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The Star Wars Holiday Special, my god is it awful.
March 7, 2006 3:55 PM   Subscribe

Q. What was the worst program to ever air on U.S. network television that George Lucas has been trying to silence since its first airing?

A. The Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978 can be viewed HERE.

Random highlights of this truly horrible program can be found here. (.mov, ~5 min.)
posted by Mijo Bijo (96 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
The very first link is a funny Flash animation involving the Star Wars Holiday Special.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 3:56 PM on March 7, 2006


Saw this a few years ago. It really is godawful.
posted by brundlefly at 3:56 PM on March 7, 2006


Two words:

Wookiee porn.
posted by EarBucket at 3:58 PM on March 7, 2006


Everything You Didn't Want To Know About SWHS78*

* but were afraid someone would post
posted by mischief at 4:00 PM on March 7, 2006


I saw it. Saw it live. For years, I imagined it didn't really happen. But it did.

It did.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:03 PM on March 7, 2006


Oh what the fuck? Every letter? Give me a break.
posted by xmutex at 4:04 PM on March 7, 2006


Which is to say, I have this on VHS, and it truly is the most wretched thing ever made. (Possible exception: Battlefield: Earth.) The first twenty minutes consist of Wookiees howling and waving their arms at each other, all without subtitles. Carrie Fisher's stoned out of her gourd--and she sings! The Jefferson Starship number, the weird, inappropriate sexual innuendo, the "comedy" sketches that are so terminally unfunny as to make you wonder just what the hell the people who wrote this thing were thinking. . .

My favorite part, though, is the 1978 commercials. Tobor, Trailtracker, the Ladies Garment Workers Union. "Fighting the frizzies, at eleven."
posted by EarBucket at 4:04 PM on March 7, 2006


"Remember, 'Tobor' is 'robot' spelled backwards."
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:08 PM on March 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


This is one of those gems that if you didn't know it existed, you damn sure wouldn't believe it existed.

But, if you want to be a true Star Wars geek, this IS actually Episode 4.5. No denying it. No hiding it.
posted by JWright at 4:10 PM on March 7, 2006


JWright is correct, it has the first appearance of Boba Fett in it.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 4:12 PM on March 7, 2006


...make you wonder just what the hell the people who wrote this thing were thinking...

Probably along the lines of, "You know what? I could really go for some more cocaine right about now."
posted by NoMich at 4:12 PM on March 7, 2006


Oh god. I remember getting so excited when I saw the listing for this special in the Sun-Times TV guide. Our family had one TV, so I had to beg and plead my parents and brothers to give me rights to primetime that night, which they eventually, resentfully granted. We were all gathered in the living room as the show began, and I was so sure that this Holiday Special would win my whole family over to Star Wars obsession.
About 5 minutes in, I could feel their glares burning holes into the back of my skull. I think I gave it about 10 more minutes before I left the room in shame.
Good times.
posted by maryh at 4:12 PM on March 7, 2006


Steve Binder has scary directing credits.
posted by tellurian at 4:13 PM on March 7, 2006


Every letter. I don't no whether to compliment you or hire someone to assassinate you.

Downloading the movie now.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:20 PM on March 7, 2006


Bruce Vilanch was one of the co-writers, and his comments (found here) are pretty funny...

It was hilarious. It was between "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back" and George Lucas wanted to keep the flame alive. It's hysterically bad. I just saw it. I got it from a collector. I didn't realize how poor. I worked on it with George. That's how I got to know him. And he pulled the story out of the vault. It was like "Episode 32" of the saga, and it was the one that was set on the planet of the Wookiees, and the Wookiees were the central characters. Unfortunately all the Wookiees look like me and sound like fat people having orgasms. So, they're tough to write for. Every line of dialogue is 'oh, ee, ahh'. How do you write that? The Wookiees can't speak, but the Wookiees were the central characters. So I said, 'well we have to load this up with stars who sing and dance and do schtick to cover up that the story is about these walking carpets. It was one nightmare after another, but it's a very funny show. At the Cantina on Tatooine, Bea Arthur is the bargirl. To give you some idea what the show is like. Jefferson Starship is on it. Carrie Fisher sings something. It was Thanksgiving.
posted by the_bone at 4:21 PM on March 7, 2006


I was six and I loved it.
posted by notmydesk at 4:21 PM on March 7, 2006


What do you get a Wookie when he already has a comb? (or something to that effect)

I used to have the soundtrack for this on tape. Would that I could find it again.
posted by missmerrymack at 4:27 PM on March 7, 2006


Every letter. I don't no whether to compliment you or hire someone to assassinate you.

