Have a very Wookie Christmas

The dark, ugly secret of "Star Wars" is a "Holiday Special" banned from TV forever.

By Daniel Kraus
December 6, 2000 1:00AM (UTC)
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Aw, what's wrong? Holidays giving you a case of the "Wookie-ookies"?

Take heart, friend. It could be worse. A lot worse. A hell of a lot worse.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (Nov. 17, 1978), CBS broadcast a two-hour holiday event called "The Star Wars Holiday Special."


Never heard of it? That's because after its ill-fated premiere, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas banished it forever from the realm of human existence. But something of this much weight has a way of reaching the masses.

"Special" is certainly one word for that show. Other words one might choose to apply include "distressing," "appalling" and "bad."

Yes, it was that unprecedented. Yes, it was that bad.


Among the "Star Wars" faithful, it's taken for granted that their aloof Marin County Buddha wants every last trace of it expunged from the earth. Nearly every actor involved -- essentially the entire cast of the first film -- would probably rather forget his or her participation, especially Carrie Fisher. If you're unlucky enough to come across a 10th-generation dub of this underwhelming indignity, you'll find her performing a musical number.

A musical number with Wookies.

"The Star Wars Holiday Special" is like a massive train wreck -- you see it coming, it makes a whole lotta noise and it's really, really long.


There's no plot per se, but the show drifts along something like this: It's Life Day on the Wookie planet of Kashyyyk. (Life Day is sort of like Thanksgiving and Chanukah put together, except it's much, much more boring.) Chewbacca's return from his galactic adventures is eagerly awaited by his family -- wife Malla, father Itchy and son Lumpy.

Once again, that's "Itchy" and "Lumpy."


Anyhow, Malla (who I think is supposed to be pretty, but looks a little like Leatherface from "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre"), Itchy and Lil' Lumpy have several in-depth conversations regarding different Wookie-related matters. Of course, since they're speaking Wookie-ese, we can't understand a word.

This nonsensical squawking and squealing goes on for 20 minutes. Thankfully, Art Carney finally shows up and bestows upon the family a "mind evaporator."

Which, come to think of it, actually explains most of the program so far.


Apparently unimpressed with the low caliber of the show's guest-star cameo, Itchy settles down to indulge in a little Wookie porn via a sort of proto-cybersex virtual reality machine. Diahann Carroll appears in his porn finder, purring, "I am your fantasy. I am your pleasure. So enjoy me." Which Itchy -- licking his rubbery lips and shuddering orgasmically -- proceeds (at length) to do.

Occasionally, the producers cut to space battle footage cribbed from "Star Wars" and check in on Chewbacca and Han Solo, who are in the Millennium Falcon, struggling to get Chewy back in time for Life Day. No, Harrison Ford didn't weasel his way out of this TV bad boy, either. Nor did Mark Hamill, C-3PO or R2D2. (This is what is known as a "contractual obligation.")

Luke Skywalker surfaces briefly, slathered in girlish makeup, and blathers incoherently for a while. Then there's a few more dance sequences, a cartoon that introduces Boba Fett, no fewer than four different high-larious characters played by Harvey Korman, a Tatooine Cantina ballad sung by Bea Arthur ("You're such a dear friend/You know I'm here, friend/Is that a tear, friend?") and a startlingly bad performance by Jefferson Starship.


No, seriously.

Chewy eventually shows up back at home. Han greets the family: "Malla. Lumpy. Itchy." Han scruffs the little one's head, saying, "Look at Lumpy, he's all grown up. I think his voice is changing." Then Han hugs all four fur balls and pauses meaningfully at the door: "All of you are an important part of my life."

Finally, we witness the moving Life Day ceremony. And at the end, when all the Wookies line up in their red robes and walk through the stars and into the moon ...

Well, it's, uh, really, um, baffling. I mean touching.


Was Lucas high when he authorized this? Although technically only 120 minutes long, the "Holiday Special" has the futuristic ability to slow time, and one emerges from its vortex some six days later bearded, weeping, defeated and sporting a limp. It's the kind of experience that makes you want to go lie down in the road.

Yet, much as with "Schindler's List," perhaps everyone should be forced to watch it once, just so that nothing this abominable ever happens again. In their haste to capitalize on the entirely unexpected extraordinary success of "Star Wars" only months earlier, 20th Century Fox and CBS rushed to cater to the lowest common denominator. Quite obviously, they shot way, way, way too low.

Thankfully, lessons can be learned from this mistake. The progam's jabbering nonsense and preschool sensibilities forewarned us of "Episode One's" inexcusable Jar Jar Binks. Also, by showing us the absolute low point of the "Star Wars" universe, the special pointedly illustrates the harmful legacy of Lucas' original masterpiece -- namely, the priority put on cool lasers and nifty explosions as well as the leniency now granted galaxywide to expository "if only there was a way to get Chewy home for the holidays and still find time to shoot the 'Star Wars' franchise in the foot"-style dialogue.

And to ambitious movie producers, "The Star Wars Holiday Special" gives a stark warning as well: Do not, under any circumstances, make one that sucks.


But for now, Lucas can count his blessings. You will not be seeing "The Star Wars Holiday Special" -- not this year, not any year. And if you're lucky and pray really, really hard, maybe your grandkids will never have to see it either. Maybe there can be peace on Earth; maybe there can be goodwill toward men.

So have a merry Christmas. And may the Force most certainly not be with you.

Daniel Kraus

Daniel Kraus is the director of the award-winning film "Jefftowne."

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