THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL
NOVEMBER 17, 1978
I've been contemplating doing an article on The Star Wars Holiday Special for quite some time. Doing a search for the special on Google returns no less than 146,000 results. So, I was asking myself, does the world need another review of this delightfully absurd TV special? The obvious answer is probably no. However, I don't know if I can call myself a Star Wars fan and write for a site called Project Absurd and not do a review of this show. I would probably have to be punished by Star Wars geek-dom in general, perhaps have all of my old Star Wars toys from the 1970s taken away or something. So, I was trying to figure out how to make this review a bit different from all of the other reviews. I mean, aside from using my usual infectious wit and undeniable modesty, of course. Then, I thought about our recent Amazon account and figured I'd add in a bunch of links throughout the article to spruce it up a bit. Some will be Amazon links, some not. Some will be meaningful, some will make no sense at all. Sound good? Ok, on to the review...
The Star Wars Holiday Special aired November 17, 1978 on CBS and has not been officially broadcast since. Amazingly enough, this aired less than a month after the glorious KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park aired on NBC. Did people just completely forget how to make quality television in 1978 or were they just taking the piss with all of us? It's difficult to say which show was actually more absurd but if I had to choose I'd give my vote to the Holiday Special. It seems more like a Brady Bunch Variety Hour then a Star Wars special. I was able to get a copy of this special on VHS in the early 1990s from an ad in Goldmine magazine. The picture on my copy is pretty decent. I would guess it is a first or second generation copy, but what do I know? I watched the special when I first got the tape, and haven't watched it again until just last week. Yes, it is bloody awful and I probably won't watch it again for another 15 years.
Anyway, the show starts with some severely dark footage of Han Solo and Chewbacca flying in the Millennium Falcon, evading some Imperial Ships.
My guess would be that the reason this footage is so dark is that we're not supposed to notice that they're not in the Millennium Falcon, but some odd Holiday Special version of the ship.
Han and Chewie are trying to get to Chewbacca's home planet to celebrate "Life Day" with the Wookiee's family, who live in an apartment with green shag carpeting.
Let's meet the family now, shall we? All thanks go to David Letterman for the use of the phrase, "shall we".
First we have Chewbacca's father and owner of the galaxy's largest lower lip, Itchy:
Next we have Chewbacca's wife. She looks a lot like Chewbacca but you can tell she's a female because she wears an apron during most of the special. Perhaps they should've given her a bow like they did for Ms. Pac-Man. Oh yeah, her name is Malla.
Next we have Chewie's annoying son, Lumpy:
What a minute, you might say. Lumpy? That's his son's name? Lumpy? Isn't that the fat kid from Leave It to Beaver? Yes it is, Wally's friend Clarence Rutherford was lovingly called Lumpy by his friends. Well, I guess when Beaver yelled out "Lumpy, Dumpy is a big fat ape!" he wasn't being so loving. Where was I again? Oh yes, I was writing about the ridiculousness of Chewie's brat kid's name. And what about Itchy? What kind of a name is Itchy to have for an aging Wookiee? It almost sounds like a horrible nickname they would give a Wookiee who had grooming problems.
Some of the Star Wars novels that have come out in recent years have sort of changed these characters names. Lumpy is now called Lumpawarrump and Itchy is called Attichitcuk. That seems like a bit of revisionist history to me. If you're going to have Chewie's son grow up and become a big Wookiee like his father he's going to have to live with the name Lumpy. I don't care if all of the other Wookiee children used to laugh and call him names, or never let him play in all the Wookiee games.
Anyway, back to the show. We watch and try to listen to the Wookiees wander about their home and wonder when Chewie is coming home. I say "try to listen" because of course they're all speaking Wookiee and we can't understand one damn growl that comes out of their mouths. To try and ease the boredom, Itchy gets out a holographic projector for himself and Lumpy to watch. Thus begins the first "Variety Show"-style segment. We get to watch a holographic circus featuring tiny characters flipping about and juggling things in ridiculous costumes.
