Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Happy Life Day

Tis the season, as we all know, and time for all that comes with it-- family gatherings, chestnuts roasting, crappy TV Specials... In one of my routine Star Wars research sessions, I came across a delightful little number: The Star Wars Holiday Special.

This year marked the 30th anniversary of the infamous TV Special, and I decided to expose myself to all it's glory in honor of it's 30th birthday. Officially, it has never been released to DVD, VHS, or any other kind of medium (probably because the creators wish no one would remember it), so I watched it on YouTube in twelve parts. The Special itself is only two hours, but it took me two days to take it in.

Basically, it is a variety show contained within a loose story set in the Star Wars Universe. The story goes like this: Han Solo needs to get Chewbacca home for Life Day but run into some trouble from the forces of the Empire. While Chewbacca is being delayed, Chewie's family (Malla, his wife, Lumpy, his son, and Itchy, his father) tries to pass the time by talking to Luke or Leia, or by watching The Jefferson Starship. Imperial forces come to their house in search of the rebel Chewbacca, but Chewie and Han arrive just in time to save them and to celebrate Life day.

The opening credits advertise that the program stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, James Earl Jones, and Peter Mayhew, but each of them show up for about 3 minutes each. The 'Guest Stars' are the real stars of the program; Harvey Korman, Art Carney, Diahann Carrol, Beatrice Arthur, and The Jefferson Starship all made extensive appearances.

The Program opens with stock footage of the Millenium Falcon being pursued by TIE Fighters, but quickly cuts to Chewbacca's family on the Wookiee Planet. After about 15 minutes of watching wookiees growl back and forth, Lumpy watches the Hologram Acrobats, while Luke and R2-D2 show up via video comlink.

Malla tunes into Gormaanda, a cooking show bit done by Harvey Korman. Then, Art Carney drops by the house and drops off some Life Day presents. He gives Itchy a virtual reality experience that quite frankly was really weird. I felt like I should not have been watching it. Leia and C-3PO call via video comlink to assure that Han would get Chewie home safe when a knock at the door ends their conversation. Lumpy answer the door and two Storm Troopers and an Imperial Officer are waiting, weapons at the ready.

They are looking for any rebel activity and suspect that the missing Chewbacca is a sympathizer of the Rebellion. Art Carney distracts the Imperials by putting another Holo-Presentation: The Jefferson Starship. The Imperial soldiers tell Malla to keep Lumpy quiet, so Malla calms Lumpy by letting him watch his video viewscreen (this cartoon is the first official introduction of Boba Fett).

The Imperial search of the house is halted when the viewscreen activates with a required message for all Imperial Forces. This required message is apparently an awkward cantina scene in which Bea Arthur sings a song called "Good Night, But Not Goodbye." The song itself is nice. But still weird setting.

After the required viewing, the Imperials are called back to the base, however they leave one trooper behind. The trooper harasses Lumpy out onto the balcony, just when Chewbacca and Han arrive. Han disarms the trooper and causes him to break through the railing and fall to his death.

After a quick reuniting of Han, Chewie, and Chewie's family, everyone somehow meets up magically in space at the Tree of Life. All the wookiees are dressed in red and after Leia gives a speech about Life Day and the Tree of life, she sings a song set to the Star Wars Theme.

Honestly, I enjoyed it. It was kind of like watching a house burning down; it isn't a good thing The variety show aspect of just fine, I thought. I enjoyed the numbers, but it all felt so out of place. It would have been perfect if the program was intended to be parodic, however it was not, and most people regretted it, including George Lucas himself.

At an Australian fan convention, George Lucas was reported saying, "
If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it." He admits it is not the brightest moment in Star Wars history and that he will just have to live with it. I'm with you George. We all make mistakes.

I think if you like Star Wars, you should see this. It is a goofy mix-up, but I have to admit that I have an awkward fondness for it. You don't have to watch it all in one sitting. In fact, you could watch one part on each of the 12 days of Christmas and make a little Christmas tradition out of it. If you watch it with an open mind, I guarantee that you will have a good time.

Happy Life Day everyone!

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