Happy Life Day!
December 25, 2013 6:49 PM   Subscribe

In defense of 'The Star Wars Holiday Special'
posted by Artw (92 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I lost a bet with myself that this would be a Slate article.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:51 PM on December 25, 2013 [20 favorites]


Apparently Artw also lost a bet.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:58 PM on December 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


The Star Wars Holiday Special is magnificent, but in the way that an exquisitely spoiled carton of milk is magnificent. It's revolting, and yet, you positively must pass it to the person nearest so that they may behold its awfulness as well. And not only will that person not be angry at being forced to sniff the rottenness, they'll cheerfully pass it to the person next to them, so that they can behold the horror as well.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:02 PM on December 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


I lost a bet with myself that this would be a Slate article.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:51 PM on December 25
[+] [!]


Apparently Artw also lost a bet.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:58 PM on December 25
[+] [!]


You two are failing to show the correct Life Day spirit and will most likely have arms torn off by wookies.
posted by Artw at 7:02 PM on December 25, 2013 [28 favorites]


Counterpoint.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:03 PM on December 25, 2013


Because the "Love Actually" think pieces weren't enough...
posted by cvp at 7:03 PM on December 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


I first experienced the Holiday Special and the wonder of life day at a pre-YouTube event where Shatner singing Rocket Man was also screened. At that moment my life became filled with purpose.
posted by Artw at 7:04 PM on December 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


So, I gather Life Day is the Wookie holiday where you sit around your house watching inter-species porn and taking vid calls from your friends. Is this basically it?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:05 PM on December 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yes.
posted by Artw at 7:06 PM on December 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


This was hyped to me as being TEH WORST THING EVAR!!!!1!!ONE but I dunno, it wasn't nearly that bad. It's actually kinda fun in a campy, late-70's way.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 7:12 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Original advert - may imply slightly more Star Wars than you're going to get.
posted by Artw at 7:14 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


TV Listing.
posted by Artw at 7:15 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It sounds to me like the author only became aware of the SWHS in the years following the prequel trilogy, when fandom's expectations of anything under the Lucasfilm imprimatur became radically diminished.

I was first exposed to the special ca. 1996, during those halcyon years when it was actually possible to be nostalgic for Star Wars, because the franchise kind of disappeared for a while, and whatever SW stuff did exist (the first three movies and Zahn books, mainly) was generally agreed to be pretty high quality. But seeing the special back then was like finding an unretouched copy of the Zapruder film where you can clearly see Jackie shooting JFK in the face with a pearl-handled revolver, just absolute mindbending apocrypha of the first order. How did it happen? Who was responsible? Were they made to pay for their crimes?

And then a few years later The Phantom Menace came out and it all started to make a little more sense...
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:21 PM on December 25, 2013 [44 favorites]


Starship was in this? Suddenly I feel a chill.
posted by telstar at 7:21 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you can time it right, the Star Wars Christmas special audio syncs up nicely with the video from the Brady Bunch Christmas special, at least for a few minutes. Every word out of the Bradys' mouths is "hrrrrn hnoooorrgggh nnnnggghhoooonk", and with the facial expressions it feels like a real conversation in another language.
posted by davejay at 7:49 PM on December 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


I saw this the first and only time it aired when I was 8. What I mostly remember about it was that it was BORING. The 70's variety show bits thrown in weren't as LOL as they are now (hell, the late 70's was the last gasp of greatness for TV variety shows) but man alive I felt like I was trapped in Chewbacca's living room for two hours with nothing to do (Which was pretty much the plot of the special to begin with).

The highlight was the animated sequence that introduced the world to Boba Fett. Man, the hype for Fett was unreal at the time. He was the only thing that was confirmed about Empire at that point and that cartoon (along with a mail-in order for his action figure) had all us kids worked up into a fever pitch about his character and the next movie. If you want to mark the moment when fandom felt betrayed by Lucas, you can start it at the moment when Boba Fett gets knocked into the Sarlacc Pit in Jedi. Lucas had spent years and multiple media platforms building up this awesome mysterious villian only to have him die an ignominious death before we ever got to find out if live-action Boba Fett was as bad-ass as his animated version. Everything in Jedi was downhill after that. Luke & Leia being siblings, Ewoks, Death Star II: Electric Boogalo-- none of that was as crushingly disappointing as that pathethic scream from Boba Fett as he plummeted to his death.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:52 PM on December 25, 2013 [23 favorites]


I first experienced the Holiday Special and the wonder of life day at a pre-YouTube event where Shatner singing Rocket Man was also screened. At that moment my life became filled with purpose.