I'm voting for assassination.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 4:28 PM on March 7, 2006


I heard Bea Arthur was actually Anakin's father in an early draft of Episode I.
posted by cmfletcher at 4:28 PM on March 7, 2006


I was too young for this, but later acquired the Star Wars Christmas album on vinyl. Still remember one of the songs too ... What do you get a wookie for Christmas, when he already owns a comb? ... I wonder if that record is still in storage somewhere ...
posted by bcveen at 4:29 PM on March 7, 2006


Ha, missmerrymack, you beat me too it. Glad I'm not the only one.
posted by bcveen at 4:29 PM on March 7, 2006


Man, it was tough to sit through the "highlights"...I can't imagine watching the whole thing.
posted by sharpener at 4:30 PM on March 7, 2006


I was 7 and saw it live. My reaction to the thing was "WTF?"
posted by Foosnark at 4:34 PM on March 7, 2006


My goodness....I did not think I would ever see anything worse than any of the prequel movies.
I guess I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
posted by grobey22 at 4:35 PM on March 7, 2006


I've been thinking about 70's Hollywood in light of the Oscars. I mean, godawful garbage is still being made, but outright camp is much harder to find. I blame publicists--they're really more like babysitters, and they'd just never let outright trainwrecks of human beings who happen to be overpaid actors do something like this, or be drunk in public, or keep going to the "bathroom" over and over. Or maybe it's the use of anti-depressants. It's sad, really. Because we need more drunk Carrie Fischers and Star Wars specials. /not a snark
posted by bardic at 4:35 PM on March 7, 2006


It induces sea sickness !
posted by elpapacito at 4:37 PM on March 7, 2006


I wouldn't fuck that Wookie with Bea Arthur's dick.
posted by Falconetti at 4:37 PM on March 7, 2006


I not only remember this, I was all set to do an ask.metafilter question asking what happened to this.

I was 11 when it came on tv, little darth vader dolls were everywhere as were star wars metal lunchboxes and yet I too remember my reaction as: wtf??
posted by vacapinta at 4:38 PM on March 7, 2006


I was 7 and saw it live. My reaction to the thing was "WTF?"

I was also seven years old and saw it live. My reaction was "Where's Han Solo? And who in the holy fuck is Jefferson Starship?"
posted by frogan at 4:38 PM on March 7, 2006


The first scene after the opening montage thing is like Wookies: the Sitcom

It makes me want to die.
posted by cellphone at 4:43 PM on March 7, 2006


When I saw it, I didn't believe that it was for real. Especially the wookie parts. I mean, seriously, did anybody else look at that and think, "Is this some sort of weird theatre exercise?"

I mean, fercryinoutloud, they could have given us subtitles.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:44 PM on March 7, 2006


Worst single program? Maybe.
But Cop Rock is at the top of my list for serial.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:44 PM on March 7, 2006


I was born in the mid eighties, so I am too young to have witnessed this live.

But I watched Sesame Street as a kid, and I have a strange memory from when I was 3 or 4 of R2D2 and C3PO making a cameo on Sesame Street. It was my first introduction to Star Wars, I'm pretty sure. Does anyone else remember this? Did I imaigne it? Is it online??
posted by The Wig at 4:54 PM on March 7, 2006


The Wig, I do remember seeing Mark Hamill on Sesame Street, and while I don't remember R2D2 or C3P0 I'm pretty sure there were lots of star wars references.
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:59 PM on March 7, 2006


Mark Hamill, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca all appeared on an episode of the Muppet Show. Perhaps that's what you're thinking of, TW.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:00 PM on March 7, 2006


yes! I remember reading about, listening to, and laughing at the Star Wars Christmas album, but I haven't gotten to expirence the awfulness on a visual level, until now.

