Holiday Specials Gone Bad

The original "Star Wars" cast appeared in the "Star Wars Holiday Special."

February 19, 2009, 8:51 AM

Dec. 20, 2007— -- As you flip through the TV channels this time of year, you can't help but be bombarded with holiday specials. But amid the better known and oft-aired "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," there is a lesser known but still treasured holiday jewel: the "Star Wars Holiday Special."

The special aired only once, on Friday Nov. 17, 1978, and was such a flop that it was never again broadcast on TV or released on video. It continues to live on the Internet, however, providing endless entertainment for "Star Wars" fanatics and other people looking for a good laugh.

In 1978, after the massive success of "Star Wars," creator George Lucas agreed to allow some outside producers -- producers whose main TV experience was dance sequences for the "Carol Burnette Show" -- to produce a Christmas special based on the original "Star Wars."

Many of the original stars of "Star Wars," such as Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, made seemingly unhappy appearances in the film. According to Adam Feldman, Time Out New York's theater critic it wasn't pretty.

"Everyone looks embarrassed to be there, and really, who could blame them," said Feldman. "What is amazing about it is how vulnerable they look -- Harrison Ford looks mortified throughout, and who could blame him really."

In the movie Chewbacca, played by Peter Mayhew, and Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, attempt to fly to Chewbacca's home, Kashyyyk, to celebrate Life Day. Along the way they are harassed by agents of the Galactic Empire who are searching for rebels on the planet. The special also included cameos from respected Hollywood actors like Art Carney, Diahann Carroll and Bea Arthur. A popular '70s rock band, "Jefferson Starship" also made an appearance in the special.

While no official video or DVD was ever made, there are bootlegs, and thanks to the Internet, the special has been immortalized -- much to the chagrin of George Lucas who never seemed proud of it. In 2002, he told Maxim magazine, "That's one of those things that happened, and I just have to live with it."

According to Feldmen, one of the more bizarre scenes is when Chewbacca's father, Itchy, is given a gift by Art Carney that is a virtual reality sex tape involving Diahann Carrolll. Perhaps even more bizarre, and painful to watch, is the very beginning, where the Chewbacca family speaks to each other in Wookie. The scene lasts 10 minutes, and no English is spoken. Many critics see the long-lost special as a train wreck, but one that is worth watching, precisely because of its absurdity.

"Its sadness is what makes it so wonderful to watch," explained Feldman. "It's hard to think anything. It defies analysis, it defies watching, it defies interpretation."

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