you can follow their intents by the way they mime their actions (Watch as they pine for Chewbacca.) but, the Wookie growling is ceaseless. Five minutes of this is just way too long. Please change it to anything else. We aren’t even at the ten minute mark and this is a very bad sign.
8:30 – Now the Wookies are using their 3-D Hologram Chess board to watch the worst Cirque de Soleil rip-off in the galaxy. And THIS lasts two and a half awful minutes. It’s like they want you to long for the Wookie bleating from moments earlier.
11:35 – Nice Tandy computer, Wookie.
12:30- In a galaxy far far away, they have Skype too. Let’s check in on a disinterested Luke Skywalker.
14:30 – I think Luke is trying to seduce Malla. (Or however you spell Chewbacca’s wife’s name. I’m not looking it up in a nerd database. Just as I’m not going to argue that Chewbacca HAS missed Life Day before when he was a slave in the salt mines BEFORE Han Solo saved him. This isn’t about nitpicking the minutia and history of the Star Wars universe. It’s about… well… I don’t know WHAT this is about. But, as liberal as I am, I’m disturbed watching Human/Wookie flirtation. Especially because that’s Chewbacca’s MOM, dude.)
16:00- Hooray. Here comes Art Carney. I think he’s playing a sketchy black market dealer. I’m not sure, and I don’t care. Either way, his puns are unforgivable. But, it does make me wonder who pitched the idea that “Star Wars is great, but you know what it needs? Art Carney and a barrel full of bad puns.”
19:15- Darth Vader! Darth Vader! Darth Vader!
19:30- And he’s gone. Sigh. At least here comes some commercials. If you’re watching and following along with this breakdown, this is a good time to start drinking if you haven’t been already. Numb your brain as much as you can. It’ll be for the best.
22:00- Oh God. Harvey Korman is doing some “Future Julia Child” schtick, and he’s going to teach us how to cook “Bantha Surprise”. Chewbacca’s mother is having whimsical trouble following along. I, on the other hand, am regretting my decision to document this train wreck.
24:30- Dear Santa- All I want for Life Day is for this awful cooking sketch to end. No? Then I’d like to go blind.
28:00- Ah, shit. Art Carney is back, and now he’s visiting the Chewbacca family, bearing gifts and even more puns. (“Why all the long hairy faces?”). It’s moments like this that make me wonder why Star Wars fans were ever surprised by Ewoks or Jar Jar.
30:50- I shit you not, I think Art Carney and these Wookies invented a variation of Digital Underground’s Sex Packets. (Take a pill, and then hallucinate an intense sexual experience.) The Wookies just use a visor instead of a pill. And now, Dianne Carrol is going to seduce us with futuristic music and a silver wig. There isn’t enough booze in the world to make this comfortable to watch. The Wookie is watching hologram Dianne Carrol tell him “I am your FANTASY” over and over. I am creeped out beyond repair at this moment. If they show this Wookie actually start masturbating, I’m OUT.
38:00 – Princess Leia is here, and I’ll bet every nickel in my pocket that she’s high as a KITE right now. And I can’t tell if it’s Princess Leia or Carrie Fisher that keeps looking at C3P0 with total disgust and disdain right now. (It’s probably a little from column ‘A’, and a little from column ‘B’.)
41:00- A commercial for CBS programming- All In The Family! Alice! Lucille Ball does a special in Nashville with Ronnie Milsap and more! Dallas! (Side note: To air this special, CBS had to pre-empt both ‘Wonder Woman’ AND ‘The Incredible Hulk’. So… overall, it’s a push.)
42:30- I swear to you, this commercial for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union is real and not a fake. But it has to be seen to be believed.
44:00- The “Reggie Bar” commercial. Those WERE pretty tasty. The commercials are standing out as the more interesting and appealing part of this entire special.
46:00- I’d be worried about the Stormtroopers that have come to the Wookie home looking for Chewbacca if I actually cared. Maybe at nine years old I was entranced by the plot, but not anymore. This whole thing has become an endurance test.
46:30- Thanks to Art Carney and this awful Imperial Administrator, I have to say that the Wookies are better actors than the humans.
49:00- Hang on to your ass. It’s Starship. Or Jefferson Starship. I don’t care. I’m starting to understand why I have no strong memory of watching this. I blacked it out. This is a pre-MTV-era music video. This hurts. I’m glad I have no memory of watching this in my childhood.