After the circus, Malla calls Luke Skywalker on her computer screen-thingie to ask him if he's heard from Han and Chewie yet. Luke and R2-D2 appear, and offer us the first English spoken words since the opening credits scrolled by nearly 10 minutes ago.
Luke says that Han and Chewie left on time, that they must've gotten delayed. He assures the Wookiees not to worry. A closer look at Luke shows the after-effects of the damage done to him in the battle with the Death Star.
No, no. Apparently Mark Hamill had gotten into a car accident some time before the special was filmed and was wearing quite a bit of make-up to cover himself up. I believe he is also wearing a wig but have not been able to confirm that. I guess it's possible he just has a bad haircut.
After "hanging up" with Luke, Malla then logs on to the "Wookiee Trading Post" to talk to her friend, trader Saun Dann (played by Art Carney). She sees Saun getting harassed by an Imperial Guard whose helmet looks like it came out of the prop department for Spaceballs.
The special then cuts to a scene from the actual Star Wars movie, with the audio changed to have Darth Vader telling his guard that he wants the rebels found if they have to search every home in the galaxy. Aren't we lucky we were there to get that information? It seemed extraneous at the time. (Thank you, Garth!)
We are treated to our second "Variety Show"-style segment. Malla, who is seemingly no longer concerned about her missing husband, decides to watch a cooking show to find out how to make "Bantha Surprise". The host of the show is a four-armed woman played by Harvey Corman (and why not?).
After the "Bantha Surprise" segment, we are shown that Han and Chewie have come out of hyperspace into an Imperial Colony. Oh, space dung! It looks like they'll be delayed even longer now.
Back at the Wookiee home, they hear a message on their "radio" stating that no ships may enter or leave the planet because of suspected Rebel activity. Oh, space dung! It looks like Han and Chewie will be delayed even longer now.
Who's repeating himself?
Saun Dann (remember him, Art Carney?) then comes over, bearing gifts for everyone. We'll check out the other gifts later, but Grandpa Itchy is the first one to enjoy his present.
No, it's not a space-age hair dryer with a sweat sock on the end! It's a virtual reality machine which lets Itchy view "his fantasy". Don't worry though. This special keeps its G rating. Itchy's fantasy is actually Diahann Carroll singing a song in a pink wig. Who would've guessed? This is also the queue for the film's third "Variety Show"-style segment.
After Itchy is done with his fantasy, Princess Leia and C-3PO phone in. They are obviously in the middle of some very busy Rebel office work, but somehow find the time to call in and wish the Wookiees a "Happy Life Day".
They find out that Han and Chewie have not yet arrived and get worried. Saun Dann.... What the hell, Art Carney tells them not to worry, that he will take care of the Wookiees. A closer look at Leia shows the after-effects of the damage done to her in the battle with the Death Star.
No, no. Carrie Fisher, like Mark Hamill, had a bit of trouble while filming the special. She didn't have a car accident though. No, Carrie was just rumored to be on massive amounts of drugs while filming this special. I don't know why that would make her cross-eyed, but uhh, I guess at least she didn't have to wear a silly wig. Oh yeah... never mind.
The show then cuts to Han and Chewie trying to land on the Wookiee's planet while avoiding any Imperial entanglements. Then Lumpy, Itchy and Malla get excited when they hear a knock on the door. Is it Poppa, Son, Chewie? Oh, stag, it's Imperial Guards and Stormtroopers!
The Imperials search the home, looking for evidence of Rebel activity. Art opens the present he gave to Malla earlier and shows it to one of the Imperial Guards. The Guard can't take his eyes off of what is to become the "Variety Show"-style segment number four - a holographic performance by Jefferson Starship.
For some reason, all of the band's instruments are glowing purple. The singer looks like he's singing into a purple lightsaber.
The Imperials then tell Art Carney to leave. They must not have liked the Jefferson Starship performance. While they continue to ransack the Wookiee home, Lumpy puts on his headphones and watches a cartoon on his portable DVD player.