Drinking until the brain cells that remembered this event finally died?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:53 PM on December 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I host a Life Day party most years, but didn't get around to it this year, and feel that Life Day is traditionally celebrated toward the end of November.

Would y'all say it's still acceptable this late in the year? Because I'm pretty much always up for making other people watch it.
posted by asperity at 7:54 PM on December 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Original advert

Look at all those trademarks. Plus, in case you missed it, All Rights are Reserved too.

Someones gearing up for some lawsuits..
posted by benito.strauss at 7:58 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw this when it originally aired. I was 10. I remember really liking the Boba Fett cartoon, being disappointed that Han Solo only shows up for about 5 minutes, being mildly amused by the Bea Arthur/Harvey Korman cantina bit, being bored with the Wookies, and generally annoyed with all the damn singing.

Returning to this decades later, I feel a weird nostalgia for the structure and pacing of Seventies television-- the fact that there was actually a show broken up by brief commercial breaks, instead of the other way around.

It's interesting to note certain things from an adult perspective-- the way Harrison Ford grimly phoned in his lines even then, the drug-induced sparkle in Carrie Fisher's eyes, the subtle exchange between Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman-- two old pros gamely attempting to make something out of inferior material.

I'm puzzled and annoyed at all the vitriol directed at this crass and clumsy, but essentially harmless, ephemeral artifact.
posted by KHAAAN! at 7:58 PM on December 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Strange Interlude: And then a few years later The Phantom Menace came out and it all started to make a little more sense...

Except the Holiday Special came out between the first and second films in the original trilogy, so the whole thing hadn't been sold out yet. So perhaps it was a precursor for sell-outs to come, but it would be decades until Phantom Menace reared its head.


KingEdRa: If you want to mark the moment when fandom felt betrayed by Lucas, you can start it at the moment when Boba Fett gets knocked into the Sarlacc Pit in Jedi.

With this in mind, the death of Darth Maul doesn't seem so surprising. Seriously, I was stunned the Big Nasty Baddie was killed in the first of what everyone knew would be three films. Who's the next Big Bad? Will they kill off one per film? To be honest, I can't even remember now. There was that robot-guy-thing with all the arms and the light sabers taken from defeated jedis, right? Which movie(s) was he in?
posted by filthy light thief at 8:00 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Finally, I can say it-- I unironically love the Bea Arthur musical number a whole bunch.
posted by ShawnStruck at 8:14 PM on December 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


You're not alone. I'd genuinely like a high-quality audio recording of "Good Night, but not Goodbye."
posted by asperity at 8:19 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Except the Holiday Special came out between the first and second films in the original trilogy, so the whole thing hadn't been sold out yet.

Actually, I was referring to when I first encountered the Holiday Special in 1996, which was towards the end of the long 1983-1997 fallow period between ROTJ and the Special Edition releases. So to my '90s college pals and myself, the long-buried existence of the Holiday Special was the first thing that suggested (other than fanboy complaints about Ewoks and Boba Fett going out like a punk) that Star Wars could be anything less than awesome. HOW WRONG WE WERE.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:31 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've said it before but I find this valuable in a historical sense because it is clearly the blue print for what was to come in terms of the prequels, which in turn opened the door wide for profitable and popular garbage sci-fi. Return of the Jedi was the alpha, the Christmas Special the beta, and the Phantom Menace was 1.0.
posted by juiceCake at 8:31 PM on December 25, 2013


A month or so ago on the Blue we all reminisced about the 1978 Ringo Starr Special as well. (Bonus points, Carrie Fisher was in this one too).

Can we eventually get a Metapost cataloguing all the specials That Seemed Like A Good Idea At the Time?
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:33 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


My favorite take is still via the wonderful Sci-Fi Janitors.

I reserve so-bad-it's-good status for things that went from good to bad and then back to good by way of high camp, not things that passed GO several times without collecting two hundred dollars and still ended up with you having to watch dozens of minutes of rugs moaning without subtitles.

Mind you, George Lucas would have had the shame coming for his future crimes, so it's prescient after a fashion.
posted by sonascope at 8:43 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm puzzled and annoyed at all the vitriol directed at this crass and clumsy, but essentially harmless, ephemeral artifact.

I was ten in 1977, and Star Wars was as close as I ever got to organized religion. The holiday special established beyond a shadow of doubt that even the Galaxy Far, Far Away was really just more Show Biz crapola, as cheap, phony and awful as all the other dreck on TV.

