The Legacy of the Star Wars Holiday Special: How to Watch Online and Review

Dec 01, 2015 08:33 PM EST

On November 17, 1978, CBS aired The Star Wars Holiday Special.  Apparently, they thought they would have another holiday hit on their hands like A Charlie Brown Christmas, this particular Star Wars Holiday Special only aired once.  Not only was it not well received, and George Lucas, who was not involved in it, was reportedly not pleased with the final product.  For this reason, the special has never been rebroadcasted, and never had a VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray release, even though Star Wars is notorious for its merchandising.  Since we are in the holiday season, and Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens is about to be released, this is a good time to discuss the "legacy" of The Star Wars Holiday Special, and how to watch online. 

I'll start by getting the video of The Star Wars Holiday Special out of the way.  It does exist on YouTube here, and I would have embedded the video here if YouTube would have allowed me to.  You might want to click on it and watch it fast, because honestly, video posts of this film appear from time to time, and they are often quickly taken down.  It's almost like someone doesn't want you to know this exists. 

If you can't find the video of The Star Wars Holiday Special at the link, then I recommend doing a search for it and seeing it you can't find it elsewhere.  Chances are, someone else has probably posted it, and this video that I found had certain scenes deleted due to copyright reasons.  Much of the videos posted of it, look like they were old VCR recordings, and VCRs were not even technology that every consumer had access to in 1978. 

I honestly can't recommend watching The Star Wars Holiday Special, because it is a demonstration for Hollywood shouldn't do.  To begin with, it doesn't make any sense for Star Wars to have even a holiday special.  After all, Star Wars is supposed to take place "A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away."  If it were a long time ago, it could have taken place before the birth of Christ, so it wouldn't make sense for Christmas to exist even in the world of Star Wars.  Also, does Earth even exist in the Star Wars universe?  If it doesn't, then how can the story of the first Christmas exist?

This didn't stop the special in making up its own holiday that is celebrated by those who live in Star Wars known as "Life Day."  This is celebrated by the Wookiees, and it is revealed on this special that Chewbacca has a family with a wife named Malla, a son named Lumpy, and a father named Itchy. 

The basic plot is that Chewbacca is trying to fulfill his promise of "I'll be home for Life Day", but as he travels with Han Solo, they are stopped by the Empire's patrols.  Now, here is where I have to give credit where credit is due on this Star Wars Holiday Special.  They actually got the original cast including Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker reprising their respective iconic roles of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2.  This made for TV special came out almost two years before The Empire Strikes Back, and it is possible that it was filmed between takes of that film. 

The issue is that the original cast feels incredibly wasted as much of what is shown on the Star Wars Holiday Special is what most in Hollywood would call "filler".  These filler scenes just bog down the running time as the viewer has to watch Lumpy watch a small holographic circus, Malla watch a cooking show, and one of the worst is Itchy watching some kind of show where a human woman is talking very seductively to him.  There is no other way to describe it other than that, and it is just plain creepy. 

Mixed in with this special is some guest stars like Art Carney as Saun Dann, a trader who is helping the Wookiee family.  Bea Arthur makes an appearance as an owner of a cantina, and it looks similar if not the same as the famous creature cantina scene from the first Star Wars film.  Harvey Korman plays many roles in the "filler" sketches that I referred to earlier, and the band Jefferson Starship also shows up as well in another one of these tangential musical numbers that make up this show.    

Perhaps what makes this Star Wars Holiday Special so interesting is it introduces one of the franchise's most popular characters with Boba Fett.  There is a brief animated sequence from Toronto-based Nelvana, which even brings back James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader, and shows off the famous bounty hunter Boba Fett, years before he first appeared as a fan-favorite in The Empire Strikes Back

Even by standards of television back in the late seventies, this special is pretty bad.  Still, not only is it the first appearance of Boba Fett, but at the time, it was expanding the Star Wars universe, showing how large the world is, which led to sequels, books, and all other stories in the Star Wars universe in many other media. 

The Star Wars Holiday Special has a strange ending with Wookiees in red robes celebrating Life Day, and then Leia singing about Life Day.  There is something just surreal about it, and it shows that The Star Wars Holiday Special inadvertently sinks into absurdism.   

The issue is that since this Star Wars Holiday Special is so unavailable, it feels like some dark secret that George Lucas has been trying to hide.  What is interesting is that Disney bought the rights to Star Wars a few years ago, and even this company, which is notorious for giving the public direct-to-DVD sequels, didn't try to cash in and release this film for the holidays.