'The Star Wars Holiday Special': A warning

Columnist Steve Lange reviews the special ranked as "The Dumbest Event In Television History."

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Every year, to celebrate the glory and holiness of the holiday season, our family gathers together for a Christmas tradition — the watching of "The Star Wars Holiday Special," a two-hour primetime variety show that aired on CBS in 1978.

If you have not seen "The Star Wars Holiday Special," TV critic David Hofstede has ranked it as the Dumbest Event In Television History.

Think about that.

The. Dumbest. Event. In. Television. History.

"The Star Wars Holiday Special" never ran again. Copies are difficult to find (the only videos are bootlegged versions from those who taped it on VCRs). Lawsuits have suppressed re-airings (it's even hard to find on YouTube).


Star Wars creator George Lucas reportedly said, "If I had the time and a hammer, I would track down every copy of that program and smash it." He described it as the worst thing he's been involved in.

And this is the person who created Jar-Jar Binks.

A decade ago, I tracked down a copy from a guy who knew a guy. I drove to his house. We met in his garage with the door closed. He handed me the tape very much like I would expect someone would hand me a kilo of heroin.

The drug-like handoff seemed like overkill at the time. Until I got home and started watching "The Star Wars Holiday Special," which is when I realized that this, in fact, might be worse than heroin.

So here, once again, is our very special look back at "The Star Wars Holiday Special."

Here's the plot summary: Chewbacca, while on his way home to celebrate Life Day, a version of Christmas, is sidetracked by a space battle with Imperial fighters. Back home, his family gets worried. Then, in an attempt to make things better, Art Carney shows up with Life Day gifts that include inappropriate videos of Diahann Carroll and a hologram of Jefferson Starship. Also, Bea Arthur sings in the Star Wars cantina. That is the entire plot. For two hours.

In the Star Wars movies, Chewbacca, a Wookiee, used a series of emotive grunts and groans to make us laugh, cry, and repeatedly scream out, "I love you so much, Chewie! If you were real you'd be my best friend!" in the middle of a crowded theater.

Chewie moaned sadly when Luke disappeared underwater in the trash compactor. Grunted with joy when Princess Leia awarded him the medal of honor. Screamed out in pain when Han Solo was frozen in carbonite.


Now imagine how much less effective the Star Wars movies would be if you replaced Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo with Art Carney, Harvey Corman, and Bea Arthur.

In the first scene of the special, we are forced to watch Chewbacca's family — his dad (Itchy), wife (Malla), and son (Lumpy) — grunt and groan for seven straight minutes. And I don't speak Wookie.

While I never thought I would say this, I was — after listening to seven minutes of grunting — thankful for the on-screen arrival of Art Carney. Even when, upon seeing the depressed Wookiees, he says, "Why all the long hairy faces?"

Art Carney has brought Life Day gifts. He gives Chewy's dad what looks like a hair dryer chair from a 1950s beauty salon. Except when Itchy pulls the hood down over his head, it does not dry his hair. Instead, it allows him — and us — to watch Diahann Carroll perform a bizarre mixture of sensual dancing and questionable singing for five minutes and 27 seconds.

Diahann, wearing a pink wig and the kind of slinky dress that women will hopefully be wearing in the future, whisper-sings things like "Oh we ARE excited, aren't we? I am your PLEASURE. I am your FAN-TA-SY."

Itchy repeatedly rewinds the more inappropriate scenes and moans in Wookiee.

In the future, apparently, Christmas will have evolved into a day where grandparents are encouraged to sit in some sort of leather chair and watch inappropriate videos from the 1970s.

I will be 80 years old in 2049, and can only hope this technology keeps pace.


Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.

Opinion by Steve Lange
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