It not only sucked in and of itself, but it kind of polluted the whole franchise; it meant that you couldn't run around making pew!pew!pew! noises without knowing that the universe you were role-playing in now included fucking Bea Arthur. It was like realizing, halfway through Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park, the unthinkable truth that it actually sucked and wasn't any good at all.

I'm puzzled how anybody who was in the Core Demographic at the time can regard it as anything but a fundamental disillusionment. As far as I can see, it isn't hated nearly enough.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:51 PM on December 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


What I consider to be the best part of the special is the stillstore image of the glowing concentric circles with the words 'Neutron Bomb' on it during the Newsbreak segment. Not only is it just a fantastic image, full of 70s cold-war fear in a world surrounded by orangy-beige color schemes just like I remember it, it also accurately depicted my mental state the special brought me to while watching it for the first time in the 90s.
posted by chambers at 8:53 PM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The other thing I remember about the special was that nobody talked about it in school after it aired beyond acknowledging that "Yeah, I saw it." It was like we all knew that whatever it was we had all watched, it sure as hell wasn't Star Wars.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:57 PM on December 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


In the forthcoming new sequels, it will be revealed that Boba Fett sent a clone to Tattooine, and he'll be back to kick some Jedi scum ass.
posted by planetesimal at 9:03 PM on December 25, 2013


I'm puzzled how anybody who was in the Core Demographic at the time can regard it as anything but a fundamental disillusionment. As far as I can see, it isn't hated nearly enough.
Well, I may have indeed been in the core demographic, but as my name might imply, I'd found a slightly older
faith to believe in by then.
posted by KHAAAN! at 9:04 PM on December 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'd found a slightly older faith to believe in by then.

BURN THE UNBELIEVER

Heh. I remember going to see the first Star Trek movie when it came out, and being really badly squicked out by the teleporter accident. I was a sensitive child...
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:08 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had a gut bug. I had to drink cherry-flavored antibiotic. Much yarfing ensued. Happy Life Day!
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:08 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The key thing is that it could have been worse. The Lucas gang were not particularly judicious in any of the horrid tie-ins they allowed in the Star Wars overexposure cultural flip-out and apparently didn't have a clue about "diluting the franchise," as the kids call it these days. Of course, Lucas was a genius in securing the entirety of the merchandising rights to Star Wars in exchange for taking a paltry salary as director, and it behooved the hell out of him to send disco-dancing stormtroopers and that ridiculous beeping vacuum cleaner to any place that would let him shill his Kenner product line.

Seriously, though—watch my link. Donnie & Marie, Redd Foxx, Thurl Ravenscroft, and freaking Paul Lynde—it's like high camp porn. If the Holiday Special didn't flip your wig, this ought to.

Now I need a Tab and to feather my hair with a pink Goody comb for the better part of an hour, if you don't mind.
posted by sonascope at 9:08 PM on December 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


> Returning to this decades later, I feel a weird nostalgia for the structure and pacing of Seventies television-- the fact that there was actually a show broken up by brief commercial breaks, instead of the other way around.

The thing about the Star Wars Holiday Special is that the commercials are the best part.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:34 PM on December 25, 2013


The Card Cheat: The thing about the Star Wars Holiday Special is that the commercials are the best part.

Which recording? The much-seen recording from WCBS-TV in New York City? The first-generation recording from Des Moines, Iowa, station KCCI? Or the then-CBS affiliate WMAR-TV in Baltimore? There are seven known station recordings from the US, two from Australia, one from France and each Sweden, and even a broadcast master.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:47 PM on December 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


I've only seen one version, but I'm betting my blanket statement is still true.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:04 PM on December 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm puzzled how anybody who was in the Core Demographic at the time can regard it as anything but a fundamental disillusionment. As far as I can see, it isn't hated nearly enough.

I was in that code demographic at the time, saw it when it was broadcast, along with everyone else I knew, and the reaction was nothing like fundamental disillusion with the whole franchise. Part of the reason, I think, is that it was a completely ordinary TV variety show of the time. If it had actually been good, now that would have been something to note. But as it was, it seemed to have been pretty much forgotten by the time Empire Strikes Back hit the theaters.

Perhaps we were an unusually cynical group of 11 year olds in L.A. who recognized the production for the TV crap it was. It was a variety show, fer crissakes. They were crappy as a rule, especially one-off tie-in variety shows. This one actually had some redemption when it introduced Boba Fett. Consensus by St Didacus 5th grade class was that it was overall pretty boring and silly.

