Celebrate Life Day with the Very Bad Star Wars Holiday Special
Leading up to the release of The Last Jedi, the writers at Talk Film Society were asked to write about Star Wars properties and, well, I knew someone (yes, just one of you) would be clamoring for yet another take on that perennial favorite, the Star Wars Holiday Special. So to you, fan, here it is, in all its non-glory…
First, let me start off by saying (as has been said before) this show is much better if you’re able to find a copy with the original commercials intact. Why? Because they give you something to look forward to while watching the show, of course. You’ll see the 1970s were full of commercials with real (read ‘unattractive’) people, with real names and hometowns, for products like cake mix. You’ll also see adverts for actual unions. Yes, unions. My personal favorite, though, is the advert for the Reggie Bar. That’s right, Reggie Jackson had his own candy bar, well, it was really a candy patty, and it was fucking delicious. That’s right, a very wee S.J. would take her too-young-to-be-going-to-7-Eleven-by-herself ass down and buy a Reggie Bar every day. Oh, those halcyon days of red flag smog alerts and the Hillside Strangler. Sigh.
I recently rewatched this special with my husband (who has seen this countless times) and, honestly, I turned to him after the first pretty mind-numbing 20 minutes and said “Who is this show for? And, more importantly, who the fuck wrote this?” I’m convinced because of the weird Cirque du Soleil quality that some French person who had never seen or heard of Star Wars was commissioned to design and write this special. I mean, I guess it’s cool to see what life is like in Chewbacca’s house on Kashyyyk, but I don’t think we need that much detail. Seeing Harvey Korman (look him up, kids) in near black-face showing Mrs. Chewbacca, aka Malla, how to cook bantha roast is just not funny no matter how many hands he has (Bantha Rump is our new band name, by the way).
Look, I love Chewie, I really do. He’s one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe and I’m pretty sure if I ever get to a Star Wars Celebration and I get to hug him, I’m going to break down in tears and be incapacitated for the rest of the day. So, you’d think I’d be happy to meet his family. But, why do they look so fucked up? Chewie looks glorious with his luxurious hair and handsome face (hush) but Malla, his punk kid Lumpy, and especially his father, Itchy, all look so weird. Ugh. Anyway, we spend 80% of the 98(!) minute runtime in this house with these three and, well, I think that is what makes the show not good. Before moving on, my husband posed a question about the family, since Chewie’s name is Chewbacca, does that mean his kid, Lumpy is actually called Lumpbacca? Is papa Itchy really Itchbacca?
At one point, Chewie’s resourceful friend Trader Saun Dann (Art Carney, look him up, kids) goes to visit Malla to tell her Chewie and Han are delayed getting him home for Life Day. In one of the best things about this special, Dann brings Itchy some porn to watch. Seriously, Itchy has some VR porn he takes a look at, starring Diahann Carroll (yes, look her up) as Itchy’s fantasy women hologram who sings and dances for him. Good old Trader Dann, when an old copy of Oui just won’t do. Itchy does get his very own Bond theme though, so there is that.
The 20% of this special that isn’t Leave it to Lumpy does actually feature actual Star Wars actors. None of them look like they want to be there, though. To quote Michael Ian Black on an episode of I Love the 80s, several of them look like they are on the “Cocaina.” I mean, I know I would turn into Amber Waves and do rail after rail just to get through my scenes in this show. Anyway, we get a couple of scenes with Mark Hamill (pre-auto accident, post-fucking-awful haircut and way too much eyeliner) and R2-D2 pretending to fix something, I don’t know. We get a few scenes with Chewie and Han flying in the Millennium Falcon, trying to get Chewie back to his cool treehouse. We also see some Stormtroopers and other various Imperials putting the squeeze on Chewie’s family. Eventually, in a bittersweet moment, we see Carrie Fisher as Leia. It still feels kinda too soon to see her, but then at the end she starts singing and well, if you’ve heard it, it’s not…good… so then you feel weird thinking, “what the fuck is she singing for?” Mixed emotions all around.
There is a weird little cartoon thrown in here with Boba Fett’s first appearance in the Star Wars universe. I like Boba Fett (sue me) so it was cool to see him in this, but the animation is like Ralph Bakshi on acid. So, be warned when you watch this if you are impaired in any way, this might turn out to be some nightmare fuel. But really, if you’re on something, this whole special is nightmare fuel.
There’s a whole Cantina scene which, man, I dunno… it’s bizarre as hell, too. Bea Arthur (yes, every single co-star in this variety show is an old, even for this time period, comedy star from the CBS family, and I guess they were there to get the 60-80 demographic to watch this fucking show, I don’t know!) stars as the Cantina owner who is apparently sexy enough for Harvey Korman (he has three different roles in this) to want to sleep with her. There’s some attempts at comedy here and there’s even a song by Arthur. I know! The scene is kinda cool because you, at least, get to see all kinds of creatures in their make-up from the movie. I spent most of the scene saying to Eric, “Look, is that Greedo?” “There, right there!” “Come on, how can you not see him?!” “Right THERE!” Turned out, it was a Rodian, but not Greedo. It was someone called Ludlow. Look, I like Greedo, what can I say?
So, spoilers, Han and Chewie get back to his tree house and they get to have their Life Day ceremony. With red robes and glitter balls, I was hoping Ernest Borgnine would show up and the show might take a turn à la The Devil’s Rain, but no dice. All ends well for Chewbacca and his family. And, by the end of this special 0(over two hours if you’re watching with the adverts), we’re all damned glad it’s over. It wasn’t my intention to shit all over this show and tell you not to watch it. But, look, let’s not kid ourselves here, the special is not good. It just isn’t. What it is, though, is a time capsule. It’s a piece of Star Wars history and, therefore, should automatically be watched if you are a Star Wars fan. Now, I wouldn’t blame you if you watched it once and then never again, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to hear that people watch this every year for Life Day, so there you go. My take away from this viewing of the Star Wars Holiday Special is that Wookies don’t kiss. It’s sad, really. Chewie don’t kiss, and we think he should. Chewie don’t kiss, and you know that it ain’t no good.
You can kind copies of the Star Wars Holiday Special floating around online. YouTube is your friend here. Look for copies with longer run times, since they have the ads in them. Around 1997 someone added a new opening crawl to the show but don’t let that stop you, it still has the original show with commercials from the time period.