I must send this to my brother right away. There is no way he can defend George Lucas for this.
posted by nuclear_soup at 5:00 PM on March 7, 2006


um. wow. just. wow.
posted by JeffK at 5:06 PM on March 7, 2006


Every line of dialogue is 'oh, ee, ahh'. How do you write that?

Well, you miserable no-talent nitwit, you take it as an opportunity for inventive storytelling without dialog, or you use subtitles, or both. McDonalds is calling you, and always has been.
posted by bingo at 5:06 PM on March 7, 2006


Darth Vader was on the Muppets too, at one point. I'd LOVE to see any of those videos.

Gonzo comes up to Darth Vader, pointing to his chest piece, and says, "What happens if I push this button?"

Vader says, "YOU DIE!"

Gonze runs off. Good times.
posted by JWright at 5:06 PM on March 7, 2006


I was 9 when I saw this for the first time. My little brother was 6, and absolutely adored everything Star Wars. He had the bedsheets, the Darth Vader plush toy, loads of action figures, etc.

We watched this with glowing eyes. At one point, I think he cried because the Wookies kept talking and no one would tell him what they were saying.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:09 PM on March 7, 2006


i'm amazed this hasn't been seen before, and I think to starwars fans, you should be as wary of clicking on that link as most people are to looking at goatse.cx
posted by empath at 5:09 PM on March 7, 2006


No one who saw this has any business pretending to be surprised at how the first trilogy turned out. Not with this GIANT RED FLAG staring them in the face from the beginning....
posted by slatternus at 5:12 PM on March 7, 2006


Well, you miserable no-talent nitwit, you take it as an opportunity for inventive storytelling without dialog, or you use subtitles, or both. McDonalds is calling you, and always has been.

how could you call the guy behind this a no-talent nitwit?! he's given us pure GOLD, here!
posted by jimmy at 5:12 PM on March 7, 2006


I have it on DVD. It's AWFUL. Bea Arthur is a barkeep having a little relationship with Harvey Korman. Frightening.
posted by OhPuhLeez at 5:15 PM on March 7, 2006


Who knew Chewie was married? And is his father's name Itchie?
posted by Gungho at 5:15 PM on March 7, 2006


slatternus, let us not forget GIANT RED FLAG number 2: The Ewok Adventure. And GIANT RED FLAG number 3: Lucas' total destruction of Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom via awful dialogue. Anyone who expected the prequels not to suck didn't see the signs.
posted by JekPorkins at 5:20 PM on March 7, 2006


Cocaine is a helluva a drug.
posted by DenOfSizer at 5:21 PM on March 7, 2006


And Art Carnie as the prototype for Watto?

Damn, I'm sorry I missed this the first time 'round.
posted by Gungho at 5:23 PM on March 7, 2006


Lucas has no business trying to silence this while at the same time releasing Episodes 1, 2, and 3. The script here is slightly more compelling.
posted by ontic at 5:25 PM on March 7, 2006


But I watched Sesame Street as a kid, and I have a strange memory from when I was 3 or 4 of R2D2 and C3PO making a cameo on Sesame Street. It was my first introduction to Star Wars, I'm pretty sure. Does anyone else remember this? Did I imaigne it?
No.
Is it online??
Sort of.
posted by designbot at 5:26 PM on March 7, 2006


Make that "sort of" a yes. I just realized they have the whole episode posted for download.
posted by designbot at 5:28 PM on March 7, 2006


I had very vague memories of this -- mostly of a family of wookies, and always thought that the wookie family was from the muppet show. I was only 4 when this aired, so my memory of it is super hazy. Thanks for clearing it up, though. The toy ads bring back a lot of memories, too.
posted by drobot at 5:29 PM on March 7, 2006


I got a copy of this last year, and since I had the Very Brady Christmas on my TiVo at the time, I got a glimmer of inspiration -- and so tried playing the sound of the wookies in the opening while watching the Very Brady Christmas opening. It worked *surprisingly* well for a while -- something nice about seeing mike open his mouth and a "wooOOOoorrrrghk!" coming out, I think -- although it was no Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz.
posted by davejay at 5:30 PM on March 7, 2006


I had no idea this thing existed, but then I detest everything to do with Star Wars; that mindless, witless, juvenile heap of nerd excrement.