I have to say, I get a pretty big kick out the holiday special as an adult, especially showing it to my kids.

the fact that there was actually a show broken up by brief commercial breaks, instead of the other way around.

I haven't been that impressed, considering it was a 97 minute production stretched out to a two hour broadcast spot when you count the commercials. I concur with others, though; the commercials are more interesting to me as an adult than the show itself.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:10 PM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Starship was in this? Suddenly I feel a chill.

WE BUILT THIS CLOUD CITY
posted by The Whelk at 10:59 PM on December 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Somehow, the guys from Rifftrax were recently able to get the rights (?) to turn their 6-year-old riff of the Star Wars Holiday Special into an integrated VOD file.
(Greatest hits)

Personal favorite line: Harvey Korman's Amorphian character flits his tongue in and out rapidly in a fit of malfunction, about which Mike Nelson muses: "Welp. Nietzsche was right. Dead as a doornail."
posted by dhens at 11:26 PM on December 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's actually kinda fun in a campy, late-70's way.

pretty much how I feel about the original movie.
posted by philip-random at 11:30 PM on December 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


It not only sucked in and of itself, but it kind of polluted the whole franchise; it meant that you couldn't run around making pew!pew!pew! noises without knowing that the universe you were role-playing in now included fucking Bea Arthur.

A universe that doesn't include Bea Arthur is a universe I want nothing to do with.
posted by brundlefly at 12:18 AM on December 26, 2013 [20 favorites]


2N2222: "I concur with others, though; the commercials are more interesting to me as an adult than the show itself."

Full agreement here. I don't believe I ever saw the Xmas episode, but I sure as heck remember many of those commercials. Watching them now was a great blast from the past.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 12:47 AM on December 26, 2013


Well, now I have seen everything.
A defense of the SWHS?
Inconceivable.
posted by Mezentian at 12:48 AM on December 26, 2013


The special is pretty goddamn dire if you're a 7-year-old Star Wars fan, as I once was, but as an adult I find the hokey variety show feel kind of charming, and while the Bea Arthur cantina stuff is all wrong for Star Wars, I think it's kind of brilliant as its own thing. It's a bizarre mix of George Lucas, 1970s sitcom and Kurt Weill, and if that show was on every week I would watch the hell out of it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:01 AM on December 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


As a 7yo die-hard SW fan, as I was on original broadcast, I loved it, but I was basically mainlining crack, and there was a drought on.

Seeing it as an adult, before the Internet Hate-On for it became a thing: it's bad.
posted by Mezentian at 1:04 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was that robot-guy-thing with all the arms and the light sabers taken from defeated jedis, right? Which movie(s) was he in?

General Grievous. The reason I went and saw the last movie, because after Genndy Tartakovsky's animated Clone War series, I figured that there's no way this is going to suck.

But George Lucas Strikes Again, and it did, indeed, suck mightily.

( Which echoes the parallel between the setup and disappointing death of Boba Fett, I observe )
posted by mikelieman at 2:52 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


This special makes a different kind of sense if you imagine it falling after Return of the Jedi. Specifically, I like to imagine it as being a special that was shown across the universe after the Empire was defeated. Non-actors Han and Leia Solo are appearing because they're popular heroes, the Wookies are revealed to not be extinct, and it turns out that Arthur and Korman were intergalactic stars just as we always knew they were.

And the Boba Fett cartoon? Making him appear more bad-ass than he really was so Han, Luke and Leia appear more bad-ass in comparison. I mean, come on, the rescue of Solo was an embarrassing clusterfuck for all involved.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:30 AM on December 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have struggled to figure out why I feel affection for this thing, because it's not just nostalgia; I don't seek out any other variety shows from my youth.

Now I think what I really enjoy is how much Lucas hates it.

Oh, you are unhappy because someone took something you loved and shat on it, Mr. Lucas? Good. Now you know how it feels. I hope it haunts you to your meddling, terrible-dialogue-writing, Jar-Jar-creating grave.
posted by emjaybee at 6:34 AM on December 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's like my eyes have finally been opened to the whole Boba Fett thing. I've watched Star Wars (the original trilogy) a ridiculous amount of times since I saw the first one at the cinemas when it was released in 1977 and I never understood why people thought Boba Fett was interesting at all. Now I know. It's that cartoon, that's it isn't it? Isn't it?
posted by h00py at 6:48 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


General Grievous sucked in the films. He sucked less in the Clone Wars.
But he was never as awesome as in Genndy Tartakovsky's animated Clone War series.

It is known.
posted by Mezentian at 6:52 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a 7yo die-hard SW fan, as I was on original broadcast, I loved it, but I was basically mainlining crack, and there was a drought on.