Yes, you guessed it. This is the kick off to the "Variety Show"-style segment number five, a cartoon featuring Han, Luke, Chewie, Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, and the premiere appearance of Boba Fett. The cartoon is somewhat interesting and somewhat forgettable. The basic idea is that Boba Fett gets the Rebels to think that he's helping them when he's really working for Darth Vader. It's kind of funny that the bad-ass Boba Fett's first appearance in the Star Wars Universe is sitting on top of this goofy-looking thing:
At this point on my tape, I noticed a "Station Identification" on the screen. I thought this was pretty cool. Hey, now I know that my video was originally taped on KCMO in Kansas City, MO. I wondered if anyone else had noticed this on their version of the special, and if they had the same copy.
Well, of course all of the more intense Star Wars fans were thirty-two steps ahead of me. According to a couple of different sites, there are at least six different copies of the special that have been circulated. Apparently, I have one of the "original versions". Or something.
Anyway, back to the action. The Imperials keep on searching and subsequently destroying the Wookiee home. Even this cool looking stuffed Bantha was not safe.
Lumpy then goes to his room to play with his present, which was given to him by Art Carney earlier in the show. The present is some sort of mini-transmitter that Lumpy has to put together. Luckily it comes with a video explaining how to do so. This brings us to the "Variety Show"-style segment number six, and the second appearance of Harvey Corman. This time Harvey plays a robot who is supposed to explain how to put the transmitter together, step by step. However, wacky Harvey keeps malfunctioning and stuttering and stuff. Hilarity ensues...
At about this time a broadcast comes on the screen that gets the attention of the Imperials. It's called "Life On Tatooine". I've got a bad feeling about this. Yes, this is going to be the "Variety Show"-segment number seven. I wish I would've thought of something better to call those segments. I forgot how many of them there actually were. Anyway, this segment starts with some footage outside of the Mos Eisley Cantina that was filmed for Star Wars but not used in the actual movie.
This short clip is only there to fool you. Once we get inside the Mos Eisley Cantina, we realize it's nothing like the movie. Some of the same character's masks are used, but the similarity ends there. Did I mention that Bea Arthur is the bartender? Or that Harvey Corman takes on his third role in this special as an alien who hits on Bea? Or that he drinks from a hole in the top of his head? Well, remind me to tell you later.
Next up is perhaps the coolest and most absurd segment of the film. This is kind of a "Variety Show"-style segment inside of a "Variety Show"-style segment, so I guess this would be number eight. Anyway, after hearing the announcement that the Empire is closing down the bar, Bea Arthur sings a song to the tune of the "Mos Eisley Cantina" theme. This segment is so cool, I've uploaded a video for your viewing enjoyment:
NOTE: Video has been removed due to a demand from Lucasfilm Ltd.
After they get done enjoying Bea sing her number, The Imperials hear a notice on their transmitters to "return to base". They all leave except for one stormtrooper, who is to keep on eye on the family. He eventually catches Lumpy playing with his transmitter, realizing that he was the one who sent the "return to base" command. "Lumpy, Dumpy, the big fat ape!" The stormtrooper gets mad and chases Lumpy out the front door. As he starts to attack Lumpy, Han and Chewie show up to save the day. Here we see Han and the stormtrooper "Shadow Dancin'":
Everything is back to normal in the Chewbacca household. There are free to celebrate Life Day as they wish, which apparently consists of dressing up in red robes and holding up candles in front of a starry background.
This somehow transports them to the "Tree Of Life", where several other Wookiees are gathered as well as Han, Leia, Luke, R2-D2 and C-3PO. Wait. How did everyone get there so easily? I thought the Imperials had blocked traffic in and out of the planet. Oh well, that's none of my concern.
Now that everyone is happy again, Leia decides to sing a song to bring everyone down. It is so absurd, I will end the article with a video clip of this song. So, for your viewing and listening enjoyment, here is a highly medicated Leia singing a song to the tune of the "Star Wars Theme":
NOTE: Video has been removed due to a demand from Lucasfilm Ltd.
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