Therefore I adore this. I am particularly taken with Mrs. Chewbacca's pinny.
posted by Decani at 5:41 PM on March 7, 2006


I wonder why Life Day never caught on like Festivus did? Maybe it's the unintelligible howling.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:43 PM on March 7, 2006


The best part is that the sound designer added the famous "Wilhelm" scream in - like a wink wink to other sound designers. Check out the random highlights, and go to the scene a little over halfway through, where Han Solo pushes the Storm Trooper through the railing like its an old Western. Instant Wilhelm.
posted by debris at 5:46 PM on March 7, 2006


I saw it a few years ago--my fanboy roommate got a bootleg at some convention somewhere. Two things stick out in my memory: 1)Bea Arthur and Art Carney singing a really boring, old-fashioned duet in the Tatooine cantina (what does that have to do with Star Wars, exactly?)
and 2) Chewbacca's dad getting virtual reality headgear (kind of ahead of it's time, actually) and getting off on some virtual stripper/dancer. It's hard to tell because Chewbacca's dad doesn't speak English, but it looks like the guy is really getting off!

This is back when variety shows were still viable, so Lucas used that format for some bizarre reason. So bad it's good.
posted by zardoz at 5:52 PM on March 7, 2006


Anthony Daniels on the special, from an interview:

I did two days on it and as I was driven away I laughed so much they nearly redirected me to the local ER. The Wookiees kept treading on the stars, which smashed because they were only light bulbs really. LESSON: Never strew the floor with light bulbs! My favourite stage direction from the script: 'The Wookiees enter, carrying their glowing globes in their hands.' I suspect there are websites concerned with getting your globes to glow and carrying them around.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:57 PM on March 7, 2006


denofsizer: Cocaine is a helluva a drug.

after watching the first 15 minutes (through tears lmfao):
coke and bad acid do not mix

this is hands down the greatest thing i've ever seen.
god bless you george lucas
posted by visit beautiful mount weather! at 5:57 PM on March 7, 2006


Thanks debris. The "Aristocrats" of the sound world. Aaaiiiii!!
posted by Ohdemah at 5:59 PM on March 7, 2006


now i'm getting scared
posted by visit beautiful mount weather! at 5:59 PM on March 7, 2006


If you watch all the way to the end of the highlights reel, I think you see why they made this: Star Wars toys for Christmas. It must have been an early attempt at blockbuster cross-promotion, thus the embarrasing mistake.

I actually watched the original "Star Wars" with the kid today. It holds up surprisingly well. I'm still trying to figure out why it's so much better than the sequels. It has personality, and vibe. And the story of a ragtag bunch of rebels always trumps the stories of when those rebels are getting their shit together. Same thing happened in the "Matrix" sequels.

Also, at the Oscars, everyone was talking about how George has been saying that the era of the multimillion dollar blockbuster is over; that studios and indies will crank out cheaper, story-oriented movies because it's a better return on investment. I have to agree with him, but it makes me wonder why he would say that when he's spent the last ten years working on story-free CGI epics.
posted by fungible at 6:02 PM on March 7, 2006


I like the storm troopers 'searching' the house by throwing stuff around randomly.

The ensemble peace at the end is fantastic.

OowWwrrRk!
posted by asok at 6:09 PM on March 7, 2006


I could have sworn this was a dream. My god it really happened...It's all coming back to me now.
posted by aaronscool at 6:13 PM on March 7, 2006


I just remembered that the photo I currently have displayed on my Flickr profile is from that Christmas. Behold the dorkiness.
posted by missmerrymack at 6:13 PM on March 7, 2006


A friend of mine, who is a huge Star Wars fan, got a bootleg vhs of this from ebay, and assured me that when it arrived we'd watch it together (we were also mst3k fans). So when it got here, I asked him what it was like.