Drought is right. As a ten-year-old, I had deeply mixed feelings about the Holiday Special, but it is hard to explain to anyone younger than about thirty today how barren that time was if you were a young sf nerd. Fall of 1978: the highly silly Battlestar Galactica was the biggest sci-fi thing in TV, trailed at a a considerable distance by the only other thing on that list, the justly long-forgotten Project UFO (imagine The X-Files less the good acting, the clever dialogue and the occasionally compelling mystery). Quark had been cancelled months earlier and any non-Lorne-Greene-based hopes were pinned on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, then warming up in the bullpen (it would premiere in fall of 1979).

At the movies, Star Wars and Close Encounters had pretty much gone after long runs, and the only other vaguely sf flicks I can recall from that year were Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- excellent, but probably over our young heads -- and Superman, but these both came out in December. Part of the reason that so many of us saw Star Wars so many times back in the day was the paucity of options. You might not be a Steinbeck fan, but if the only book to make it to the desert island with you is The Grapes of Wrath, you are going to read it a lot.

It was a hard time, young 'uns.

and I never understood why people thought Boba Fett was interesting at all

Again, it was the media sparseness. Star Wars had been an unprecedented hit, and Boba Fett was the first confirmed bit of the sequel. I recall that in early 1980, my collection of Star Wars action figures (which already included a Boba Fett, thanks) was augmented by this weird pint-sized green alien that my stepmother had brought back to Canada from a shopping trip in the US: Yoda, whose appearance was a total mystery to us all even a few months before Empire came out. Again, hard to imagine now, but as we stood in line at the Tivoli theatre for Empire, I was the only one of my friends who had actually seen a production still of Yoda ahead of time: on the way to the show I had passed by a record store and in the window there was a display of the soundtrack, including a copy displayed with the gatefold opened: the inner sleeve had six or eight pictures, including a sweaty Luke with a tiny green alien in a harness on his back laying out some righteous wisdom for him.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:01 AM on December 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Tonight the role of me is being played by ricochet biscuit. Seriously.
That story (sans Canada) could be mine.

Boba Fett was awesome in the wayback, and I could not tell you why, exactly, but he was hot stuff from the get-go.
posted by Mezentian at 7:10 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


From Doktor Zed's link:

Well it's not much, but at least you can check off "Witness Bea Arthur and Greedo gettin' down to boogie" from your "things to see before you die" list.
posted by mediareport at 7:47 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who's the next Big Bad? Will they kill off one per film?

Christopher Lee.
posted by Artw at 7:48 AM on December 26, 2013


One's attitude towards the SWHS is different if you were actually in the supposed target demographic when it aired, as I was. It's awful, but not just because it's cheesy, "blasphemous", or whatever: it's boring and nothing like Star Wars. It was hell of confusing.

As my linked blog post says, these days there's plenty of dumb Star Wars shit you just ignore or laugh at, but back then, there was only the first movie, and to have this "official" thing come out and be so dull and off-key was majorly disappointing and crazy confusing.
posted by Legomancer at 8:07 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm perplexed by people who say it's not that bad. I watch a lot of bad things on purpose and I've found very few of them as difficult to sit through. And I'm not a rabid star wars fan or anything.
posted by atoxyl at 8:51 AM on December 26, 2013


This special makes a different kind of sense if you imagine it falling after Return of the Jedi. Specifically, I like to imagine it as being a special that was shown across the universe after the Empire was defeated. Non-actors Han and Leia Solo are appearing because they're popular heroes, the Wookies are revealed to not be extinct, and it turns out that Arthur and Korman were intergalactic stars just as we always knew they were.

And the Boba Fett cartoon? Making him appear more bad-ass than he really was so Han, Luke and Leia appear more bad-ass in comparison. I mean, come on, the rescue of Solo was an embarrassing clusterfuck for all involved.


This is a truly masterful bit of retconning and you should feel pride.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 AM on December 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


But he was never as awesome as in Genndy Tartakovsky's animated Clone War series.

I mean, this...
posted by mikelieman at 8:58 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The SWHS was crazy confusing for a lot of reasons, but for me it was - why did it LOOK like that? I didn't yet understand about the difference between film and 1978 video technology. It was very - disconcerting. Did they look like that on purpose? It was so bright, so harshly defined - nothing at all like the vast sweet palette of the movie. (To some extent Empire was similar - why did Han's hair look like he just came from the mall? I don't . . . )

The other thing about SWHS that's difficult to understand was how it went away. I saw it, everyone I knew saw it, we talked about it, and it was okay. Kinda cheesy. Y'know. Hey let's ride bikes!

