It’s hard to come up with a Christmas special that’s actually good. For every one we want to year after year (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”), there are dozens, maybe scores, that aired once or twice and then were forgotten (“It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown”).
Then there’s the “Star Wars Holiday Special,” which is the rare special that was so spectacularly awful that George Lucas forbade CBS from showing ever it again. Or, maybe CBS was too embarrassed to show it again.
The “Star Wars Holiday Special” has survived, though, in the form of bootlegs.
Lots of people taped it and copied the tapes and traded them, and when the Internet came along, they uploaded the special.
For a while, the special were pulled down by George Lucas’ lawyers almost as soon as the geeks uploaded it, but like the Imperial forces surrounded by Ewoks on the forest moon of Endor, the lawyers were eventually overpowered, and it’s become pretty easy to find a copy of the special online.
Trust me, though, you don’t want to see it, because you can’t unsee it. If the prequels didn’t destroy your “Star Wars” childhood memories, this might do the trick.
I found a copy online a few years ago, and it’s unwatchable. I mean, the quality of the video is decent, but it’s impossible to sit through, even if you download the commentary from RiffTrax (by the people who did “Mystery Science Theater 3000“)
The special is about Han Solo trying to evade the Imperial fleet in order to get Chewbacca home for Life Day. It turns out that Chewie has a family back on the Wookiee planet whom he never sees. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher make appearances, but, mostly, the story centers on Chewbacca’s family as they sit at home and worry because Dad’s late (again).
Chewie’s family speaks Wookiee, without subtitles. Art Carney plays a trader who befriends the family. Bea Arthur runs the cantina. Harvey Korman plays several roles, including a TV chef.
Somehow, the producers shoe-horn in songs by 1970s variety show mainstay Diahann Carroll and Jefferson Starship (because it’s a “Star Wars” special and the band’s name is Jefferson Starship). Chewbacca’s son, Lumpy, watches a cartoon about his father, Han and Luke that features the first appearance ever of the bounty hunter Boba Fett, which is really meta, if you think about it.
SPOILER ALERT: Chewbacca and Han arrive just in time, and Luke and Leia swing by, and there’s a staggeringly low-budget Life Day ceremony and, then, Princess Leia sings. I don’t mean sings in the way a character might sing if everyone around them is singing as part of a sing-along, like it’s an organic part of teh story. I mean she sings the way a character would in a 1970s variety show.
Worst of all, if you’re a true ”Star Wars” fan, the “Star Wars Holiday Special” is canon within the “Star Wars” universe. That means, within the reality of the series, shortly after Luke blows up the Death Star, everyone gathers on the Wookiee planet for a cheesy ceremony, and Princess Leia sings.
If only we could live in a more civilized age.