The Star Wars Holiday Special revisited
Reality takes a holiday along with the Star Wars cast. But is the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special that bad?
You know what go well together? Pop sci-fi, variety shows and Christmas.
Wait, no they don’t, that’s a terrible idea. The Christmas variety show is fine, but attaching a famously secular fantasy to it? Really? Still, this was the late 70s, where variety shows were the king of Christmas telly, and Star Wars was the king of everything else. So obviously some genius decided to put the two things together. The result? Something so bad that it was never shown again. Carrie Fisher reportedly uses it to get people to leave her house. George Lucas actually threatened to go on a rampage with a sledgehammer. Words have not been invented to describe how bad it is.
The story, which reportedly was included at Lucas’ request (he otherwise had nothing to do with it), is that Han is trying to get Chewie home to his family in time for Life Day. Not Christmas. No sir. But of course, the Empire are trying to find him, because Star Wars. This is told through the medium of a variety show, which boils down to Chewie’s family watching a load of stuff on TV and grunting. For an hour and a sodding half. I’m not joking. Yet somehow, it doesn’t manage to live up to even this threadbare premise. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that this could be worse even if people tried. It’s not even so-bad-it’s-good, or even accidentally funny. Although it is better than Attack Of The Clones.
So, let’s meet Chewie’s family. They do regular things, like grunt, punch each other, steal biscuits and carry around bins of spinach. And they only speak Shyriiwook. I don’t speak Shyriiwook. Nobody speaks Shyriiwook. Nevertheless, these are the only characters we have after the all-too-TV credits, which means fat chance figuring out what’s going on. Not that anything actually does happen. This first scene goes on for ten minutes with only Wookie dialogue, which means we watch Chewie’s family perform minor chores with no context whatsoever. We don’t know who they are (beside the exposition in the credits, of all things) or what they’re doing or why anything is happening. We do get to hear grunting though. Lots and lots of grunting.
Let’s meet them, shall we? No? Tough, we’re doing this mother right now.
Here’s Itchy. As you can see, Itchy has been dead for some time and his face has been partially eaten. Itchy enjoys sleeping and watching pornography. Not that you’d get it from the grunting, but Itchy is Chewie’s dad.
This is Lumpy. Lumpy is played by a Chuckie doll, specifically the burnt one from the end of Child’s Play. Lumpy enjoys stealing, breaking things, and watching TV. Lumpy is Chewie’s son. This family really needs to sort out their names. For no reason, we have a scene where Lumpy contemplates suicide because he can’t steal any more biscuits.
This is Malla, Chewie’s wife. Malla enjoys cooking, bossing everyone around, and scanning for starships. Malla is Chewbacca, with human lips. Imagine Chewie and Malla having sweaty, grunty, hairy sex with each other. Go on, start imagining. There you go. That mental image will now define your Christmas. Enjoy!
Notice all the lovely Life Day decorations, the Life Tree or the wonderful festive atmosphere? No, me neither. Because this is the 70s and this is a secular Christmas special, this is set in a brown living room. I think we had the same sideboard.
Still, that’s enough excitement for now. Malla and Itchy get annoyed with Lumpy grunting and trying to kill himself, so they make him watch the first of our variety acts… an interpretive dance number. If you’ve got any drugs, use them now folks. It’s not going to make sense any other way.
After this insanity, Malla decides to worry about Chewie for some reason. She spends several minutes scanning for him, which means we just watch a large wig using a 70s microfilm viewer. Fortunately, this gives way to our first guest star. Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill! Mark Hamill is somewhere in this bit, but trapped under enough makeup to kill the Emperor himself. It even looks like he’s had his eyes whitened. Although in all seriousness, that make up was probably to hide the scars from his horrific car accident.
Rather than do anything heroic, or anything at all, he just translates the Wookiee’s questions to himself, then doesn’t answer them. It basically explains everything that’s happened up to this point, which is precisely nothing. R2-D2 scolds him (literally, with a steam pipe), then he plays no further part in the story.
Plot over with, they get back to looking for Chewie. It turns out he isn’t in the sideboard.
Then Malla scans again. God this is boring.
Now we’re introduced to Art Carney. He runs the local shop, and he spends about five minutes padding the story out, I mean showing off the stuff he has for sale. There’s a portable fish cube (with portable obviously fake fish), and he spends a lot of time trying to flog an electric shoe cleaning thing, which the Imperial dude just steals because, er, he’s a dick. Malla decides to phone him to see if Chewie’s there, and fortunately he knows where he is… with Han Solo. He knows this because… no idea.
But, at least now we have the plot. Chewie is coming home. The Empire is looking for him. Then we get a scene of stock footage with Darth Vader, where we find out Chewie is going home, and the Empire is looking for him. You know, just in case you didn’t figure it out yet.
Still, no time for plot. We’ve got a cooking show to watch! No, seriously. We watch Malla watching a cooking show. With Roger Corman doing a weird Julia Child impersonation. This might be funny if it were, except it isn’t. At all.
Just in case we’d forgotten the plot, we get more stock footage. But it’s Harrison Ford! There’s peril here, because Han Solo looks so bored he might airlock himself. Quick, they’ve got to fulfill those contractual obligations before it’s too late!
Back to Art Carney. Hegoes round to the Wookies and gives them presents. Presents that all involve playing some sort of video, which we have to watch. One of them is called a Mind Evaporator. Ew. Good thing that Itchy’s present is porn. No, seriously. It’s porn. It’s mind porn. Wookie porn. In one of those perming machines.
