Bea Arthur Star Wars Holiday Special, Christmas,

(Xmas#3) Ludicrous Seasonal TV: “Star Wars Holiday Special”

(Image from ScrapeTV website)
This is a reposting of a blog entry that was originally published on on December 16, 2010. This is the third in a series of Christmas-themed posts.
.If there was such a thing as a TV Patheticism Hall of Fame (and what a crowded hall that would be), surely the Star Wars Holiday Special would deserve to receive some kind of special honour for services rendered.  It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

It aired only once (November 17, 1978) and was probably just a quickie vehicle through which to shill for the then late-in-the-game but newly-released Star Wars toys, with many of the participants having to be strong-armed into showing up.

Regarding the SWHS, George Lucas famously said “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”  Lucas opined that back in the pre-file sharing days of the ‘90s, when video copies would trade hands for princely sums.  Today, it’s an entertainment car accident for all to see online; Lucas’ attempts to eliminate this irritant, now forever futile.

Unintentionally bad or pathetic entertainment mostly falls into one of two camps: the ludicrously engaging and compulsively watchable or the plain old just turn it off.  My personal interest in “badness” focuses on the much-rarer former rather than the ubiquitous latter.  With that in mind: be warned regarding the SWHS.  While there is enough incredulity in this special to recommend that everyone see it at least once, it must be said that the SWHS leans much more heavily on the latter designation than the former.  Ergo, it’s about 1/4 schadenfreude and about 3/4 Sominex—so tread lightly and carry a cherry picker.

Holiday is the key word in the special’s title, as this isn’t a Christmas special per se, but rather one celebrating the galaxy-wide-equivalent, Life Day.  Geez Louise, what a lame title.  It sounds like some New Age stunt-holiday where people solemnly exchange crystals in between darting off to EST seminars.

The “plot” has something to do with returning Chewbacca to his family and home planet for the requisite Life Day shindig.  In the process, we lucky viewers are introduced to Chewy’s wife and kids.

I know that the Chewbacca clan are supposed to be cute and all, but good crivens they’re irritating.  There are interminably long passages of nonsensical Wookiee chatter.  His kids are the worst offenders, making a sound that is oddly reminiscent of our cat Thurston delivering his standard gift of a sock while loudly announcing that he wants lots of attention for his hunting efforts.

Chewy’s wife looks strangely like a hirsute, wookiee version of a ‘luded out late ‘70s Sunset Strip trollop.  Check out her glazed, stooopid look and the bad make-up job during her close-up shot.  All she needs is a pair of Daisy Dukes and a “Sweet Emotion” glitter-script t-shirt and she’s good to go.

And Grandpa Chewy looks eerily like Edgar Winter.

The SWHS is chock-a-block with guest stars, each bravely trying to navigate this mess.  The late, great Bea Arthur (or, more formally, Beatrice Arthur, as per the opening credits) swallows her pride and shines amidst this tomfoolery.  Her trademark timing, delivery, and acidic wit almost salvages her big number—repeat: almost.  You can practically see the wheels turning in her head as she processes the method by which she is going to fire her agent for getting her into this mess.

Playing a bar maiden dealing with n’er-do-well muppety-type-thingys, she belts out her Brecht/Weill-via-Broadway tune, going all Weimar on our asses, probably shortly before escaping the set to go Medieval on her aforementioned agent’s.

Additionally there is Diahann Carroll sounding like a weirdly prescient version of a phone sex infomercial vixen (the only thing missing is the 1-800 number); Harvey Korman in ludicrous drag as an intergalactic Julia Child-type, teaching Mrs. Chewy how to make, um, a Baked Alaska, perhaps?; Art Carney trying not to look too mortified without much success; and Jefferson Starship—yes, Jefferson bloody Starship—in all their poodle-rock descendancy, with Marty Balin warbling through what appears to be a large, glowing, purple dildo (Grace Slick seems to have wisely given this appearance a wide berth).

Then there is the Star Wars cast who were forced into the debacle.  One has to feel for Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford: couldn’t they have been spared this indignity?  Ms. Fisher—recently knocking ‘em dead with her one woman show, Wishful Drinking—trills the nonsensical Life Day-carol-set-to-the-Star-Wars-theme, Happy Life Day, while rocking her Cinnabon Hair look.  No wonder the poor thing ended up with substance abuse problems!

As for the po-faced Ford, you have to resist the urge of wanting to jump through the screen to reassure him that all will be well: Blade Runner and Indiana Jones are a mere few years away.

