This thing has an almost mythological status. Most have heard of it in some capacity, but for those who haven't, here's the short version:
It's 1978. Star Wars made a lot of money at the box office that no one expected it to make. Someone (maybe George Lucas, maybe not) signed the rights over to a company that produced variety shows. And The Star Wars Holiday Special was birthed in all of its horrid, mind-achingly insane glory. Afterwards, like popping a chub at the Thanksgiving table, everyone quietly agreed that it had never happened. But this is the internet, and nothing disappears completely. Even if it was made almost 40 years ago.
|After all, this thing is still around.|
With the rumors of how badly this show made the audience want to pluck out their own eyes, and how it makes fans of Star Wars wish they could sand-blast part of their brains after seeing it, I had to watch. But what it did to my sense of reality can never be undone. Sadly, the best I can do after having seen this thing is walk you through it step-by-step. I'm hoping that this approach will help me piece together what I've witnessed, and that large chunk of my sanity that shattered along the way.
So, let's talk about the beginning. Things start off in less than promising fashion with Han Solo and Chewbacca heading back to Chewbacca's home planet for "Life Day" (which is really just Christmas without calling it that). There, we meet Chewbacca's family...because remember all those times you thought to yourself, "That hairy dude who only Han Solo can understand is pretty interesting, I wonder what his family is like." No? You never wondered that? Well, I can't imagine why not.
|The Wookie "homestead."|
Neither, apparently, could the people who put this thing together. Because it turns out, this "Wookie" family pantomimes their way through family arguments, conversations, or whatever the hell you'd call an eternity and a half of growling at one another and waiving their arms around.
Eventually, there's a holographic dance number on one of those tables C3P0 and Chewbacca play chess on in the Millenium Falcon (this is called fan-service). Your guess as to why this happens is as good as mine since...you know...all the "characters" do is grunt and growl at one another.
It's like some version of Cirque-de-Soliel as envisioned by whoever wrote that Willy Wonka tunnel speech.
|"There's no Wookie way of knowing, where our sanity is going..."|
Chewbacca's family is worried, so they Skype-dial Luke Skywalker.
|Who....somehow, looks more like plastic than I remember.|
And then, things keep going along on that path. Chewbacca's family Skype-dials up some variety scene. Something ridiculous happens (barely within the realm of "story"), and then on to the next. All of it Star Wars-themed in the barest sense of the word.
|Take this scene of an Imperial "Lord Helmet" with Art Carney in a Han Solo vest as an example.|
|Art Carney...for those of you who don't know who I'm talking about...is the one in the hat|
|Yep, and this scene lasts for a full five minutes.|
Finally, we get back to Han and Chewie. Or rather, we get back to them in a cardboard mock-up of the Falcon's cockpit with inter-cut shots from Star Wars as Tie Fighters attack.
Art Carney brings over some gifts because that's what you do on "Life Day" and then the old codger Wookie jumps into a virtual reality machine to watch some other culturally-prescient person from 1978.
|Seriously, who IS this?? And why is she so....70s!?!?|
And, again, we get a momentary appearance from an original cast member. Princess Leia Skypes in alongside C3P0 because she (along with everyone watching) is looking for Han and Chewbacca. Though, so is the Empire.
|Blah, blah, blah...[insert Carrie Fisher drug reference].|
There's also a Jefferson Starship musical number....because someone wanted to make this thing age terribly on top of all its other problems.
|I swear, this isn't what it looks like.|
The overall point here is that there's not a single bit of this show that is more than tangentially connected to Star Wars.
|Those are the clothes alright, but that's where it stops.|
Well, back to the "plot," I guess. That super-hairy-family is raided by the Empire. Of course, (because Lucas wants to make things for the children) the little one turns on his Skype-machine and tunes into a cartoon. Wait, what?!!!?!
|Apparently, no one cares that the audience can't read "Wookie."|
OH, GOD...It's suddenly a cartoon!! Because, that's cheaper. Let's be honest. I mean, the Wookie-family story structure really didn't hold things together half as well as that cocaine-minded producer imagined it would. And it's a good thing too because it gets us back to what makes Star Wars the Star Wars we know and love. That element of nostalgia (before he was nostalgia) is Boba Fett...as he beats his burden animal.
|*THWACK* Boba Fett, ladies and gents!!|
Mostly because our main characters needed to stay in "character stasis" until the next movie, this part of the Holiday Special focuses on Boba.
|One more time...because this is the only part of this two hours that people won't talk about derisively forty years later.|
So, anyways. Boba Fett, the bounty hunter, is searching for Han Solo. He dials up Darth Vader, just to fit him in for about 10 seconds. All this happens as that Wookie dude is watching on his Skype-machine-thing because the Empire is searching his treehouse home for signs of Chewbacca.
I guess they're searching because the Rebel Alliance blew up the Death Star in the first (FUCK YOU...the FIRST) Star Wars Movie? Seriously, I'm so confused at this point.
Anyway. The cartoon continues...horribly. I mean, there's stylized, and then there's Han Solo looking like this...
|Style should not trump substance to this extent.|
Afterwards, we're returned to that hairy-family. Mostly to question our sanity as the story is pantomimed out for the audience in terribly inexplicable bits and parts that are like something out of the worst improv comedy. Because it is not funny AND it doesn't make sense...but it only exists because some asshole said, "Oh, it's a 'galaxy far, far away' so we CAN DO ANYTHING and it'll be alright."
And by "anything," I mean include a scene on the Skype-thing with Maude running a bar in Mos Eisley.
|"Hive of scum and villainy" apparently also means, "place where a Golden Girl serves a guy a drink...|
|...and then he pours it into the top of his skull.|
And then we have a bit of back-and-forth between those two. Because, you know, variety show. Seriously, these producers could have put anyone into Star Wars robes and drapes and plastic, white and black armor, had them play out a random assortment of high school single-act plays, and still have gotten the SAME end result.
I mean, who other than some teat-milking producer could think it's a good idea to have Maude break out into song after the Empire closes down her bar for curfew? It boggles the mind.
To make matters worse, the scene inexplicably shifts back to the Wookie family and more growling. But just before the viewer can explode in their futile attempt to put it all together, Han and Chewie show up to save the child-Wookie from a Storm Trooper by throwing him off the treehouse (mostly to remind us again that this is tangentially connected to the Star Wars movie).
Then, there's one last scene with the movie-cast where Princess Leia sings.
|Roll credits...no, seriously, PLEASE ROLL THE CREDITS.|
By the end, I questioned the concept of sanity itself. Bea Arthur singing, Art Carney in a Han Solo vest, Wookies playing out some crude, pantomimed family scene while growling their lines, and barely the string of Star Wars to loosely tie it all together.
Truly, in a world where this was made, can such a thing as rationality exist? Surely that thin veneer of an ordered, structured, coherent world can crack like an eggshell when closely examined.
I certainly don't recommend watching The Star Wars Holiday Special, but if you MUST (as I mistakenly thought for myself) then do yourself a favor and watch it with the RiffTrax guys.