From Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine-
Happy Life Day!
By David Neilsen
35 years ago, in the universe of television variety programs far, far away, CBS created two entire hours of filmed Star Wars-themed TV entertainment that defy explanation. The Star Wars Holiday Special aired on Friday, November 17, 1978, between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm, replacing, for one night, episodes of uber-popular Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk. It featured Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, R2-D2, C-3PO, Stormtroopers, the Millennium Falcon, Boba Fett (two years before Empire!), most of the creatures from the Mos Eisley Cantina…
…and it never aired again, was never released on VHS or DVD, and was left to rot in the dustbin of intergalactic history. Most of those involved assumed (desperately hoped) that it would vanish from the collective consciousness of mankind faster than Oola vanished down the Rancor’s throat.
For a time, they were correct. George Lucas waved his hand and muttered ‘This is not the show you’re looking for’ and the Star Wars Holiday Special became an ethereal legend. Had it really happened? People who had watched the 1978 broadcast began to doubt their memories. Maybe, like Luke facing Vader on Dagobah, it had never been real.
This suited Lucas perfectly. The man famously despises The Star Wars Holiday Special. He was once quoted at a Star Wars convention as saying “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.” But unfortunately for him, but fortunately for us, several die-hard fans recorded the 1978 broadcast on VHS, made copies, and insidiously spread the special around. The more Lucas tightened his fist, the more copies slipped through his fingers.
Then along came the Internet and file sharing and lo! The Star Wars Holiday Special is available for free on YouTube in its entirety. The Rebellion prevailed!
What is it about? Well… I’m glad you asked. Han Solo is trying to get Chewbacca home to the Wookie planet Kashyyyk for Life Day, which is kind of like Christmas, but Imperial Patrols are searching the area for rebel scum. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? And I’m sure it was, but rather than bother with depicting Han and Chewie’s death-defying escapes, viewers spent all of their time hanging with Chewie’s family. We watched his wife Malla, his father Itchy, and his son Lumpy (I did not make up those names) prepare for Life Day. Every now and then, they call one of the recognisable characters such as Luke or Leia to ask if they know where Han and Chewie might be.
And it’s a variety show with holographic acrobats, Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman in three roles, and Princess Leia singing at the end.
There are many who side with Darth Lucas and feel the Star Wars Holiday Special is an abomination on the scale of Jar Jar Binks. To them I say Bantha Poo-Doo! There is genius within these two hours of televised entertainment, one simply must look beyond the awkward plot-line, awkward variety acts, awkward guest stars and awkward first ten minutes spent watching three Wookies grunt at each other without subtitles.
I have an idea, and Lucas and Disney are free to take it or leave it. Next year, audiences will rejoice at the release of Star Wars: Episode Seven: The Force Awakens. It has been more than thirty years since Return of the Jedi (Episode Six) was released, and seeing as how most of the main characters in that film are set to make an appearance in The Force Awakens, it might be a good idea to reintroduce them to the world. And what better way than with The Star Wars Holiday Special: Episode Two?
As another Life Day approaches, we find Lumpy, now a solidly-built vision of Wookie manliness, married to a lovely young Gungan maiden named Floppy. Grandfather Itchy is long-dead, but his mother Malla is still around to tell Lumpy’s bride everything she’s doing wrong (comic relief!). With the Empire in tatters, no one worries about Chewbacca getting home. But dark forces are afoot. Lumpy’s son, Hairy, has a surprisingly high level of midi-chlorians in his blood, and a strange new neighbor (played by Frankie Munoz in drag) begins leading him astray. Possibly to awaken something…
Featuring a Cirque Du Soleil performance swinging through the trees of Kashyyyk, songs from Imagine Dragons and Lyle Lovett, and guest appearances from Mike Myers as a Gamorrean Guard, Kathy Bates as an Ewok queen, and Adam Sandler as a hilarious hair care products salesman named Noob. The show ends with Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) singing “I Will Always Love You” with Kelly Clarkson.
The Five Most Wonderfully Awesome Things About the Star Wars Holiday Special
- Introducing… Boba Fett!
Two years before he would speak four words and take the Star Wars nation by storm and twenty-four years before he would see his Dad’s head roll to a stop in front of him, Boba Fett first befriended then-betrayed Luke, Leia, and company in a cartoon watched by Lumpy. Even folks who don’t understand the beauty of the special admit that this cartoon, called “The Faithful Wookie,” is pretty dang cool.
2. Existential Droids
Near the end of the special, C-3PO says something to the effect of, “I wish I were alive and could feel emotion, so that I could enjoy Life Day to the fullest.” That is some seriously deep thinking from ol’ Golden Rod.
3. Soft-Core Wookie Porn
How do you fit a female lounge singer act into a science-fiction variety special? You get dirty old wookie Itchy to sit in a special ‘holochair’ and enjoy a ‘very special’ program. Enter Daihann Carroll as a holographic singer who says, “I am your fantasy. I am your experience. So experience me. I am your pleasure. So enjoy me.”
Nope. Nothing dirty about that at all.
4. More Cantina Monsters!
The greatest scene in the original Star Wars (which we now have to refer to as Episode Four or, worse still, A New Hope) is, hands-down, the cantina scene (Han shot first!). The Star Wars Holiday Special brought all it all back: the characters, the set, the music, everything. Then, to make it even better, they added Bea Arthur. Who sings. But forget about that, this scene is about seeing all your favorite monsters from the Mos Eisley Cantina interact… with Bea Arthur.
5. Harvey Korman, Harvey Korman, and Harvey Korman
In 1978, Korman graced the Star Wars Holiday Special not once, not twice, but three times. First as a deliciously-funny, four-armed spoof of Julia Child. A bit later, he shows up as an interactive-if-low-powered technical manual. Finally, he is a lonely barfly in the Mos Eisley Cantina who pours his drinks through a hole on the top of his head and is in love… with Bea Arthur.