Everything you've heard about the Star Wars Holiday Special (that aired on CBS back in November 1978) is both true and not true. Yes, it is absurdly horrible, but it is also so much worse than you can imagine. Watching it causes physical pain.
I had no fucking idea what I was getting my friends and I into when I suggested we watch it as our Christmas movie this past weekend before exchanging gifts. This "special" makes absolutely no sense, has the worst acting you've ever seen this side of Jake Lloyd monotoning about pod racing, and it drags on for two goddamn hours of pure punishing festive nonsense. Seriously, do not watch this special sober, or if you do, please make sure it's with the Riff Trax commentary on, otherwise you won't make it past the first 10 minutes of Wookiees walking around and talking to each other without any subtitles. Suddenly, Jar-Jar Binks is not the worst thing that ever happened to the Star Wars universe.
The Star Wars Holiday Special mainly consists of Chewbacca's semi-retarded and partially deformed family watching TV and pirated broadcasts of really shittily-animated tales starring Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Boba Fett (acting like a total pussy in his debut). You think I'm kidding. We spend 2 whole fucking hours with these freaks as Chewie's wife Malla watches Harvey Korman in drag beat off a giant hunk of meat, as Chewie's father Itchy mentally jerks it to 1970s holographic disco porn (still not kidding), and his son Lumpy (yes, "Lumpy") watches strange elven creatures incomprehensibly bounce around on his father's Dejarik chess board for 7-10 God forsaken minutes at a time.
It isn't just the poor "plot" that makes this thing so bad; it's the terrible pacing, the shitty script, and the awful acting. It was the perfect storm of atrociousness. Everything, every little fucking segment of this horrible variety show, just drags on way too long, and is acted or sung with the same enthusiasm as a stoner who just blew through a record amount of pot thinking he was about to be raided, who's now going over all his excuses for his red eyes and smoky texture in the mirror before the pigs arrive. You think "Oh, this terrible song sung by some bland and talentless disco queen that I've never heard of has been going on for 3 minutes, it should be over soon..." But no. It's not over. It's never over.
Okay, so the whole thing is about Han Solo trying to get his good friend Chewie back to his hairy family on his home planet of Kashyyk (which for some reason is pronounced "Ka-zook" in this thing) in time for his culture's celebration of LIFE DAY. Life Day is when Wookiees gather together, put on red robes while carrying around glowing orbs, and they walk into the very heart of a star out in space (not kidding), and then they sing a song set to John Williams' Star Wars theme. This is all 100% not made up by me.
Anyway, things start off with Malla, Itchy, and freaky-deaky Lumpy (and his serial killer-like grin that will haunt your nightmares for years to come) walking around their large tree house talking in Wookieese roars and gargles for about ten minutes... No subtitles, no voice overs telling us just what in the hell they're saying, no context, no nothing. We just watch 3 hairy demons *chuff* and growl at each other while we are left to guess what they're trying to say. They don't even point or gesture much. It's just these three people in bear-suits bellowing their displeasure at each other in the longest 10 minutes of my life. I will never get that time back.
Then we finally meet up with Han and Chewie in a cramped set that looks nothing like the Millennium Falcon's cockpit, as they run into an Imperial blockade just before making it to Chewie's home, and escape into hyperspace just before getting caught!
Right after that we sit uncomfortably by as Lumpy grins satanically at the camera while he applauds and bounces up and down in glee as the gayest elves ever do somersaults and flips on a holographic chess board. This goes on for what seems like forever, but in actuality is only like 5 minutes... 5 minutes of a poor man's Cirque du Soleil silently tumbling in green and red tights while a shaggy rug with eyes and fangs can't stop clapping his creepy little paws together in the background. Picture it.
I believe that the whole family then calls up Luke Skywalker (who's inexplicably in heavy makeup while working on his spaceship) to ask about Han and Chewie's whereabouts, but Luke knows jack shit, and then he starts breathing in heavy X-Wing coolant fumes before he starts rambling on incoherently about droids and the Force, and they cut off communications with him.
This is when Malla puts on her Wookiee apron and turns on a cooking program where Harvey Korman (with four arms and dressed like Julia Child) talks about boiling bantha loins while friskily giving his kitchen utensils a handy. I still have not made up one bit about this special, nor shall I. It's... My god, it's just the worst thing ever.
After Harvey is done, Grandpa Itchy plugs himself into his machine of dark phantasms, and this is when we are forced to watch some disco diva flash around the screen in psychedelic rainbows as she belts out the most boring song of lust ever, while Itchy seems to have the weirdest wet dream you've never wanted to see with your own eyes. This is a "holiday special," keep that in mind.
Oh! I forgot, but during all this, an extremely unfunny Art Carney (best known as The Honeymooners' Ed Norton) walks around talking space gibberish and seemingly improvising about space crap in his shitty space pawn shop, and then later starts hanging out with Chewie's family and generally acting like a total loon. But I digress.