Then - years passed. A long desert-planet of time. IT is never mentioned. Ever. The sequels. There are no "Prequels". (Prequels? Snort.). Reagan. Guns 'n Roses. Nirvana. I - I had this dream. Jumbled as dreams are but in it this empire guy is in a toy shop, and this hologram toy is - he just takes it and the shop guy's like no you have to pay but he doesn't and . . . Jefferson Starship? Heh heh, I - I don't . . . Silence. Nobody remembers. No one knows what you're talking about.

Years.

1998. Teh Internet (capitalized? No capital? Whatever.). Someone makes a Geocities-like page about the SWHS. Everything is mentioned. Some things I'd forgotten! The interminable Wookie scenes! Yes! HOLY SHIT. IT'S ALL REAL. It . . That's holy shit it really happened. Wow.

Wow. That is some fucked up shit right there.

Tonight the role of me is being played by ricochet biscuit. Seriously.
That story (sans Canada) could be mine.


It is ours. We're not making this up, seriously. Look! Holy shit the whole fucking show is there for all to see! Oh my god. Wow. It wasn't a dream. It was real.
posted by petebest at 9:05 AM on December 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


It was on the front page a few years back, but there's a good Vanity Fair article about how the Holiday Special came to be - "there are conflicting reports as to which person or company actually brought the idea of doing a holiday special to Lucas" - that has info about the two directors (the first quit, the 2nd was brought in to salvage anything from the mess), the producers and writers, including a team from The Shields and Yarnell Show brought in for "their expertise in nonverbal comedy." There are strange details like the actors in alien suits passing out because the Bea Arthur cantina shoot was taking so long, and funny (if often self-serving) gossip from Bruce Vilanch about working with Lucas and Carrie Fisher:

“I said: ‘You’ve chosen to build a story around these characters who don’t speak. The only sound they make is like fat people having an orgasm,’” the 250-plus-pound Vilanch recalls. “In fact, I told Lucas he could just leave a tape recorder in my bedroom and I’d be happy to do all the looping and Foley work for him.”

Lucas met these comments with a “glacial” look. “This was his vision, and he could not be moved,” Vilanch says. “And of course Star Wars was so gigantic that he had been validated a hundred times over. So he had what a director needs to have, which is this insane belief in their personal vision, and he was somehow going to make it work.”


He then left it to other people to make it work:

[Lucas] declined to be interviewed for this article, although in a chance meeting that I had with him prior to that decision, the filmmaker, known for obsessive control of his projects, called the special a “travesty” and said he regretted not exercising a tighter grip over its production. As Gary Kurtz, one of the Lucas organization’s producers at the time, says today, the experience with the holiday special “certainly added to the idea that the only way to make sure it turns out the way you wanted is to be in control.”
posted by mediareport at 9:15 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


(And damn, how have I not watched that Donny & Marie thing before now? If I hadn't already been a queer boy in 1978, disco-dancing stormtroopers surrounding Kris Kristofferson would have done the job for sure.)
posted by mediareport at 9:19 AM on December 26, 2013


Remember, Han was also married to a wookie.
posted by reedcourtneyj at 9:51 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am unhappy because someone took something I loved and shat on it.

:(
posted by George Lucas at 10:01 AM on December 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


mikelieman That... that has Jedi. Actual Jedi. Actual Jedi being actually Jedi-amazing and all that. And Grievous is menacing. And it's got a Teachable Edna Moment ("no capes!"). And a great soundtrack that is actually well-done, action-matching remix of the original themes and why have I never seen that before and must find full run immediately wow.

My boyfriend had two things to say about this when we watched it: 1. He also had vague memories, the feeling that it was a dream, and suddenly look, it wasn't a dream after all, and 2. As the credits were rolling I remarked that if I had worked on this thing I would not want my name anywhere near it, and he said "You know what is sadder? They thought this was the best they could do so did put their names on it."

I am still depressed from that remark.
posted by seyirci at 10:34 AM on December 26, 2013


Boba Fett turns up in the Clone Wars cartoon and it's cool and not shit, which is one of several miracles that show pulls off.

You guys all know he eventually got himself out of the sarlac, right?
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


METAFILTER: a bizarre mix of George Lucas, 1970s sitcom and Kurt Weill
posted by philip-random at 11:17 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


You guys all know he eventually got himself out of the sarlac, right?