"It...was really bad Jenny."
"Awesome. Let's watch it together!"
"No."

Now matter how much I pestered him to let me watch the tape, or borrow it ("You won't have to watch it again, just loan the tape to me!" "I...I can't Jenny. It's too awful") he wouldn't let me see the darn thing. I guess he was trying to protect me from the horror of it all.

That I have a chance, I'm afraid to watch it.
posted by kosher_jenny at 6:29 PM on March 7, 2006


*now* that I have a chance.
posted by kosher_jenny at 6:30 PM on March 7, 2006


Count me as a SW fan who saw this as a kid and spent *years* wondering if I imagined the visit to the Wookie homeworld. I even re-read all the comics at one point to see if I'd gotten the idea there. One of the first things I did online was find out if I was alone (obviously, I was not). I've had a copy of this for a couple of years now, and I still can't bring myself to watch it!
posted by Banky_Edwards at 6:31 PM on March 7, 2006


You've got to hand it to Lucas, he just went that extra mile to foreshadow how horribly awful the rest of the series would be, particulary from Return of the Jedi on. His best stories are on the production side of things.
posted by juiceCake at 6:42 PM on March 7, 2006


I can't decide which part of the show I hate the most.No, no it'd have to be the GRANDPA ITCHY'S WOOKIE'S SEX FANTASY scene. Yeah, that's probably the absolute low-point.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:46 PM on March 7, 2006


Also, this was the subject of one of the first articles on nostalgia site X-Entertainment.com. And I think he says it best:
Calling the Holiday Special bad is just about the textbook definition of an 'understatement'. It's not just bad. It's not even just laughably bad. It makes tv shows like Herman's Head and The Tortellis seem like genius brainstorms.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:50 PM on March 7, 2006


Favorite line: "And R2-D2 as... R2-D2!"

Bruce Vilanch was one of the co-writers

Whoopi would have made it work.
posted by evilcolonel at 7:00 PM on March 7, 2006


Oh my god tellurian, you've uncovered the secret connection between the Star Wars Holiday Special and the Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
posted by JHarris at 7:02 PM on March 7, 2006


Also, this was the subject of one of the first articles on nostalgia site X-Entertainment.com.

Dammit! I missed a link. :-)
posted by Mijo Bijo at 7:02 PM on March 7, 2006


I knew I had seen this here before but it's great we can now actually witness the glory of it.
posted by chrisroberts at 7:19 PM on March 7, 2006



posted by fandango_matt at 7:57 PM on March 7, 2006


Interesting digression about the "Wilhelm" Scream. I wonder if anyone has put it together with the Amen Break (maybe Tarantino inadvertently(?) now that I think about it). Good link fodder here but too tired.
posted by Toecutter at 8:22 PM on March 7, 2006


I swear I saw a Ferengi in the Cantina scene...

no, wait.. that was Bea Arthur... nevermind...
posted by WhipSmart at 9:28 PM on March 7, 2006


And I always thought "The Pruitts of Southampton" was the nadir of network TV. I stand corrected, humbly.
posted by rob511 at 9:45 PM on March 7, 2006


just watched it (again, i guess--i must have seen it the first time, but blocked the memory of it--it's not like we had lots of channels or choices back then--altho Harvey Korman was always in everything--totally everything)

the Bea Arthur part is the best thing about it--very Brecht/Weill. : >
posted by amberglow at 10:29 PM on March 7, 2006


my eyes! my precious eyes! ahhhhhgggg
posted by incongruity at 10:47 PM on March 7, 2006


I liked it better than Episodes 1-3
posted by pwedza at 10:57 PM on March 7, 2006


Is this an early example of the war on Christmas?
posted by mosessmith at 10:59 PM on March 7, 2006


Gonzo comes up to Darth Vader, pointing to his chest piece, and says, "What happens if I push this button?"

i remember that... it was funny. but Triumph's button-pushing line was much better:

The Dreaded YouTube Link
posted by joeblough at 11:06 PM on March 7, 2006


Jesus god that sucks ... I watched it, as a child, but I guess I blocked it out.