This is when the Imperial forces bust their way into Chewie's house and hold his wife, son, and sasquatch/gremlin-like father hostage while they wait for the Rebel scum, and his smuggling pal Han, to arrive for the Life Day ceremonies. Honestly, they know who Chewie is, they know what he's responsible for (helping to blow up the Death Star, thusly killing hundreds of thousands of Imperial troopers and destroying quadrillions in hi-tech equipment), and all the Empire does is send something like 5 agents to search his family's home and wait for him to show up again? What makes them think he'll even come home? He's a wanted criminal now, for the worst kind of treachery ever! And even if he does come home, and he does somehow sneak past the planetary blockade set up around his home planet by the Empire, why not just have his family shot, and then set up a garrison of Storm Troopers in his house to execute the traitor if and when he does appear? Do I have to think of everything myself?
I think this is when Art Carney sits an Imperial officer down in front of another holographic TV screen and makes him (and unfortunately us too) watch 6 minutes of Jefferson Starship hover around singing yet another unbearably crappy 1970s "rock" tune. Goddammit... Every time we thought that they were done, they'd just take a deep breath and jump into yet another ear-bleeding verse. The whole while the Imperials are searching Chewie's house, and just knocking shit off the shelves and tables, but the officer who's watching Jefferson Starship is just staring at the images like Alex in A Clockwork Orange when he was strapped to that chair with his eyes pried open. I don't think anybody in the evil Empire ever did anything so wrong that they deserved this punishment.
Then, the Imperials tell Malla and Itchy to keep Lumpy out of their way as they ransack his bedroom because why the fuck not? They're there, and shit needs to get thrown around and broken. It's a perk.
Lumpy is then sat down on his woolly ass in front of yet another fucking TV (no wonder this little Wookiee is so creepy and ADHD) where he experiences the worst acid trippy cartoon outside of a North Korean propaganda toon that I've ever born witness to.
We all watch a 10 minute animated tale of Han and Chewie stealing some strange talisman while evading the Empire, and then crashing on some planet in an effort to get away. Luke and R2-D2 come after them, but they crash too because Luke sucks. Then Boba Fett shows up on the back of a Plesiosaur (still not making any of this up), and he rescues Luke and takes him to Han and Chewie, where Han is sick from some strange sleeping disease from the talisman, and then (oh noes!) Luke catches the sleepies too! That's when Chewie and C-3PO (who I think came with Luke, but don't quote me on that) string their two human friends up by their heels, after which Chewie and Boba Fett go to a local town to find a cure for the disease, because sleeping diseases caused by alien talismans are found fucking EVERYWHERE.
Boba Fett takes this time to Skype Darth Vader (oh noooooo!) to tell him that he's going to bring him the Rebel scum soon, but R2 catches his open transmission because Fett doesn't believe in VPNing, and as soon as Chewie and the bounty hunter come back, the droids tell the Wookiee that Fett is a bad man, and then Fett (instead of fighting or doing anything brave) turns tail and runs. They don't even point a gun at him or anything, he's just like "Oh, shit! You figured it out! Ziiiiing!" Then Han and Luke wake up and they all go home.
Uuuugh. Despite this cartoon being what everybody claims is "the best part of the Holiday Special," it is in fact one of the dumbest pieces of official Star Wars canon ever. Not only is it drawn terribly (with everybody having only three fingers and a thumb most of the time, but then four fingers other times), but it's more retarded than most Saturday morning TV shows were back in the 70s and 80s. Seriously, think of the most ridiculous storyline in the worst episode of Rubik the Amazing Cube (which is a story about a magic Rubik Cube that can grant wishes... For serious)... It's fucking Othello by Shakespeare compared to this Boba Fett short. Nothing makes sense, dinosaurs run around eating space ships like they're open buffets, and nothing that happens even has any repercussions to anything in the end. The cartoon even almost gets Lumpy in trouble with the rampaging Imperials because he *rooooar*s out in fear (of brain damage, I'm sure) while watching it at one point, and this pisses them off.
After this, Lumpy then gets to work on creating a voice modulator that will fool the Imperials into getting called back to their base before his dad gets home. How this seemed like a good plan I'll never know (all it would take is one good officer to use his official walkie talkie to call HQ and say "Did you just recall us even though we think that Rebel Wookiee is almost here, and we're like ready and waiting to vaporize his head as soon as he walks in the door? No? Oh, that's weird. Okay. Call me on this channel if you need us."
So Lumpy watches a "How To" video narrated by a broken droid (that looks like Harvey Korman of course) to learn how to trick the really, really dumb Imperials with his stupid plan, and it fucking works. Like a charm. Only they do leave one Storm Trooper behind because even though they're dumb, they're only 97% retarded.
This is when we flash to the Star Wars Cantina on Tatooine for NO GODDAMN REASON AT ALL, and watch what happens to be one of the most awkward and painful 15 minutes of television ever produced as Bea Arthur (who is the manager of the Cantina) gets hit on by Harvey Korman (what did this guy do to deserve all his roles in this thing?! Did he murder Lucas' wife and bathe in her blood?!), while the Cantina band plays their one song over and over again to their shame and our disgust.