Mark Hamill, C-3PO, and R2D2 all fall in line to take their career lumps as well.  At least the droid actors don’t have to show their faces on camera.  Part of me is amazed that there wasn’t a segment along the lines of Ice Dancing with Darth Vader! or something to that effect.  It’s about all that’s missing.

Put it all together and you have 1970s variety television at its most cringe-worthy and inexplicable.

The one thing that goes through my mind every time I watch this tripe is: just how coked out was everyone when they were working on this catastrophe?

Alas, Lucas has made sure that the SWHS has never been officially released, grumpypants that he is.  However, that’s what YouTube is for.


Other Christmas-Themed Entries:

Xmas #1: December 1986: My 3 Xmas Weekends From Hell Snuggle in for a heartwarming seasonal tale of being a store manager and having to endure armed robberies, flouncing Christian employees, slap-happy Santa helpers, and looting mall rats. Merry Christmas to one and all!

Xmas #2: Twisted Seasonal Sounds: A John Waters Christmas The Pope of Filth curates what is probably the most “unique” collection of seasonal tunes on the market, filled with redneck children singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, ornery’n’tourette-inflected C&W, Theremin-driven toe tappers, and other joyfully questionable sonic Christmas delights.

Xmas #3: Ludicrous Seasonal TV: Star Wars Holiday Special George Lucas once said of this special “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.” Read here and find out why.

Xmas #4: KA-CHING-A-LING: Xmas Advertising Highlights 1949-2011 A collection of seasonal ads from my magazine archives, taken from a variety of international publications spanning 60 years. Which items were singled out as worthy Christmas lucre from then until now, and how were these retail treasures flogged and positioned? And what do you need and need to know about seasonal entertaining: the booze, the turkey and fixins, the cards, the decorations, and so on, as well as how to capture it all for posterity.

Xmas #5: Christmas Advertising: LIFE Magazine, November 30, 1959 This entry zeros in on the Christmas-related ads featured in a single issue of LIFE from November 30, 1959. What was being proffered up as gifts and seasonal accoutrements during those final weeks of the 1950s, and how were they being depicted and sold? These specimens bark out the rigidity and restrictions of the day as the epoch of the 1960s was about to commence.

Xmas #6: I Believe In Father Christmas, or: Brown Shoes Don’t Make It We all find out the truth about Santa Claus at some point.  Here is my story of crestfallen discovery and it involves … my dad’s shoes.

Xmas #7:  VariousArtists’ 12 Days of Christmas Viewing A dozen alternative xmas-y eyeball suggestions that you may wish to consider, even if a few of them take liberties with the concept of being Christmas-related (and two look forward to New Year’s Eve).

Xmas #8:  VA-Tel presents 20 OUTTASIGHT XMAS SENSATIONS! Here’s some fun’n’hip shakin’ musical accompaniment for the annual Santafest.  This splendiferous list mostly avoids the obvious or overly solemn, and should get the gang groovin’ at your seasonal shindig while helping to mask the sound of partygoers vomiting in the bathroom after too many Baileys … or drive everyone swiftly out the door, depending on the circles you run in.  (A playlist of this terrific 20 can be found over on my YouTube channel, VATV).  Featuring the Ramones, Jingle Cats, Judy Garland, Wild Man Fischer, Sharon Jones, RuPaul and many more.

Xmas #9: KA-CHING-A-LING II: More Christmas Advertising Highlights 1956-2003 Another instalment of Christmas-themed ads from throughout the decades featuring entries from LIFE, People, Playboy, The Advocate, Esquire, Canadian Magazine, New York Rocker, Macleans, and more.

Comments From The Original Posting

Oh.My.Frikkin’.God. That is easily the worst thing I’ve ever seen. But I simply couldn’t stop watching waiting for the next horribly delicious moment! And I will most definitely be sending this to my son and his friends who revel in the awful movies/tv shows moments. They have viewing parties for Plan 9 From Outer Space. Good one, VA!
This stinks.. Yoda would have hated it.
Rated with hugs

lschmoopie — The “highlights” are so out there — it’s mesmerizing. The long dead passages inbetween can tax anyone’s patience, though. Filling two hours of airtime was clearly a tougher task than they’d expected. And that’s cool about your son and his friends … Plan 9 — and Glen or Glenda — I think are still the Gold Standards in ludicrously bad/funny films — for the big Hollywood equivalent, I would go for Valley of the Dolls.

Linda — Methinks too that hated it Yoda would have.

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