The Christmas season is full of regrettable television specials. Most are viewed once and never heard from again. But none are as notorious as the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. Aired only once on CBS in November 1978, this little nugget of Star Wars lore is the one thing George Lucas prefers to be buried and forgotten.
If you’ve never had a chance to see it, count yourself lucky. That said, it is also required viewing for any Star Wars fan. It is set in the time between Episode IV A New Hope and Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. But, it really doesn’t make any reference to events in either movie. It reunites the key characters of Luke (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), not to mention C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). Oh sure, Darth Vader is there too but in recycled footage from Star Wars (1977). The rest are all new characters that, thankfully, were all one and done appearances.
Bea Arthur (yes, the Golden Girl herself) is featured in the Cantina reunion scene, probably one of the better sequences despite her singing. Art Carney is Saun Dann, a trader and, admittedly, he doesn’t do too bad. Then, we have Harvey Korman. Harvey always makes me laugh but his sequences here are just so out-of-place in the Star Wars universe that they are painful. At least he comes off a little better than Chewbacca’s family, Malla, Itchy and Lumpy. They were never mentioned before or ever again.
The special is a train wreck of epic proportions. From Carrie Fisher’s drugged out appearance and painful musical number to Mark Hamill wearing eye shadow (reportedly to help cover up his recovery from a car accident, of which there are a million theories), the characters do their best with what is given to them. Harrison Ford is fairly good, although he looks bored and uninspired. Did I mention the musical numbers? Yes, we also have songs from Diahann Carroll and Jefferson Starship. And that is all that needs to be said about that.
The only good part of this special is the animated sequence with Boba Fett. Boba Fett had not yet appeared on screen as his footage was cut from the original print of Star Wars. This was his debut and the short story is actually entertaining. Other than the nostalgic fun of watching old commercials, which are intact in some bootleg prints, this is the sole saving grace of the Star Wars Holiday Special.
George Lucas would love if this special just disappeared. In fact, it did after its’ original airing. However, by the 1990s, VHS copies began to surface and they haven’t gone away since. Currently, the special is available on YouTube minus the animated sequence and commercials. However, you can see Boba Fett and the commercials separately, if you so desire. This is mandatory viewing this holiday season, especially since there is another little Star Wars film hitting the theaters. I wonder if Itchy is going to make a special cameo appearance?