Editor’s note: We originally ran a version of this last year in anticipation of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Since we’re nearing the holidays, we thought it would be a great time to revisit our “Star Wars Holiday Special” review.
Last year, in anticipation of the release of “The Force Awakens,” I went on a mission to bingewatch the six “Star Wars” movies in the saga. Still, there was one item I had never seen — the infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special.”
If you’re not familiar, it’s a production so bad that it only aired once — November 17, 1978 on CBS — and was never formally released on video.
Just how terrible could it be? Well that’s what I wanted to find out.
It’s not that difficult to find online. There’s a version you can stream on YouTube. (The link I shared last year was since taken down. While this is a new one, don’t count on it being there forever.)
Initially, I tried watching it with my brother and mum, two big “Star Wars” fans who initially got me into the series. But after 20 minutes of watching Chewbacca’s Wookiee family making indiscernible noises without any actual dialogue, they begged for it to be turned off.
So I did, and then decided I would watch it alone. Was it a good life decision? I’ve made better.
The problem with the “Star Wars Holiday Special” is that it’s bloated with unnecessary celebrity cameos. There are an obscene amount of tangential segments which direct the special off course from it’s main objective: telling the story of Chewbacca trying to get home to spend a Wookiee holiday with his family.
It’s evident the original cast is only there to help bolster ratings and to keep fans tuned in to see when they will pop up next. Other than Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, they add nothing to this special and could have easily been left out.
It would have been better as a 15-minute short instead of a nearly two-hour special.
Here’s my live blog of reactions as I watched the entire thing:
After one minute: It starts off all right. We see Han and Chewie in the Millennium Falcon. Chewie’s trying to get home to his family for something called a Life Day (more on that in a bit). They’re being chased after by Imperial forces and Han clocks into light speed. If the special continues like this — as Chewie’s adventure with Han to get home — this could be fun. (Spoiler: It doesn’t. This is just about the best it gets. I should have turned around now.)
3:50: Apparently, General Motors sponsored this CBS special.
3:52: We’re out of space and are shown a drawing of the outside of Chewbacca’s home. I guess that’s all the TV budget allowed.
4:30: We’re introduced to Chewbacca’s family who we haven’t heard about at all until now. They all have absolutely bizarre names which I only know because of the extended “Star Wars” universe.
Let me introduce them:
There’s his wife, Malla:
Here’s Chewie’s son, Lumpy. (Yes, that’s his actual name.)
And then we have Chewie’s dad, Itchy. (Sidenote: Who thought up these names? They’re awful.)
7:47: This entire sequence is just strange. It’s just Wookiees gurgling and growling at each other. I have no idea what they’re saying because there aren’t any subtitles on the screen. I’m guessing they’re just waiting around for Chewie’s return home since his wife looks longingly at a photograph of him.
8:54: We’re still chilling with the Wookiees. Little Chewbacca has a holochess board and is sitting watching some holograph circus. It’s so random and doesn’t help move the plot of this special along at all.
11:00: For some reason this holographic circus is still going on.
11:25: Thank goodness, it’s over.
12:01: It’s now been about eight minutes with the Wookiee clan and all I’m wondering is how much longer this can continue. Could they not afford to have all of the main stars on air long enough?
12:30: Chewie’s wife does a search of starships in the area. No signs of Chewie. You’re not the only one disappointed, Malla.
12:53: Finally! It’s Mark Hamill (wearing what appears to be a lot of makeup) and R2-D2. Malla gives him a call to find out what’s going on with Chewie.
16:20: We cut to an Imperial guard searching for some Wookiees at some random guy’s shop. For some reason he shows him a pocket-sized aquarium.
19:43: Darth Vader! You’re a sight for sore eyes. Please tell me you’ve come to make this bearable.
19:59: No! He’s gone! He just popped in to give some orders to search every home in the system for the rebels (presumably Chewie and Han).
20:03: Oh great. We’re back at the Wookiee home. Where are Han and Chewie?
21:09: Malla’s watching a cooking show to learn how to make Bantha Surprise.
24:40: That’s over. There was no reason for that scene at all. Now, we’re back to Han and Chewie fighting off some TIE fighters. About time!
26:13: And we’re back to Chewie’s family. A general appears on screen and says they’re enacting Marshall Law on the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk.
27:05: We find out the man from earlier is named Saun Dann. He’s a trader who stops by Chewie’s home to drop off a few items and some gifts.
29:41: Itchy gets a memory chip which allows him to see a kaleidoscope array of images. I think I’m staring at some swirl of women dancing. It’s bizarre.
I am now 30 minutes into this special. There’s an hour left to go and I’m about ready to give up at this point.
30:56: This is getting weird and trippy. Grandpa Itchy is hearing some mystical woman giving the strangest speech, “I know you’re searching for me. Searching. Searching. I am here. … I am found in your eyes only. I exist for you. I am in your mind as you create me. Oh yes.” Am I watching a holiday special or something on Pay-Per-View?