So you've got one movie that is still wonderful to watch (Star Wars, or whatever they call it now) and then this holiday TV assault on everything, then a pretty good movie (Empire Strikes Back) then a squirming robot abortion and then the "prequels" .... it's really hard to remember why this stuff is so popular.

Or not. It's popular because it's a great myth story. But it's clear from this that George Lucas hated anybody who liked his Star Wars. He hated them, and he wanted them to suffer. You really have to hate your audience to make a piece of steaming crap like the holiday special.
posted by kenlayne at 11:13 PM on March 7, 2006


From the fourth link:

When I asked author Kevin J. Anderson about his opinion about this program, he told me that he asked George Lucas about it once. Lucas told him that he would like to see every single surviving copy of that program destroyed.

Fighter Cease-And-Desist landing on Planet YouTube in 3...2...1...
posted by mediareport at 11:24 PM on March 7, 2006


I remember watching it and loving it -- being so deeply enamored of Star Wars as a child I just couldn't get enough of the setting. Then when no one else I talked to seemed to remember it, I started thinking I dreamed it. I see that I am not alone in that.

I now realize, however, that my parents were saints for sitting through this with me as a child. That or pure evil, allowing my little mind to be exposed to That Which Man Should Not Have Seen.
posted by moonbiter at 11:48 PM on March 7, 2006


* Jefferson-Sellout-Starship. GET IT? STARSHIP.
Got it. Actually, if you dig a little deeper you'll find an interesting parallel to this artistic faliure (STWHS) following success (Star Wars New Hope): Blows Against the Empire (1970) Paul Kantner (& roughly the first Jefferson Starship outing) is the story of a group who hijack a starship from the man and found a utopia elsewhere. Great album and Grace Slick's only listenable work. Seek it out. Then compare with the drivel this Starship plays on the holiday special. There's a reason you mistake (Marty Balin's?) microphone in silouette for a dildo.
posted by hal9k at 2:37 AM on March 8, 2006


Mijo Bijo. Thank you for this.

My flatmate is a die-hard Star Wars fanatic and, though he knows it exists, likes to pretend the Holiday Special never happened. He doesn't own it and refuses to talk about it and gets huffy when we mention how incomplete his movie collection really is.

I have a cunning plan.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:25 AM on March 8, 2006


Conan O'Brien asked Harrison Ford about this a few weeks ago. Go to about the 7:00 minute mark.
posted by EarBucket at 4:18 AM on March 8, 2006


Thanks designbot.. looking at the stills on that page are giving me flashbacks already. I knew i didn't imagine this!
posted by The Wig at 5:00 AM on March 8, 2006


I had this on VHS a few years ago. I'm not sure whether I still have the tape or not. I may have actually destroyed it.

People always wanted to watch it, and the best description I could ever come up with as to why they shouldn't was that it's kind of like heroin. There's no way to describe it without making it sound kind of sexy and exciting, but the reality is that it is absolutely not any of those things. It will only hurt you.

I finally relented and let some people watch it at a party we were having once. They sat through all 900,000 long minutes, and then everyone sort of just went home. They looked very sad. It was the worst party ever.
posted by rusty at 6:48 AM on March 8, 2006 [2 favorites]


Yep, that's exactly it, rusty. You can't even find comedy in its sheer badness, except in conversations like this where the badness itself is humerous.

If I were hosting a party and wanted to show people a Star-Wars spin-off short film, I'd show them Hardware Wars.

YOU'LL LAUGH! YOU'LL CRY! YOU'LL KISS THREE BUCKS GOOD-BYE!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:06 PM on March 8, 2006


I was ten. I remember enjoying the cartoon part, but was disappointed that so little of Han, Luke, and Leia were in it. I don't recall Carrie Fisher singing to the Star Wars theme, so I must have fallen asleep when Bea Arthur started singing.

It's got Art Carney in it though. It's not all bad.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:28 PM on March 8, 2006


Finally. I've been looking for a way to see this without waiting or paying.

It's kinda surreal.
posted by johndog at 2:14 AM on March 9, 2006


C'mon. It's not as bad as re-runs of Frasier.
posted by Ritchie at 4:06 AM on March 9, 2006


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