54:00 – The Jefferson Starship scene is over and I have NO recollection of it already. I think the key to forgetting the entire special may be tied to this scene. Within moments of it ending, I couldn’t tell you anything about it. Thank the maker!
56:00- Now with minimal fanfare, and no explanation, here’s a Star Wars cartoon. It’s being watched by the Wookie child in what looks like a desk sized View Master. I can’t begin to explain how bad the art style is. It’s like weak Japanese Anime crossed with the Little Orphan Annie comic strip. Also, I swear they’ve been joined by the mustachioed villain from the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
59:00- I’m pretty drunk and can’t follow the story line of this cartoon, but I doubt that it’s going to matter. None of this matters. Hey- I just saw Boba Fett!
1:00:30 – Why are we trusting Boba Fett again? He’s a bounty hunter with ties to the Empire. Oh, the hell with this. I’m gonna eat some Pumpkin Pie and wait for this frickin’ cartoon to end.
1:02:00 – This cartoon has nothing to do with the plotline involving getting Chewbacca home for Life Day. This is just some god damned filler in a special jammed with nothing BUT filler.
1:02:15 – As the cartoon showed Boba Fett working to TRAP Chewbacca and company, it then showed the Wookie child freaking out because he’s worried. This makes NO sense. Why is he watching cartoons of people he KNOWS? And, why would he be worried about what happens to them in the cartoon? It’s not real to him. Even in his world, the cartoon is still a damn cartoon. Stupid Wookies.
1:06:00 – Ah… a commercial with Valerie Bertinelli the way I will always remember her- Young and beautiful and plugging a CBS show for “Bobby Vinton’s Rock’ N Rollers on Roller Skates”. With Eve Arden! Stockard Channing! Fabian! They put ANYTHING on TV in 1978, it seems.
1:09:00 – Back to the inexplicable cartoon. Han Solo is being drawn like a beefy Shaggy. And if you listen closely, you can hear Harrison Ford just phoning in his dialogue. It sounds like they captured him at the table read, knowing he’d never come back to actually record it. When you hear it, you can understand why, but this is NOT Harrison Ford’s best performance.
1:11:45 – The first line of dialogue that actually made me laugh, and I don’t think it was supposed to. When the pointless cartoon ended, focus shifted back to the ‘real world’ of the Wookies. After the Stormtroopers have torn the Wookie house apart gleefully while looking for contraband or anything that would connect them to the Rebels, the Imperial Administrator walks over to the annoying child Wookie and slowly tells him “Go clean up your room”. Take that, annoying Wookie child. (This is followed by the same Nazi-esque guy turning to a Stormtrooper and saying “That will keep him busy for a while.” Just in case you didn’t think the Empire and their employees were big enough dicks. But it made me laugh. It took over an hour, but I finally laughed.)
1:14:30 – Harvey Korman is playing the “I’m a robot with issues surrounding slowing down or speeding up” game. This has to end. I may have to tap out. I can’t take this. It’s not funny when he speeds up. It’s not funny when he slows down. It’s not funny when he smacks his head to try to “fix” it. Seriously, who the fuck looked at this finished product and thought this was worth airing on television? I know that the 70’s were filled with drugs, but, I don’t know what drug ruins your ability to evaluate quality THAT badly. Nobody on coke could have sat through this. Weed, maybe. Might make it more amusing. Barely. I’m guessing the drug responsible was Mescaline. Heads should roll. There is no way in hell this ever should have gotten out of the edit bay. A test pattern would be more watchable.
1:17:45 – TOBOR is ROBOT spelled backwards. (A commercial for a toy robot with the creepiest horror movie music behind it proves that the now outdated ads are the best part of this entire experience.)
1:19:00 – An entire commercial for Whirlpool showing nothing but an American Eagle and using the most jingoistic blather imaginable. You’d think Whirlpool was running for Congress. If the ad ended with “Whirlpool. FUCK YEAH!”, it wouldn’t have seemed out of place.
1:20:00- The Empire has declared everyone has to turn on their “TVs” to watch a documentary about Life on Tattoine. The Wookies obey, and this is the weak transition that takes us to the familiar Mos Eisley Spaceport Cantina. Finally, here is Beatrice Arthur. And she’s joined by Harvey Korman in his THIRD role so far. I’ve wasted far too much of my life on Star Wars. This much is clear to me now. 35 more minutes to go and I may be done forever.
1:23:00 – Hey- I’ve seen that six fingered glove before! Indigo Montoya ends up killing the dude wearing it!
