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"If I Had a Hammer..."

"If I Had a Hammer..."

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Let's take a trip in the Wayback Machine, shall we? Back to -- say -- November 17, 1978. Why this date? Because it is the day that a mistake aired on TV. A mistake that causes eyes to roll and sighs to be heaved whenever it's mentioned. A mistake known as the "Star Wars Holiday Special."

This year marks the 25th anniversary of this show. (Don't ask how I know this. Just like Matt Springer, I am a geek. I can't help it.) Two hours of excruciatingly bad acting and even worse writing.

Now keep in mind that "Star Wars" was at the height of its popularity when the "Star War Holiday Special" was first foisted on the American TV watching public. And George Lucas -- how now likes to pretend that this TV show doesn't exist -- was very heavily involved in the merchandising of the "Star Wars" characters and universe. Even going so far as to authorize the creation of (I sh*t you not) Wookie Cookies.

So where is this TV show now? Locked away in some dark, dank vault at Skywalker Ranch. Never to see the light of day again if Lucas has anything to say about it.

Mind you, there are copies of the "Star Wars Holiday Special" floating around out there. Like the one I own. But this item didn't come in my possession through any officially authorized means. In fact, I had to buy my copy of the "Star Wars Holiday Special" at a convention. Which is the only place that I ever have seen this little beauty for sale. (Just a tip for you "Star Wars" fans out there: If you do decide to buy a copy of this holiday special for yourselves, I strongly suggest that you find it for fifteen bucks or less. However, I have seen some cases where some vendors will toss in a copy of the show for free if you make another purchase.)

So how bad is the "Star Wars Holiday Special," really? If you love the "Star Wars" characters. If you grew up loving the movies and (as Kevin Smith of "Clerks" fame described) the "Holy Trilogy" holds a special place in your heart and you don't want to live with the knowledge that your beloved characters could be capable of doing something this bad, then DON'T ever watch this show.

Better yet, don't ever read any further in this article. Even just reading the details about this program will cause " ... a great disturbance in (your) Force." If you know what I mean.

What? You can't help yourself? You HAVE TO know what the "Star Wars Holiday Special" is really like? Okay ... I warned you ... Read on at your own peril ...

Stock footage from "Star Wars" starts the show as Star Destroyers loom above a planet in space. We cut to an obviously cardboard mockup of the Millennium Falcons' cockpit as it again evades Imperial forces. This time it is not smuggling or even helping the Rebel alliance. Instead the reason for running the blockade is in an effort to get Chewie back to the Wookie home world to join his family for the most important date in the Wookie calendar, "Life Day" (because this DOES take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away after all and so Christmas does not exist.).

Once this fact has been established, all hopes of a great "Star Wars" tale evaporate, as the scene changes to Chewie's family nervously awaiting his return. We now get an almost twenty minute long segment that takes a look the daily lives of Wookies. And all without the benefits of subtitles. Which means that we have to sit watch and listen to the howls and roars of Chewie's loved ones.

Eventually, Art Carney makes an appearance and is able to start translating the Wookies' dialogue. But the conversations tend to be very one-sided. Here's a typical exchange:

ART CARNEY: What's that Lumpy? You miss your dad?


ART CARNEY: No, no, I'm sure he'll be here soon.

Lumpy (Chewie's son) is eventually revealed as the real star of the "Star Wars Holiday Special." He plays a vital part in the family's scheme to evade the constant attentions of a Storm Trooper guard and their Imperial officer. Really, that pretty sums up what this whole story is about: the plight of the Wookies under the Empire's rule and their struggle to save a cherished day.

As the "Star Wars Holiday Special" unfolds, we are treated to some just plain bizarre distractions. One of these comes in the form of a musical number in the Mos Eisley Cantina, performed by Bea Arthur of all people. Then Harvey Korman bumbles in every 10 or 15 minutes, each time playing a different character. Then Jefferson Starship makes an appearance. Ack! Just thinking about this makes my head hurt.

Perhaps the only truly redeeming portion of this entire program is a brief animated interlude where the notorious bounty hunter, Bobba Fett, make his very first appearance in the "Star Wars" universe. But ... beyond that, there's really nothing all that special about the "Star Wars Holiday Special."

I mean, what sort of positive things can you say about a TV special where the real stars of the show -- I.E. the actual cast of "Star Wars" -- basically make cameo appearances. Arguably, Harrison Ford has the most screen time. But -- then again -- he's also the actor who looks the most bored with his dialogue.

And poor Mark Hamill looks like he has way too much make-up on. But -- as it turns out -- there's a reason for that. You see, just prior to the filming of the "Star Wars Holiday Special," Mark Hamill had been in a near fatal automobile accident. As part of his recovery, Mark had to undergo major reconstructive surgery.

Since Hamill was basically fresh out of surgery when the "Star Wars Holiday Special" was being filmed, the heavy make-up that the TV production team used on the actor was necessary to cover his scars. The downside is -- because of all the make-up Mark's wearing -- he looks almost female.

But it's Carrie Fisher who makes the most embarrassing appearance in the "Star Wars Holiday Special." For poor Carrie has to sing a holiday song that's been actually written to the tune of John Williams' "Star Wars" theme. I have tried and tried to find the words to this song, but ... well, maybe the lyric sheet is being kept in the vault next to where the "Star Wars Holiday Special" master is kept.

Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2) were hardly in the show. Darth Vader is perhaps the luckiest "Star Wars" character of all. For his appearance in the "Star Wars Holiday Special" is limited to a recycled and redubbed piece of footage from the original "Star Wars" film.

So how bad is the "Star Wars Holiday Special," really? So bad that George Lucas himself has been quoted as saying "If I had the time and a hammer, I would track down every bootlegged copy of that program and smash it."

So I'm guessing that we're not ever going to see a Special Edition of this particular program.

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