You’ve just got through making one of the most brilliant science fiction films of all time. Sure, you’ve not even come close to experiencing just how successful the film will be, or how much money it will make you in the long run, but you know that you’re on to a winner. What’s next? A sequel? A franchise? Or maybe you could forgo all of that and ruin everything you’ve created by throwing together the single worst Christmas special ever made? Yeah, that sounds good.
If you haven’t figured out already (the title of this piece should have been a big giveaway) I’m referring to George Lucas’ decision to allow CBS to bastardize the Star Wars legacy with the Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired for the first – and last – time on 17th November, 1978.
In theory, the special shouldn’t have sucked. After all, George Lucas was on board, as were the original cast. Hell, the writing team was lead by Pat Proft of Police Academy and Police Squad fame for Christ’s sake. But somehow all of this seemed to be lost in translation largely thanks to its continual rewrites by writers better suited to the variety circuit than the greatest story ever told.
The plot, if that’s what you want to call it, sees Han and Chewy return to the walking carpet’s home planet of Kashyyyk, to spend ‘Life Day’ with Chewbacca’s adorable family – his hideous wife (he could do much better, just sayin’), a grizzly old bastard who probably doubled as Kranky Kong in later life, and his son, Lumpawaroo, the Scrappy Doo of the piece. It’s just like I’ll be Home for Christmas but with Wookies.
There was also a subplot involving Stormtroopers turning up at the door and almost spoiling Christm … I mean, Life Day … but by that point much of the audience had zoned out, slipped into a coma, or died.
Also, thrown into the mix was a musical interlude by Carrie Fisher, Boba Fett as a cartoon and Bea Arthur, looking dazed and confused. Many of the original cast members who appeared claimed later that they had been contractually obliged to appear, lest they find themselves removed from any future movies. Considering the shambles that The Star Wars Holiday Special was, it’s a surprise there even were any future movies.
Immediately following the premiere, George Lucas is said to have gone into damage control overload, refusing CBS the rights to show reruns, and cock-blocking any attempts to release it on home video. It was as if the show never happened, and it sure as hell wasn’t considered canon. As far as Lucas was concerned, The Star Wars Holiday Special was deader than Uncle Owen – and that sucker was very dead!
Fast forward a few years and someone uploaded a copy to YouTube, allowing a whole new generation to witness the horror for themselves, and thus a legend was born again.
If you grew up in the era of the prequels then its probably harder to understand just how bad The Star Wars Holiday Special really was. By the time Jar Jar became the stuff of nightmares, any credibility old George had was thrown out of the window. But for those of us that only had the original movies – the Holy Trinity as it were – there was just no coming back from such a horrible attempt to cash in on greatness. It was a mistake that almost ruined Christmas, never mind Star Wars, and it is one that must never be repeated.