Thursday, December 5, 2019

Christmas in Space

This is my entry in the Happy Holidays blogathon hosted by Pure Entertainment Preservation Society

You have no idea to what lengths I will go to subject myself to the most arcane and outre stuff imaginable, just to entertain you.  OK, I admit, most of the time I enjoy it.  But like they used to say in the old Army enlistment commercials, "It's not just a job; it's an adventure".

Case in point is today's entry.  In 1978, with a true sequel to the original Star Wars film still a couple of years away, George Lucas red-lighted a TV special, mostly to keep the film still relevant.  (although in retrospect there wasn't all that much need.  It was and still is one of the highest watched movie franchises in Hollywood history, but this was still early on in it's history).

On Nov 17, 1978, the public at large was subjected to The Star Wars Holiday Special.  The special was a (sort-of) Christmas TV special, even though Christmas was replaced by the fictional Life Day, an event celebrated each year on Chewbacca's home planet. It was aired on CBS in a time slot normally occupied by Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman and the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno show, The Incredible Hulk.

It had some interesting features.  For one it introduced the character of Boba Fett, a later character in the pantheon of films.  And James Earl Jones finally got credit for voicing Darth Vader for the first time.  But it was also a complete disaster.  In more ways than one.

It was so badly received that most of the people involved in it refuse to this day to acknowledge their part in it.   Many fans disown it, too.  There are probably a number of people out there who may have every movie, toy, book and other assorted tie-ins to the Star Wars franchise, but you can be sure this is not part of their collection, unless they have a bootleg copy that was recorded directly off the TV broadcast.  Lucas himself has distanced himself from it and it has never been released on VHS or DVD by Lucas Films.  (Despite the fact that, if you check Amazon, it lists it, albeit as  a "currently unavailable" listing...)

Being a fan of the first film when it came out, and a sci-fi fan in general at the time, I can't honestly remember if I watched it when it was broadcast.  I do know that years later when I heard about it, I was like, "What?  Really?"  But after having watched it a few years ago, I think I could easily have  watched it and then proceeded to convince myself that I hadn't.

If you haven't seen it, you are lucky.  And if you don't click on the link below, you can still count yourself lucky. Don't say I didn't warn you...

You clicked on the link, didn't you...?  :-D  Well, I warned you, so don't blame me.

The Star Wars Holiday Special (first aired Nov. 17, 1978):

The scene opens with Han and Chebacca trying to escape Empire forces and get Chewie home to celebrate the Wookie holiday of "Life Day".

One of the most astounding faux pas of the show is when the scene shifts back to Chewbacca's home planet,  Kashyyyk,  early in the show, where Chewie's wife Malla, son Lumpy and father-in-law Itchy await his return.  (By the way, in classic retro changing of things to accommodate the more serious feel of the franchise, those ridiculous names were later revealed to have been nicknames.  Lumpy's given name is Lumpawarrump.  Itchy's given name is Attichituk.  And Malla is really Mallatobuk.)

The astounding screwball part is that all of the family on Kashyyyk speak in Wookie.  Without the benefit of any subtitles.  Which leaves the confused viewer scrambling, to try to figure out for his or herself what the hell is actually going on.  Fortunately for us, when any human or human-like characters come on the screen they speak English so we aren't completely lost throughout the film...  But it takes about 9 minutes of this almost slapstick type interaction before we get anybody who speaks something we can understand.  (But we are still stuck with the grunts from the Wookies.)

The first English speaking character turns out to be Luke (Mark Hamill) who, along with R2D2, put in a call to the family to wish them a happy Life Day.  Luke expresses concern for Chewie's absence but tries to encourage Malla that all will be OK.

A bit later Saun (played by Art Carney), a junk dealer calls and tells Malla he is going to be delivering some items to them later.

What these turn out to be are Life Day presents for the family. Malla gets a shaggy carpet weaved by "a little old lady who knitted by hand...solo."  (Groan!)   Lumpy gets a box of stuff which later turns out to help in getting rid of some unwanted Imperial guests.  And Itchy gets a holographic disk, which turns out to be some kind of pseudo-pornographic thing.  (At least that was what it came off looking like to me.  No nudity, was a TV show remember, and a 70's TV show at that...)  This includes a hologram of a woman (played by Diahann Carroll), who serenades Itchy with a song.

Harvey Korman makes several appearances here.  One is as a woman cooking instructor teaching Malla how to make Bantha Surprise (with multiple arms yet.)  Another time he plays a rather inept robot instructor trying to show Lumpy how to create his own robot.  He later shows up as an infatuated lovelorn devotee of Ackmena (played by Bea Arthur), a female bar owner.  Arthur also sings a song, while the alien cantina band (Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes.  Bet you didn't know that band had a name, did you...?) from the movie plays in the background.

This being ostensibly a variety show we also get another song, this one done by a holgraphic band, played by the real band Jefferson Starship (and there's an example of kismet if I ever heard one).  For some reason, during the opening credits, the announcer refers to them as THE Jefferson Starship. 

There is also an animated piece featuring Luke and Han and Chewie and the introduction of the bounty hunter Boba Fett.

And to top off the musical part of this extravaganza Leia (Carrie Fisher) sings a Life Day song (done to the tune of the Star Wars theme, yet.)

All in all, its not entirely bad, but it is cheesy without a doubt.  If you are a full blown Star Wars geek, you may think it almost borders on sacrilege.  All it's missing is a tap dance ensemble with the Wookies in top hats and tails.

Well folks, time to fire up the afterburners and warp speed back to my own planet.  Drive safely, folks.



  1. Nope, not quite curious enough to click that link. Lol!

  2. I watched it on YouTube a few years ago. One viewing is probably about all that anyone can take of it. Whew!

    1. Well, I watched it at least twice. The first time to check out what all the furor was about and the second to refresh my memory for the review. But I don't think I'll watch it again... Thanks for reading.

  3. I thought I'd maintain my "lucky" status by not clicking. However, I read on and it sounds like a right mess. I'm beginning to think it might be good for a giggle sometime.

    1. You'll never make it to the end... :-D Thanks for reading.

  4. I did click on the link, and I lasted about 10 minutes. It was exactly as advertised. I'm sorry to say I'll never be able to make it all the way through.

    However, I really enjoyed your review!

    1. That's why I did the review, to save you the trouble.... :-D Thanks for reading.

  5. Omg, I need to check this one out. How did I miss it at the time?

    1. I'm not sure if I missed it or not. I sure as hell would have tuned in had I heard about it (unless it was my sister's turn in the viewing schedule. Looking at the lineup that night I can't be certain. Of course my mother may have vetoed it because it was a 2 hour special.... her patience and attention span barely allowed for hour long shows...) Thanks for reading.


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