The first installment of Star Wars, A New Hope, was released in 1977 and remains one of the most financially successful films of all time. Followed by The Empire Strikes Back in 1988 all the way to Force Awakens in 2015 with plenty more to come, Star Wars easily became Hollywood’s biggest and most endearing original franchise–and they all lived happily ever after. Almost.
Like most happy-ending narratives, The Star Wars story has a blip–a brush with darkness only the strongest of sagas could experience and live to tell the tale: a train-wreck special, called the Star Wars Holiday Special.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s no coincidence. Fans, actors, and George Lucas alike suffered through the viewings just as much as the special suffered in the reviews. In the aftermath of the Star Wars disaster, Lucas remarked “if I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every bootlegged copy of that program and smash it.”
While Lucas may not have actually physically destroyed these copies, the show was quickly buried under the embarrassment and dissatisfaction of the Star Wars fan base–only to be immortalized on Youtube 37 years later.
With this anomaly out in the open, here are ten things you should know about it:
- It Stars the Original Cast
- Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and James Earl Jones, this special was well-equipped with the original Star Wars cast. Later on, Carrie Fisher half-jokingly says she uses viewings of the special as a way to drive out guests who overstay their welcome.
- Chewbacca Has a Son Named Lumpy
- Yes, you read that correctly. Chewbacca has a son named Lumpy (also known as Lumpawaroo or Waroo) with his wife, Malla. Malla and Lumpy live with Chewbacca’s dad, Attichitcuk, on Kashyyyk–home of the Wookies. Lumpy may seem cute (in a creepy way) and innocent, but in reality he spends most of his life in child-slavery at the hands of the Galactic Empire.
Boba Fett is Introduced via Cartoon
A Canadian animation company, Nelvana, created a 9-minute cartoon to formally introduce one of The Empire Strikes Back characters: Boba Fett. While Imperial guards are searching Chewbacca’s home, Lumpy sits down to watch the cartoon.
Boba Fett appears when he rescues Luke Skywalker from a large monster on a moon in the Panna System. On his way to find Han Solo and Chewbacca who were allegedly missing, Luke reluctantly accepts the help of Boba Fett on his mission. When they reach the Millennium Falcon, they discover Han Solo infected with a sleeping virus, which Luke immediately contracts. Boba Fett tells Chewbacca to stay behind as he travels into Panna City to find a serum–where he really is reporting to Darth Vader as a bounty hunter to update him on the activity and location of the Rebels.
The Wookies Celebrate a Holiday Called “Life Day”
Every year, Chewbacca returns to his family and home planet to celebrate Life Day with his fellow Wookies. To celebrate, the Wookies gather at the Tree of Life, which they travel to through space by holding crystals above their heads.
Bea Arthur and Diahann Caroll Guest Star
Bea Arthur, the Emmy-winning lead of All in the Family plays the role of Ackmena, a tough and grouchy barkeeper at the Mos Eisley Cantina, which must be closed early due to an Imperial order. When the rowdy group of intoxicated aliens refuse to leave, she sings her hit song “Goodnight, but not Goodbye,” which somehow persuades the aliens to practically dance out the door.
Diahann Carroll, a famed actress, portrays Mermeia, a holographic private entertainer and sexual fantasy of Chewbacca’s dad, Attichitcuk–serving as soft-porn in the special.
A Strange Holographic Circus Occurs
This circus doesn’t have much to do with Star Wars other than the fact that young Lumpy is viewing it. With Cirque du Soleil tones, this mysterious scene features human acrobats doing a few flips before slowly fading away. Huh??
We See a Cooking Show on How to Make Bantha Soup
Featuring Harvey Korman in drag the audience witnesses Malla watch a cooking show to be inspired for her Life Day meal. While making the meal, Korman sings “Whip, beat, stir!” to make us all a little more confused.
Carrie Fisher Sings to the Tune of the Star Wars Theme
Signifying the end of the special, Leia, Luke, and Han gather with the Wookies at the Tree of Life to celebrate Life Day. Feeling impassioned by the moment, Leia breaks out into song to the tune of the Star Wars theme. Fisher later admits that she was high throughout the entire production of the special.
George Lucas Avoided Blame
When the Holiday Special faced lower than a 50% rating and harsh criticism from fans, Lucas claimed little involvement in the production of the show. In a 2005 interview, Lucas gave his take: “The special from 1978 really didn’t have much to do with us, you know. I can’t remember what network it was on, but it was a thing that they did. We kind of let them do it. It was done by… I can’t even remember who the group was, but they were variety TV guys. We let them use the characters and stuff and that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but you learn from those experiences.”
It is Considered the Worst Holiday Special Ever Created
The novel What Were They Thinking?: The 100 Dumbest Events In Television History by David Hofstede put the Holiday Special at #1, calling it “the worst two hours of television ever.” In addition to that, the special is sarcastically #5 out of 100 on Bravo’s “Greatest Things About the Holidays,” and #3 in “The Five Goofiest Moments Of The Star Wars Mythos.”
In the words of George Lucas, “That’s one of those things that happened, and I just have to live with it.”