Itchy seems to really enjoy it, although we fortunately don’t see anything except his weird melted face, which might be an o-face but it’s hard to tell since Itchy’s sole expression is one of horrible, horrible pain. For nearly 10 minutes.
Much like Luke, we get a token scene with Leia where she restates the plot, just in case it’s all moving too quickly for us. Despite being on screen for all of twelve seconds, she still manages to get the name of the sodding planet wrong. This is because the writers were idiots, and she was completely stoned off her tits. No, seriously.
After another interlude with a suicidal Han (you know, in case we’d forgotten the plot), the Empire come. Oh no! Stormtroopers! They’re looking for, I dunno, rebel scum or something. They menacingly look through cupboards. This is the scene with mild peril, because there’s all sorts of stuff in those cupboards, like ornaments and hair. Then they look through the cupboards again, just in case. Wait, they’re looking for Chewie? And they think he might be hiding in the sideboard? The Wookiee’s already looked there. Seriously, does Chewie have some problem hiding in the sideboard? Has anyone ever found him there? They don’t find him, because Chewie in onboard the Millennium Falcon, watching stock footage and trying not to let Han crash the ship out of boredom.
After one of the Imperials is bitten by Lumpy, Art Carney tries to distract them by… putting on the stereo. The Empire just loves Jefferson Starship, apparently. Although there’s no Wookiee wanking on this one, the singer appears to be trying to swallow a giant glowing dildo and the rest of the band are covered in a pink glow, like they’re burning to death in some big gay fire. I should point out this is easily the most coherent part of the special yet.
This doesn’t cause the Imperials to leave as one might expect, and instead they take the action to the bedroom. But they can’t search the bedroom because Lumpy made a mess (the other kind). So he watches a cartoon. This cartoon is actually the one bit that was good. In fact it even got an official release, unlike any other parts of this bloody special. It’s standard 70s fare, which means exaggerated characters and nonsensical plot. But it was the first appearance of Boba Fett, which means that even if it were crap everyone would love it. That’s how Star Wars fandom works, folks. You could flog them anything as long as Boba Fett is in it. Which I think was the pitch for Attack Of The Clones.
After the cartoon, the Empire orders Lumpy to… tidy his room! Bastards! But because he’s a child, he just puts the TV on again. He watches adverts. We watch adverts. For fictional utility items in the Star Wars universe. The advertiser is Harvey Korman, playing a robot with a malfunctioning pelvis. Wait, I think Lumpy is building some sort of illegal transmitter or something. I didn’t catch the dialogue because, as I keep telling this idiot, WE DON’T SPEAK SHYRIIWOOK!
Do you want to learn how to build it? No? Tough. You’re watching every damn instruction on this video whether you like it or not, even to the point that Harvey Korman actually dies of old age on screen.
Fortunately, we’re not done watching people we don’t know watching TV shows. We now get to watch the Stormtroopers watching a documentary on Tatooine. Which is basically a load of people in the cantina looking vaguely bored. This documentary then suddenly becomes a soap opera where Bea Arthur is some sort of space Bet Lynch getting hit on by… a guy. Apparently they met before, then he fell in love, and now… no, I’m lost. None of this is ever explained. It’s just another excuse for Harvey Korman to pick up another paycheque. Still, it’s a better love story than Attack Of The Clones.
But then disaster strikes! The Empire declares a curfew and closes the cantina. Poor whatever her name is. She then has the arduous task of telling her drunks to get out of the bar and performing some light clerical work, and we have the arduous task of watching it. One of the Rodians is called Ludlow. He’s a lovely town. Anyway, this goes on for about five whole minutes before it breaks out into a musical number, which is oddly the cantina band music slowed down and transposed into a minor key, with lyrics. As we will see later, this is the second worst attempt at this sort of thing. Here’s a giant rat.
This distraction gives Lumpy enough time to build his thing, and he uses it to pretend to be the Empire and recall the troops. In a remarkable display of competence, they leave one stormtrooper behind, who finds Lumpy and breaks his thing. But fortunately Chewie and Han arrive and Han manages to murder the stormtrooper. I don’t think he was supposed to, but Harrison Ford looks so bored that I think he just wants it all to end. Then, after some platitudes and making everyone cry, he sods off. Contract fulfilled! He’s so eager to get out of there he practically throws Lumpy at Chewie.
Unfortunately, that means we’re back to having just Wookies on screen, so you know what that means… more grunting. Fortunately, Art Carney comes back to cover up the murder and stress the importance of always carrying ID. No, seriously, that’s the moral of the story. Either that or ‘make sure you have a healthy supply of drain cleaner before you watch this crap’. A similar message would be used for the romance scenes in Attack Of The Clones.
Life Day seems to involve holding up snowglobes in the dark and then becoming the Bohemian Rhapsody video, before walking through space dressed as monks into a giant blue sun that explodes. What? They then appear at the bottom of a giant tree that is floating in space. Then, everyone turns up, even the people who were clearly on other planets. C3PO laments that he isn’t human, Han and Luke say a line, and then Leia breaks into song. The Star Wars theme music. She’s mostly in time and mostly in key, which considering how high Carrie Fisher was for the entirety of filming is quite an achievement. The poor girl could barely stand, apparently.
Because this thing was running short, we now have a montage of clips from Star Wars for no reason whatsoever. I think it’s supposed to be Chewie reminiscing, but he remembers stuff where he wasn’t even involved so it’s just weird. Then, because it’s still not over yet, we witness Chewie’s family saying grace over their Life Day dinner. And then it’s over. Finally.
Still better than Attack Of The Clones though.
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