1:23:50 – Even in 1978, Bea Arthur was not someone you wanted to watch have ‘woo’ pitched to. Especially by Harvey Korman. Try to wrap your head around this: It’s a Star Wars TV special, ostensibly for Christmas, and they’ve got Harvey Korman trying to nearly seduce Bea Arthur. I promise you, I’m NOT making this up.
1:25:10 – The Tattoine Documentary is interrupted by a video message from the Empire to warn of what is essentially Marshall Law. BUT, this video message is ALSO visible in the Cantina bar. Not only can the Wookie family see this sudden warning of Marshall Law, but so do the people in the pre-recorded Tattoine Documentary. This makes NO sense. The writers aren’t even fucking TRYING to use logic anymore. The Wookie baby watches cartoons featuring people in his own life. The Tattoine documentary becomes PART of the narrative? And why won’t the bar patrons listen to Bea Arthur when she tries to enforce the Empire’s shutdown? Because they need one more drink and they need to hear Bea Arthur sing a song ABOUT having one more drink, and she’s going to sing it to a rat of extremely large size. It seems like I’d rather be watching “The Princess Bride” since this scene unintentionally references it more than once, but, the fact is, this Star Wars Holiday Special officially makes me wish I was watching the Bee Gee’s interpretation of “Sgt. Peppers” instead.
1:32:10 – Is that Andre the Giant? Am I so drunk that everything looks like something from “The Princess Bride” now?
1:33:00- The Stormtroopers have been duped by the Wookie child. This is why their Empire will never last. Fully trained Stormtrooper soldiers were outsmarted by a Wookie middle-schooler.
1:35:50 – Even 35+ years later, an Egg McMuffin commercial still works. The fact that I’m HAMMERED might be helping. (Don’t you dare judge me. YOU sit through this and stay sober.)
1:38:00 – One remaining Stormtrooper is threatening the Wookie Child. And, you know what? I’m rooting for the Stormtrooper. Whip his monkey ass ‘till it ain’t no fun.- Wait…. Nevermind… it’s HAN SOLO to the motherfuckin’ rescue. Let’s sit back and delight in watching Harrison Ford hug actors in monkey suits, now that we know just how much he hates this.
1:39:00- You know what I just realized? In none of the other movies do they mention Chewbacca’s family. Maybe right after this Life Day special, the Empire came back and killed them all slowly, one by one. At least I can hope. I hope they made Chewie and Han watch, too.
1:41:00 – I think we just came very very close to seeing Wookie sex.
1:41: 30- Ah shit, it’s Art Carney again. Why won’t he die? Does he have blackmail photos of George Lucas? Why the hell are he and Harvey Korman all over this thing?
1:44:00 – And now the whole Wookie family holds tiny jack-o-lanterns to celebrate “Life Day” with Wookies in what appear to be “Wookie Heaven”, and the dead Wookies wear red robes and they’re walking into an exploding sun. And it’s STILL better than the scene with Bea Arthur.
1:48:30 – Luke! Leia! Han! C-3P0! R2-D2! The whole gang is reunited! Harrison Ford is delivering his lines through gritted teeth, and what’s this? Oh boy! Leia SINGS! Do I need mention how HIGH she is?
1:51:00 – More out-take footage from the actual Star Wars movie. We’re nearing home! This is almost OVER! I had hoped there would be another appearance from Darth Vader, but… well… I don’t care. I want out. Please. Start the car. I want to leave. We’re minutes away.
1:53:00 – What a surprise! A commercial for a shit-ton of Star Wars toys. And I think I had almost ALL of them. And if I still had them? They’d be worth a fortune. Thanks for throwing them out, MOM. Sheesh.
1:54:30- I think Chewbacca’s kid was the original Gizmo. Let’s throw water on him to see what happens. Or just acid. This is so slow paced, it’s like they KNOW we’re dying to get the hell out of here. It’s like the end of a Catholic church service during the holidays. And as they go to the credits, you see a lot of names that people wish they could redact. This would have been the perfect place for an apology from Lucas, or ANYONE. Even some random guy on the street saying “I’m Sorry.”
1:56:30 – I wish I could stick around for the episode of “Flying High” with guest star Lyle Waggoner, next. Anything to wash the nasty taste of The Star Wars Christmas Special out of my mouth.
So… there you have it. I don’t know if I can actually recommend watching it, but, there is a certain sense of pride for enduring it that almost negates the sense of horror and shame of wasting 2+ hours on it.
Happy Life Day in June, everyone. May the Force be with you. Fight the Frizzies!