“Why do I always think gettin’ you home for Life Day is gonna be easy?”
So says a languid Han Solo to an excitable Chewbacca in the legendarily awful 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. Perhaps the most infamous Television Christmas Special ever made, The Star Wars Holiday Special is a mythic assault on fanboy watchability. There are shows that are so good they’re bad, the kind of outing where laughable moments and poor production add an air of ironic, even classic credibility. Then there’s The Star Wars Holiday Special. So bad its good just doesn’t apply here. This two-hour spinoff is utterly unwatchable save for a brief section of animation wedged between the overcooked buns of this whopper of a fail.
While the idea of a Star Wars Christmas special may have sounded good on paper, this Lucasfilm misstep left a blemish on Star Wars even greater than Jar Jar. Of all the Star Wars stories and countless expanded Universe canon, The Star Wars Holiday Special to this day remains the worst bit of Star Wars fiction ever produced. Following the story of Chewbacca’s family on the Wookie planet of Kashykk, the special focuses on the day to day activities the family tend to while waiting for Chewie and Han’s return to celebrate Life Day (because Christ isn’t a character in the Expanded Universe). I’d worship Yoda. Maybe I do…
Back to the “story.” Chewie’s grey-haired, Yeti-like father, Itchy, his oddly similar looking wife Malla and small son Lumpy all do various things to wait out Chewie’s return with a cast of random B-list celebrities of the late 1970’s sloppily strewn about. What do Wookie’s do in their spare time you ask? Itchy watches some virtual porn through a holographic helmet where Diahann Carroll seductively serenades his Wookie desires. Malla cooks some Bantha loin by following the directions of a multi-armed, Julia Child inspired alien chef played by Harvey Korman (Hedley Lamarr from Blazing Saddles). Lumpy, well who cares really. Here’s an interesting factoid about Lumpy (and awful Christmas spinoff’s) though. Lumpy is played by Patty Maloney who also starred as one of Santa’s elves in the 1988 Jim Varney classic Ernest Saves Christmas. “KnowhutImean?”
There’s more, lots more, but who really cares about Bea Arthur slaughtering the song from the Mos Eisley cantina? Ok, I do, but let’s move on. This special is more Spaceballs than Star Wars. Hell, its more Spaceballs than Spaceballs. I suspect today’s equivalent to The Star Wars Holiday Special would star Neil Patrick Harris and Kathy Griffin, with maybe a Cee-Lo or a Hugh Jackman singing number, and the little Wookie Lumpy played sassily by Snooki or Honey-Boo-Boo.
Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and James Earl Jones (Vader’s voice) all reprise their roles for brief segments of blatantly phoned-in acting. Fans of Star Wars were excused if they were weary about the release of Empire Strikes Back two years later. Think about how weary you may be about Star Wars VII after the prequels. Post Holiday Special fans had even more reason to fear. The only decent performance by a returning cast member is Anthony Daniels bit as C3-PO, and he plays a robot.
It takes literal animation to animate any of the characters in the special, and that came with the animated short; “The Faithful Wookie.” Nelvana animation put together a great side story that first introduced Boba Fett to the Star Wars Universe, jetpack, rope-gun and all. Riding on the back of a dinosaur-like sea dragon, Boba for the first time deceives Han and company, forever solidifying his role as bounty hunter extraordinaire. This is the greatest gift the Holiday Special gives. The introduction of Boba Fett, one of Star Wars’ most beloved characters is a far greater gift than the Jefferson Starship performance and C-List cameos. For this reason alone, we should be thankful this holiday season, and for many to come, for the train wreck that is The Star Wars Holiday Special.
Happy Life Day!