Harvey is a sad sack of pathetic bantha dung as he gets shot down time and again by Bea, then he drinks milk through the top of his head. Then the Imperials declare martial law on Tatooine for some reason, and Bea has to sing a tremendously excruciating song about loving all her patrons, but still kicking them out of her establishment, because she'll get Imperial butt-probed if she doesn't.
Honestly, this Cantina segment is the most random fucking thing in this entire "special." At least that disco diva and Jefferson Starship were kind of slipped into the general "plot" (and I use that term as loosely as it can be used). Bea's portion is just there to get all the weird, but lovable creatures from the Cantina back, and it just goes on and on and on... We were about an hour and forty minutes into this thing by this point, but it felt like we had been water-boarded for a good two days straight, without any breaks for sleep or the bathroom.... Just for the record, I'd take two days of water-boarding if ever given the option of that or watching the Star Wars Holiday Special again in the future.
Wow... After Bea buzzes off, Han and Chewie finally make it home just before the celebration of all life on Life Day comes to a close, and then they straight up MURDER the remaining Storm Trooper by throwing him to his grisly death off the porch of the Wookiees' very high in the sky tree house. Then they all dress up in their best red robes while they do their best cult impression, they each pick up a glowing Easter egg, and then they march single file into the heart of a flaming star. I swear to you that this all happened and wasn't just a strange trip brought on by too much sugar and too many tasty hors d'oeuvres served with real Southern moonshine.
Anyway, the Wookiees all end up in some bizarre location, Luke, Leia, and the droids then appear because at this point who's paying any attention to shit, and then a coked-up Carrie Fisher breaks into song and barely manages to warble her way through a strange rendition of the Star Wars main title theme with lyrics about.... Oh, fuck it if I remember. Then, just when you thought it was over, the Wookiees somehow get out of the death-trap that was that giant star, and make it home, and then they just sit around chuffing and rrrrooooaring about what a good Life Day it was, hoping the Empire never finds the body of that Storm Trooper at the foot of their tree.
Nathan Rabin of the AV Club wrote the following about the Star Wars Holiday Special: "I'm not convinced the special wasn't ultimately written and directed by a sentient bag of cocaine." After witnessing this televised miscarriage for myself I can safely say that he is not kidding. The visuals and sounds and painfully loooooong takes make up the most torturous 2 hours of my life. It's either Rabin's explanation, or an ADHD, psychotic 6 year-old suffering powerful hallucinations and self doubt, along with fits of madness who came up with this shat-out production.
At the point of this Holiday Special's debut (and as of this time, it's ONLY official airing ever), November 1978, Star Wars was the biggest movie of all time (or if not the biggest in the box office, surely the biggest in cultural impact). Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, James Earl Jones, and Carrie Fisher were all huge stars by this time, and were all already signed on to to The Empire Strikes Back, so why did they do this CBS TV special? They weren't contractually obligated to do it. If they had read any of the script before hand they would have seen just how fucking awful it was going to be... So, why?
Beyond that question, my next query is "Why did people watch this?" And oh yeah, people watched it in droves!
When my friends and I were done with the special I called up my dad and asked if he had seen the thing when it first aired in 1978. He told me, "Yup. Everybody watched it back then. There were only three main channels at the time, and that was on one of them. And Star Wars was a big thing back then. We bit at anything that had that name attached to it."
I then asked if people actually sat through the entire two hour ordeal without going insane. My father said, "You bet we did. I don't remember it too well, but I do recall that it was not good... But we didn't turn it off because they might show us Darth Vader, or some more cool aliens again in the next scene. With no Internet, no DVDs, no digital video recording at the time, you only got one chance to watch something, and you sat through it just in case a small portion of it was gold!"
I am so glad we have the Internet now... Although, even though we do have it, and even though I researched this program for the longest time and KNEW it was horrible, I still made us watch it, and we still sat through the whole thing... Thank god for the Rifftrax guys or I might have slit my own throat before the first ten minutes of untranslated Wookiee shenanigans was over. Even with Rifftrax it was a close thing. Cops would have come to Mick and Min's house and been like "Looks like a cult, Frank... They all commited suicide. Pull up what they just watched on the TV? Oh no! Damn you, George Lucas!!!! Not again!"
(Note from the Rossman: Cupcake is still in a catatonic state after making it halfway through the Star Wars Holiday Special. We have her in the best hospital in town, but I am under a criminal investigation for my role in making her watch this program, and for the damage done to Mick and Min's house, where we saw it. The scene with Itchy having a virtual reality orgasm with that trippy 1970s disco queen apparently made their cat and dog go into a feral frenzy, rip off their skin, and run around the house spraying blood and urine all over the floors and walls. I don't know how I missed that, but the ASPCA wants a word with me about that after the cops get done with me... Please, people, don't let this happen to you or your loved ones... Don't watch the Star Wars Holiday Special.)
I am sorry... I am so, so sorry. I really don't hate you, humanity. Really. I... I didn't know what I was doing with this "holiday special." You see, I just wanted to corrupt the world to my dark bidding while using the biggest popular movie of all time for my own evil means... I had no idea it would be this bad.
Please forgive me. I never meant to hurt you this much.