- Year: 1978
- Director: Steve Binder
- Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill
Easily the most infamous selection on my list, the Star Wars Holiday Special has appeared on lists of both the dumbest Star Wars moments and the dumbest TV moments. George Lucas is ashamed of it… George Lucas the man who gave us Howard the Duck and The Phantom Menace is ashamed of only this. So is it really that bad? In a word, yes. In more words, you won’t believe how bad it is.
That said, if this is something you want to see, you’ve probably seen it. It’s never been re-aired, but it’s been going around forever. However, they have just released the minutes from the meeting in which this special was created, featuring George Lucas, writers Pat Proft and Bruce Villanch, and CBS executive Gary Smith.
Instead of just a review, I give you the minutes of that meeting:
Gary Smith: Alright, we’re getting George Lucas on the phone right now.
Bruce Villanch: Do you really expect him to get on board with this?
Gary: Bruce, we’re like Congress. We slip things into contracts that no one ever reads.
Gary: Hello, is this George Lucas?
Gary: George, this is Gary Smith at CBS. I’m calling about something in your contract…
George: The Christmas special?
Gary: What? You know about it?
George: Yeah, of course, Page 15, paragraph 3 of my Star Wars contract. I’ve got some ideas for it if you’d like to discuss them.
Gary: Yes, sure of course. I just wasn’t expecting such direct involvement. Come on down to CBS studios.
Pat Profit: So all of the original actors are on board then, Gary?
Gary: Almost, yes. We slipped that little sentence into everyone’s contract, buried under the catering portion, and they almost all fell for it. We couldn’t fool Kenny Baker though.
Pat: Who’s that?
Gary: The guy who plays R2-D2.
Pat: Who, the little robot? So what, he beeps and boops, that’s his whole shtick. You can replace him with practically anybody.
Bruce: Do you think it’d be cute in the opening if we just named all the actors and then said “And R2D2 as R2D2”?
Gary: That’s brilliant, Bruce! I love it.
(Gary buzzes his assistant.)
Gary: Leanna, can you work on making R2D2 a member of the Screen Actors Guild? Thanks.
Pat: How are we fitting all of the actors into this? Aren’t they busy?
Gary: Yes, quite busy. Mark Hamill is currently trying out for the role of an Oompa Loompa in that Willy Wonka special, but we’re just gonna have him swing by on his lunch break.
(George Lucas walks in with an enormous stack of papers.)
Gary: George, good to see you.
George: Glad to be here.
Pat: So what are we looking at for this Christmas special? It seems like you’ve got a lot of ideas there.
George: You guys all saw The Godfather right?
Bruce: George, we’re not putting a wookiee head in Han Solo’s bed.
George: No, no, I don’t mean that. You remember those scenes where they spoke in Italian and trusted the audience to understand it without subtitles. That was bold. I want that in my special.
Bruce: They speak Italian in space?
George: No, Wookiee.
Gary: That’s brilliant.
Pat: You’re… you’re kidding right? How much of this thing is solely in Wookiee?
George: The first fifteen minutes or so.
Gary: Pat, get on writing that.
George: The Wookiee language is really easy, don’t worry. It’s got a lot of E’s, G’s, and H’s.
Gary: I’ve got just one issue with that, George.
Pat: One issue?
Gary: Not everyone liked The Godfather movies. Pacino didn’t win Best Actor for Godfather II, get me the guy who beat him.
Bruce: I don’t think Jack Nicholson’s available.
Pat: It wasn’t Nicholson, he lost too.
Bruce: Who was it then?
Gary: Get me Art Carney!
Bruce: Art Carney is impossible to work with, sir. He doesn’t do scripts, instead insisting he just breaks into his own material.
Gary: Who cares? He was on The Honeymooners after all. We’ll just give him some basic ideas and let him do whatever he wants.
Bruce: Alright, so let me try to understand this. We’ve got Wookiees on their home planet celebrating Christmas. What if Han Solo and Chewbacca are trying to get home in time for the holiday?
Pat: They have Christmas a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away? Why can’t it just be some generic holiday? Gift Day? Life Day?
George: Life Day! Let’s use that.
Pat: So what does Life Day represent? What’s its history? Why are they celebrating it?
Gary: It doesn’t matter. We’ve only got an hour, and we’ve got variety show skits to perform. They’re celebrating a holiday, great.
Pat: Whatever. George, are you good with this being Chewbacca’s family?
George: Yeah, I like it. I have his family tree here if you like. His father’s name is Itchy, his son Lumpy and his wife Mala.
Gary: We only have the budget for two Wookiee costumes. We’ll have to cut one.
Bruce: Remember that TV movie The Time Machine that aired on NBC last week? They’ve got a Morlock costume left over. We can just use that for Chewie’s father without tweaking it at all.
Gary: Alright, time for the network’s requirements. These come from the President of CBS, and we try not to ask questions. First, we need a modern band to perform a song.
George: It’s a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Gary: I don’t make the rules.
Bruce: Well, let’s at least try to keep with the theme. Why not Jefferson Starship? Get it?
Gary: Brilliant! We’ll get in touch with Jefferson Starship. I do love Grace Slick’s voice.
Pat: She left.
Gary: Oh really? Do you think she’ll come back for…
Pat: Not a chance.
George: What if the band is a hologram someone watches? People love holograms and will never get tired of them.
Bruce: That could work.
Gary: Next network requirement, we have to be a little risque, sex sells.
George: What if Chewie and Mala…
Pat and Bruce: NO!
Gary: No Wookiee nookie in this thing, please.
