Monday, December 21, 2009

Star Wars TV "Holiday Special" From 1978

Do you remember that in November 1978 CBS aired a two hour Star Wars Holiday Special? It was almost all live action and featured extended appearances (in character) by all of the stars of the original 1977 Star Wars film, including Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. The show was in a sort of variety show format, amazingly enough. But the overall plot involved returning Chewbacca to his family in time for the wookie equivalent of Christmas (called "Life Day"). The special also featured other aging comedy stars of the 1970s, like Harvey Korman, Art Carney and Bea Arthur, as well as musical acts, including Jefferson Starship (yes, really).

This special was so unbelievably, unwatchably terrible that it aired only that one time. George Lucas has never allowed it to be re-aired or released on DVD or in any other way in the 30 years since then. (I remember watching it on TV at the time and thinking, even as a young kid, that it was terrible. I turned it off well before the end.) That alone has made it a much sought after "cult classic," however, out of all proportion to its actual quality or entertainment value. But the gem at its heart was a 9 minute animated short featuring the first ever appearance of Bobba Fett, which is actually pretty good. I've embedded that below.
How can something be both unbelievably boring and simultaneously cringe-inducing? Well, you can see for yourself if you watch the second, 5 minute clip from the special that I've embedded below. Someone has cleverly abridged the live action portions of the 2 hour show down to 5 minutes of "highlights," including a Bea Arthur song and dance number in the creature cantina, Art Carney as Chewbacca's home town junk peddler, and Carrie Fisher closing out the show by singing a musical ode to Life Day. If you watch this, it will give you a great idea what the whole show was really like, and why George Lucas has buried it.

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