Has to be in a movie or it didn't happen. Part of the thing that drives me nuts with Star Wars Fandom is the multiple levels of canonicity that the diehards attach to various novels, comic books, etc in the Expanded Universe. It's all too confusing for the average person who likes Star Wars. Star Wars is first and foremost a movie franchise. If it isn't referenced in an official Star Wars movie, it either a shameless money grab, fanwank or both. Don't get me wrong, some of the EU stuff is quite good but a lot of it is mediocre at best and is confusing as hell.

Though as long as The Escape of Boba Fett happens like this in a movie, I'm cool with that.
posted by KingEdRa at 11:24 AM on December 26, 2013


When I first heard of this, I thought it would be hilarious. One of those "so bad it's good" experiences, like The Room, Birdemic, or Troll 2. Then I saw it and realized it's just bad. Bad as in bad. Bad as in unwatchable. The worst part was definitely the part with the wookies, which I think was most of it. I found myself thinking, "This isn't a TV Special. This is one of those exercises they make you do in high school theater class." And then the part with Chewie's dad watching Pornovision. Yeah, that wasn't creepy at all. I was like, "They showed this to children?" Oddly, the creepiest part was that it wasn't really porno at all, but some bikini-clad 70s actress crooning some kind of interminable ballad. If you're getting off to that, seriously, get out of the house every once in a while. Then again, Chewie's dad lives on a planet where all the females are covered with a 3-inch layer of fur, so perhaps by his standards that's full-frontal nudity. Remark withdrawn. Other than that, you've got the variety show segments that were simply beyond my ken. Perhaps it's because I was born in 1978 and don't have the background in terrible 70s variety shows you all had. But all the "acts" reminded me of my experiences as a kid staying up late to watch TV, expecting to see a whole bunch of naughty adults doing exciting adult stuff, only to see some washed-up old people on Johnny Carson doing things the audience assured me were funny, but to me just seemed like old people making the most corny, obvious jokes possible. ("Phyllis Diller. Wasn't she on Scooby Doo?") Seriously, how did anyone get through the 70s and 80s without a laugh track?
posted by evil otto at 11:32 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a 7yo die-hard SW fan, as I was on original broadcast, I loved it, but I was basically mainlining crack, and there was a drought on.

I have fond memories of the Holiday Special but then I last saw it in 1978 when I was (also) 7 years old. I’ll gladly watch the ads again but have no desire to relive my Phantom Menace experience, which basically felt like finding out the guy you call “Dad” isn’t really your father.

Also! This defense was written by Bonnie Burton, who interviewed me some years ago about a Darth Vader stained glass window I designed in, erp, 1978.
posted by axoplasm at 11:58 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The trouble with so-bad-it's-good is that sometimes, so-bad is so-bad-it'll-fucking-shock-you-to-the-core. For reference, watch Magical Mystery Tour, which, if you were a Beatles fan thinking, "it's the Beatles, how bad can it be?" was going to be a horrific eyeopener about the tragic realities of life in a fallen world.

Even our heroes can screw us. Love carefully.
posted by sonascope at 12:13 PM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


What a coincidence! We watched this yesterday. After consuming a vast quantity of, uh.. THC-1138.

IT. WAS.

......

AWESOME.

Today I texted my baby sister (1984, so also grew up a SW fan, though not as rabid as me -- I'm wearing a Millennium Falcon t-shirt right now) and convinced her to download and watch it. "You'll thank me later." "You know I trust you, big bro."

The holidays are all about giving.
posted by jake at 12:21 PM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


That... that has Jedi. Actual Jedi.

The Mace Windu part is going to blow your mind Times a gazillion.
posted by mikelieman at 12:22 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also I should mention: I read something like 50 Star Wars novels when I was in high school (don't worry, I read Actual Important Literature too) and my big disillusionment moment was when I discovered LiveJournal and found out that yeah, basically the EU stuff is little more than published fanfic, and often worse than the amateur fanfic.

Mostly because in the official stuff, Corran Horn and his Gand wingman Ooryl Qrygg don't get to make out.
posted by jake at 12:26 PM on December 26, 2013


The thing about the Star Wars Holiday Special is that the commercials are the best part.

"Reggie, you taste pretty good!"
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:40 PM on December 26, 2013


That... that has Jedi. Actual Jedi. Actual Jedi being actually Jedi-amazing and all that.

It's why my preferred screening order of the saga is a modified version of Machete Order that inserts Tartakovsky's Clone Wars between Episodes 2 and 3, to make up for the fact that Ep. 1 is being omitted.