Bruce: What if Art Carney stops by with gifts for the family and gives Itchy a porn video?
Pat: That’s just about the dumbest thing…
Gary: That’s brilliant.
George: We are not showing a Wookiee porn tape.
Gary: Sorry, network requirements.
George: Well then I’m out.
(George begins to storm out)
Gary: Leave those papers. According to your contract, everything there is intellectual property of CBS.
(George walks out with only one sheet)
Gary: Wait, what’s that?
George: My shopping list. Goodbye.
Gary: Oh ok, yeah sure, keep that.
(George clutches the sheet to himself)
George (muttering): They’ll never get their hands on Jar Jar Binks.
Gary: One down and two to go.
Gary: Oh sorry, I was trying out hosts for the What’s My Line revival this morning and must still be in that mindset. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, Wookiee porn tape. Let’s go down my list and see who owes me a favor… Rip Taylor.
Gary: Martin Scorsese, we’ll get back to him, here we go, Diahann Caroll.
Pat: Better than the other options, but how much are they really going to show on network TV? Isn’t this a family special?
Gary: Yes, something for the whole family: mom, dad, son, creepy uncle. Next up, we need some comedy and the network suggests someone from a Mel Brooks film.
Pat: Good luck with that.
Gary: Mel Brooks himself cited conflict of interest, because he’s working on his own space project. Madeline Kahn was too tired, Gene Wilder actually has a career, and apparently Cleavon Little is dead.
Bruce: No he’s not.
Gary: I’ve still got one person in mind.
(Gary dials the phone)
Gary: Hello, is this Harvey Korman?
Harvey Korman: Speaking.
Gary: Harvey, this is Gary Smith with CBS, you remember me?
Gary: I’m casting for the Star Wars Holiday Special and was wondering if you’d be interested.
Harvey: That sounds like the dumbe…
Gary: Remember Key Biscayne…
Harvey: I mean that sounds like a wonderful idea.
Pat: Is everyone in this just someone who owes you favors?
Gary: Chewbacca owes me nothing.
Harvey: What was that?
Harvey: So what’s the part?
Gary: It’s multiple parts, you know how you’ve always wanted to be like Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove?
Harvey: At this point I have to say yes.
Gary: You’ll be playing a whole bunch of comedic parts. You’ll be great.
Harvey: What are they?
Gary: We’re still working that out. I’ll get back to you.
Harvey: Can you tell me one?
(Gary hangs up)
Bruce: We’ve got to work Korman into this thing three times?
Gary: He may owe me more than one favor.
Pat: Like what, his soul?
Gary: Anyway, I like what George said about characters watching performances. We need more of that. Let’s work Korman into three of those. He has a “No Wookiee” clause in his contract.
Pat: That’s specific.
Gary: I’ll take anything that comes to your mind. If you say Korman is a robot doing an instructional video… say, that’s not bad. There’s one.
Pat: Where’s the joke?
Gary: What do you mean?
Pat: He’s a robot doing an instructional video, great. What’s funny about that?
Bruce: How about he keeps malfunctioning?
Gary: That’s brilliant. Two to go.
Pat: How about we show the Wookiees preparing for Christmas…. I mean, Life Day dinner and Korman is hosting a cooking show. We think he’s just a human, but he gets to a point where he needs to do three things and we see a third arm. We can keep it short and it’s a nice punchy joke.
(Leanna, Gary’s assistant enters.)
Leanna: Gary, I just got off the phone with the President of the network. He wants a 90 minute special now so we can get more advertising.
Leanna: He also wants Bea Arthur in this thing. She shoots about 20 of them a day, so we can just get her on the set, have her sing her number and go.
Gary: So let’s have that cooking show go longer. I’m thinking we make it go so long that the length itself is the joke. How about Bea Arthur?
Pat: I knew Bea Arthur was going to be in this, she does all of them. I’ve actually written a scene where she’s a bar owner on Tatooine who gets her bar shut down by the empire. I wrote a song and everything.
Bruce: Let’s just throw Korman in as a bar patron or something.
Gary: What if he has a head with a hole in it and she just pours the drinks right into it?
Gary: We’re doing it. Take that SNL, we’ve got a reverse Conehead.
Bruce: I’m noticing we don’t have many of the Star Wars heroes in this thing, you know Luke, Leia, the characters from STAR WARS!
Gary: Hmm, good point. How about a cartoon with them? It’ll save on special effects. I actually do some sketching myself.
(Gary pulls out a piece of paper and draws a picture.)
Gary: Here we go, Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Pat: What the heck is that?
Bruce: Never show that again!
Pat: So are we going to have a scene at the end where they actually celebrate Life Day? What does it look like?
Gary: I figured we’d just take some religious cult videos and replace the people with Wookiees.
Bruce: That works!
Gary: Alright, we’ve got some really good ideas here, guys. I think we may have 90 minutes of a special.
Pat: I’m estimating we’re fifteen minutes short, Gary.
Gary: Just fill it with Harvey Korman saying “Stir, whip” and we’ll be good.
I really have no idea what to make of this thing. It is so pointless in its existence that it almost has to be seen to be believed. I’m not saying mixing Star Wars with a variety show could ever be successful, but they could have at least tried to make the jokes funny. I have to give the slightest bit of credit to the Bea Arthur segment which, as literally every person who’s ever reviewed this special has pointed out, is surprisingly heartfelt. From the extended portions in the Wookiee language to the porn tape to the bizarre cameos, I really don’t know what to say except this is the worst special I’ve watched so far.
I may be halfway through, but it’s gonna be hard to top this one.