31:10: Oh whoa. It’s Diahann Carrol (“Dynasty”).
32:19: Yeah, this is really weird. She’s just a figment of his imagination and goes on to sing to Itchy for the next three minutes. We’re basically watching Chewie’s dad live out some virtual sexual fantasies on a VR headset. This is supposed to be a family special. What is going on?
36:29: Princess Leia and C-3PO randomly pop in via a video call to speak with Malla.
38:35: Han and Chewie are still flying around trying to land on his home planet. Everyone just keeps wishing Chewie and his family a Happy Life Day. It’s never explained what exactly this day is so I look it up. It’s a holiday celebrated once a year to celebrate all life, living and dead on Kashyyyk. It’s kind of similar to the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead, where they celebrate those who’ve died. Since the special was around Thanksgiving, people think it’s supposed to be a similar holiday.
39:39: Oh man. The Stormtroopers just found Chewie’s family. This is getting slightly more interesting.
44:02: Or maybe not. Saun Dann is distracting one of the Imperial troops with a music video. Apparently, we’re just going to sit through this whole thing.
47:57: This is still going on. Why?
48:10: Saun Dann starts dancing in the background. Sure, why not? It seems like everyone has forgotten the main point of this special anyway.
53:00: A cartoon introducing Boba Fett was cut out of this video. I found it in a separate video here. It shows Han, Leia, and Luke’s first encounter with the bounty hunter who is actually quite friendly with Luke and his friends. That’s not the case in later films.
The nearly 10-minute cartoon is probably the best part of this special. Han and Luke fall under a sleeping virus and Fett sets out for a cure with Chewbacca. However, we learn Boba is actually playing Luke and his friends and is actually working with Darth Vader. Outnumbered, Fett disappears and the ‘toon comes to an end.
57:07: In the time Lumpy has watched this cartoon, the Imperial forces have scoured his entire home and decided to viciously tear apart Lumpy’s room, breaking a bunch of his toys. Now, after cleaning up, Lumpy is watching a how-to video on assembling a mini-transmitter. This is the “Life Day” gift he got from Dann. I can’t believe they’re just showing us the entire video. It’s incredibly boring.
1:00:45: Everyone’s being instructed to watch a “mandatory” video about life on Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine for some reason. Honestly, it’s like they didn’t have enough of a story to fill up two hours of air time so they interspersed it with random clips throughout. We see shots of Stormtroopers walking through the streets and the inside of a cantina.
1:04:53: This turns into a side story featuring a man (played by Harvey Korman,”The Carol Burnett Show”) and his unbridled love for a cantina bartender played by Bea Arthur. The spot, like so many other things in the special is so random and has nothing to do with the story.
1:05:36: So I guess the point of this clip is to tell us there’s a curfew being put on Tatooine.
1:08:41: Now, Bea Arthur’s singing the crowd out of the bar. According to YouTube, I only have about 20 more minutes of this to go.
1:10:29: This song is still going on. She’s dancing with various characters in the bar. I’m trying to figure out who thought this was a good idea.
1:14:22: Finally, something happens! Lumpy uses that transmitter he made to trick all of the Imperial Forces into thinking they need to return to their base. One of the Stormtroopers ends up sticking around and catches onto Lumpy’s scheme. Man, I’d really like to know why they named this poor kid Lumpy.
1:15:35: The best part of this entire special is Chewie and Han arriving in the nick of time to take out the Stormtrooper. This entire special could have easily occurred in 15 minutes — 30 tops.
1:18:17: Han leaves Chewie’s family and I’m trying to figure out what could possibly happen in the last ten minutes.
1:21:07: The entire family gathers to celebrate Life Day. It’s not really clear what’s going on here:
One thing we can all agree on: It looks like they’re all wearing giant snuggies.
1:21:54: I think this is officially the end of the holiday special. R2-D2 and C-3PO appear out of nowhere at some giant Wookiee celebration for Life Day.
1:22:48: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford all appear at the gathering, too, for a quick group photo opp that was probably used in marketing to get people to tune in for the holiday special.
We know by now this special really wasn’t about any of them.
1:23:33: Carrie Fisher just starts singing.
1:24:37: Props to Fisher for actually looking like she’s enjoying filming every moment of this thing.
1:26:30: A bunch of end credits roll with some footage and scenes from “A New Hope.”
1:26:53: We’re not done yet! Chewbacca’s entire family gathers together for a Thanksgiving-like dinner.
1:27:39: I think it’s finally over. The movie’s zooming out over another painting of Chewie’s house at night.
1:27:49: Yup. There are the official credits. Wow. Yeah, as I said throughout, a lot of that could have been summed up in about 15 minutes if it weren’t for the extraneous amount of unnecessary side videos.
If you want to watch most of the special, you can check it out here on YouTube, but you’ve been warned.
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