I know Machete would have you lump Ep. 1, Tartakovsky's Clone Wars, the CGI Clone Wars, and possibly even the Droids and Ewoks Saturday Morning 80s cartoons and the Ewok Live Action movies all together as supplemental expanded universe stuff that was "made for kids", but that's hardly a meaningful distinction -- at the heart of it, the entire franchise was made for kids!

Tarakovsky's series makes an awesome, yet manageable-sized bridge between Ep. 2 & Ep. 3, giving you a sense of just why Luke was so awed that Old Ben fought in the Clone Wars. Without it, you see the opening battle and the final days of the Clone Wars, without ever really giving you a sense of scope of just how big they were, or how the Jedi and their Force powers were so pivotal in many of the battles.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:22 PM on December 26, 2013


>Drinking until the brain cells that remembered this event finally died?<

It is harder than you think (and more expensive) but I am still trying...
posted by twidget at 3:02 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then - years passed. A long desert-planet of time. IT is never mentioned. Ever

I had two memories I could never place for decades: A Death Squad Commander smashing up a toy X-Wing and Wookies wearing red robes floating in space.

Finding that Geocities page about the SWHS was amazing.
posted by Mezentian at 5:35 PM on December 26, 2013


CGI Clone Wars totally counts - and remember, the longer you spend watching CGI Clone Wars the longer you are putting off Revenge of the Sith.
posted by Artw at 5:39 PM on December 26, 2013


But the lack of resolution.... That Ahsoka Tano now dies off-screen is a travesty of Donna Noble proportions.
posted by Mezentian at 5:41 PM on December 26, 2013


FATE UNKNOWN.
posted by Artw at 6:41 PM on December 26, 2013


Also! This defense was written by Bonnie Burton

Maybe it was all the eggnog last night, but I totally missed that Burton was the author who I so high-handedly dismissed at the top of the thread. I take back what I said, she definitely knows her Star Wars. On the other hand, she was an official on-the-payroll Lucasfilm blogger for a bunch of years, so now I'm tempted to view this essay as an attempt at laying the advance groundwork for a remastered "special edition" SWHS Blu-Ray, to be released in time for the next round of SW films.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:59 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


a remastered "special edition" SWHS Blu-Ray, to be released in time for the next round of SW films.

With the 1970s "variety stars" replaced by Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and One Direction as Lucas always intended?
posted by Mezentian at 7:03 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Justin Beiber

I'd always noticed the resemblance.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:10 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Uncanny!
posted by Mezentian at 7:13 PM on December 26, 2013


it meant that you couldn't run around making pew!pew!pew! noises without knowing that the universe you were role-playing in now included fucking Bea Arthur.

heh heh... he said "fucking Bea Arthur." heh heh heh

heh heh

Bea Arthur.

heh heh
posted by Naberius at 5:56 AM on December 27, 2013


With the 1970s "variety stars" replaced by Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and One Direction as Lucas always intended?

Dude, Gaga would be pitch-perfect for a SW special. You could probably get two characters out of her, some sort of bizarro alien cabaret singer and some sort of singing dancing evil Sith thing.

someone make this happen please
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:05 AM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


A remastered SWHS wouldn't include the tv commercials, which are its only redeeming feature. It would go from mostly unwatchable to totally unwatchable.

So yeah, I can totally see Lucas doing that.
posted by emjaybee at 7:57 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


1) Lucas is not really in the picture anymore.
2) Mickey Mouse.
posted by Artw at 8:16 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


2) Mickey Mouse.

I *do* believe I saw Darth Vader marching in the Disney Parks Christmas Parade...
posted by mikelieman at 10:25 AM on December 27, 2013


Somehow, the guys from Rifftrax were recently able to get the rights (?) to turn their 6-year-old riff of the Star Wars Holiday Special into an integrated VOD file.

This move still stuns me. I can only surmise that Mike Nelson & co. have balls the size of two, fully grown elephants, because I can't imagine a situation where they could successfully negotiate the rights from any of the rights holders. Lucasfilm probably has some sort of copyright to the music at least, which they could use to shut down unauthorized sales, but the thing is still up, and even advertised on the front page, so it's not like they're hiding anything. But then, if it were possible to negotiate rights to this, surely someone else would have done it by now. Perhaps they raised Johnnie Cochran from the dead?

I very much hope that Rifftrax, Inc. has their ducks in a row, because I could imagine a lawsuit of this sort of magnitude could shut their doors forever.

I say buy it now before it mysteriously disappears...

Barring that, buy the Guy from Harlem.
posted by gern at 11:33 AM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


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