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Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Star Wars Holiday Special

Normally, I would hardly ever consider the colour black as a Christmas colour, but given today, I think I can make an exception when it comes to choosing a special highlight font colour.

At any rate, welcome to Day #17 of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, where we are going to look at another holiday classic that was filmed a long time ago in a galaxy far away.

Or, maybe it's a special that was filmed some thirty-seven years ago on a network that was easily accessible to everybody...and it can't really be considered a classic because most people hated it.

But given the day that today is, I'm reviewing it anyway.  Believe me, this particular special was very tough to find!

So, before I go ahead with today's entry, I thought I'd share with you an old photo.  After all, it is Throwback Thursday on top of everything else.  Have a look.

Ah, yes.  June 14, 2009.  I remember it well.  This photo was taken at a charity event that I went to in Ottawa, and one of the things that you could do was get your picture taken with a bunch of Star Wars characters for a small fee, of course.  I immediately recognize a few of the characters in this photo.  We have a whole bunch of intergalactic soldiers, and I see Princess Leia, and look, Darth Vader made an appearance too!  A shame Han Solo couldn't make it, but maybe he was busy.

Anyway, you probably know why I decided to post this picture.  It's in honour of the seventh Star Wars movie that is coming out in some places today and in the rest of the world tomorrow.  And certainly "Star Wars:  The Force Awakens" is set to be a huge hit.  With stars like Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher returning to reprise their roles as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, I'm sure that the movie will answer a lot of unanswered questions - and potentially create some new ones.

Certainly many people are anxiously awaiting the new movie's release.  I can only imagine how long some people camped outside some movie theatres waiting to be the first ones to see it.  I remember the buzz back in 1999 when "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" first came out.  People waited in line for several DAYS to see it. 

Not me, though.  I like "Star Wars" and all, but I only like the original trilogy ("A New Hope"/"The Empire Strikes Back"/"Return of the Jedi").  I tried watching Phantom Menace and couldn't get past the annoying Jar Jar Binks.  Of course, part of the fun of the original trilogy was that I missed it the first time around.  I was born in between "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi", so you can probably understand why it took me years to see the first one.

Anyway, you're probably wondering why I seem to be babbling on about "Star Wars" during the time where I'm supposed to be talking about Christmas related things. 

Well, remember how I mentioned that I was going to talk about a holiday special that was really tough to find because most people who watched it hated it?  Well, it happens to be Star Wars related.

Would you believe that there was a Star Wars Holiday Special?  Believe me, I had absolutely no idea that there was such a thing either until I looked it up online. 

There's a very good reason why I don't remember seeing this special before.  It only aired once.  The date was November 17, 1978, and the network that aired it was CBS.  Other countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand aired the special as well.  It was almost the length of a full movie - almost ninety minutes.

And according to die-hard Star Wars fans, as well as some of the actors and crew who worked on the special - it stank. 

Here are just some of the comments that were made back in the day, as well as years later about it.

Anthony Daniels, who voiced C-3PO in the Star Wars franchise said it was "the holiday special nobody talks about".  Nathan Rabin, of the AV Club believed that the special was written and directed by a sentient bag of cocaine".  And Star Wars creator George Lucas even said himself that if he had the time and a sledgehammer, he would destroy every single copy of the special that ever existed!


But was the holiday special really that bad?  Well, after watching it online, I have to say...yeah, it was pretty awful.

But here's the thing.  The Star Wars special did start off with a good storyline.  The main plot was that Chewbacca and Han Solo traveled to the planet Kashyyyk, the planet that Chewie called home.  You see, during this time, the planet Kashyyyk was celebrating a very special day.

No, Wookies don't celebrate Christmas, of course.  Instead, they celebrate some Wookie holiday known as "Life Day".  And, well...Life Day is celebrated a lot like we Earthlings celebrate Christmas, with a big feast, singalongs, and gift exchanges. 

But while Han and Chewie are preparing to observe Life Day, the Imperials are hot on their trail, trying to do everything in their power to put a stop to the celebrations, including implementing a curfew.

If this plot line sounds as dumb as I think it does when I was describing it, it's probably because it is.

But, you know, trying to find some good points about the holiday special, I have to say that I really liked the animated cartoon portion of the show.  It was created by Toronto based company Nelvana (they're the same people who brought you the cartoon series "Droids" and "Ewoks"), and it introduced the character of Boba Fett!  And unlike the live-action counterpart, the cartoon actually seemed to make sense.

Still, there was a whole lot of wrong in this particular holiday special, which very much explains why this special aired once and only once on television.

For one, how lame was the end song?  It was basically just the Star Wars theme with lyrics.  And on top of that, Carrie Fisher completely missed the high note!  Though, whether she did it legitimately or whether she did it on purpose because she found the special lame is a question that I don't know the answer to.

The celebrity cameos were a good idea in theory.  Certainly Art Carney, Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman, and Jefferson Starship were big names back in those days.  But somehow, putting them all together as "Star Wars" one-off characters made the whole thing seem like one of those "Pigs In Space" sketches from "The Muppet Show".

Oh, and the random scenes from the original "Star Wars" movie that was edited into the special...were they really necessary?  Honestly.  Were they?

I honestly don't know how much money Fisher, Ford, and Hamill were paid to star in this show, but obviously we all know the answer to that one.  Not NEARLY enough!

But hey, why should I deprive all of you from all the fun?  If you click HERE, you can watch the special as it aired on that night.  Believe me, it very well could be your only chance to see it!

Merry Christmas, fellow Wookies!

Oh, and if you're still looking for gift ideas for your little Skywalkers and Princesses, might I recommend the Star Wars box set now available on DVD and Blu-Ray?  You won't get the seventh film, but you can catch up with these so you know how the story progresses!

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