For The Love of Film: The Star Wars Holiday Special

My late friend Justin Proper of Under The Gun Review had a running column for several years called “For The Love Of Film.” He once asked me to fill in for him when he was too sick. Our colleague Dane Sager had recently bashed the living hell out of the Star Wars Holiday Special, so I used the opportunity to fire back and come to the special’s defense.

I came up with 5 solid reasons for why the now infamously terrible CBS special wasn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. Any Star Wars fan who thinks differently might benefit from my point of view.

For The Love Of Film is a weekly column from film nerd and lover of all movies Justin Proper (and this week, Jacob Tender). Sometimes you need some help to figure out how to enjoy movies, and we are here to help! No longer will you need to fear movie night because your friends have no taste in film. With this column you will be able to love even the worst gems to ever grace the silver screen.

Hello there. Managing News Editor, Jacob Tender here. I have commandeered Justin’s column this week to respond to another Under The Gun Review column. In December of last year, film writer and What The Film?! mastermind, Dane Sager wrote a piece on why the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special “was awful.” I disagree. Ready? Go.

The now infamous special was aired just one time. November 17, 1978. On that day, from 8 to 10 PM EST, CBS premiered what would become one of the most iconic and coveted visual pieces of geek culture. A 97 minute variety show of sorts set in the universe of Star Wars, specifically and most prominently, the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk.

The story that weaves together the various sketches and bits is a simple one that introduced some new content to the Star Wars canon. The gist is this. It’s Life Day, the generically named holiday celebrated by the Wookiees that celebrates, you guessed it, life. Chewbacca and Han Solo are trying to make it home for the celebration, but they are being chased by the Empire’s forces, who are ticked because they helped Luke Skywalker blow up their space ship in the first movie.

Something about bullseyes, womp rats, and a T-16 back home.

Meanwhile, Chewie’s wife (Mallatobuck or “Mala”), son (Lumpawarrump or “Lumpy”), and decrepit yeti of a father (Chief Attichitcuk or “Itchy”) are anxiously waiting at home, biding their time watching things on their various screens, cooking, or visiting with their human trader friend who stops by very conveniently throughout the special.

Wookiee homes have very forgiving plumbing.

Justin is telling me that you have more than enough backstory now, so I’m going to start telling you why the holiday special is not only good, but important to the Star Wars universe. Open minds may proceed.

1. It expanded the universe in a more domestic direction.

Although Lucas was not very involved with the holiday special, he did have plans to expand the Star Wars universe to include Chewie’s family. These plans came to fruition in varying degrees throughout the film series and officially commissioned books, comics, etc., but The Star Wars Holiday Special gave us the most “realistic” portrait of the wookie family.

I’m starting a Kickstarter to get this guy a spin-off.

2. The introduction of Boba Fett.

Boba Fett proved to be an important asset to the Star Wars mythos in the theatrical releases and a fan favorite, but what most casual fans of the series did not know was that the bounty hunter made his debut in an animated segment midway through the Holiday Special. This set up his interaction with our heroes in The Empire Strikes Back and the remainder of the series. It’s possible that the story told here will be included in the full length stand-alone feature Disney is planning with Fett at the lead.

On a more sour note, Fett abuses his pets.

3. James Earl Jones got credit.

The voice of Darth Vader is iconic. Scientists are currently studying whether or not humans are born with the breathy villain’s famous one-liners in memory. James Earl Jones provided that voice and he was not credited in the first Star Wars film. This remained true for The Empire Strikes Back as well. He was, however, credited in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

4. Jefferson Starship.

Who doesn’t want to see Jefferson Starship perform as a pink transmorphic blob in a futuristic hologram box? Even Dane will admit that Mickey Thomas shouting indiscernible lyrics into a neon corn dog creates a disturbance in his pants.

5. The Myth.

Before I knew how the Internet worked, or perhaps before it was even available on the Internet, I was aware of the special. I wasn’t lucky enough to see it on television due to my age and lack of Star Wars fanatic family. Still, I knew it was out there and I yearned to see it.

I am not alone in this respect. Anyone reading this column has SOME interest in the special, even if it’s just for some laughs.

There is value in the special because of the contempt had for it by those involved with its production. George Lucas famously said of the show, “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of it and smash it.” Harrison Ford joked with Conan O’Brien that he has “never seen it, but it could be nice.” Carrie Fisher was so coked out of her mind that she doesn’t even remember filming it.

There was unseen footage from Star Wars sporadically placed throughout the special, we got a far better look at some of the Cantina’s regulars, and most importantly, we still have one piece of Star Wars yet to be “corrected” on Blu-Ray.

The Star Wars Holiday Special is a horrific piece of geek history, one that will never be replaced or duplicated at that level of atrocity. Still, it deserves merit and reverence for what it was. It wasn’t all that bad.

Jacob is going to give Justin’s column back to him now. Suck it Dane. Do you want to learn how to love more Star Wars related movies? Try this column on Fanboys.