The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978): It’s Oh So Kitsch

Let’s do the time warp today and revis­it the Not-S0-Gold­en Age of Amer­i­can Tele­vi­sion. The year was 1978. Star Wars fever still gripped Amer­i­ca, and the Vari­ety Show TV for­mat would­n’t say die. So, pro­duc­ing The Star Wars Hol­i­day Spe­cial was a no-brain­er. The two-hour show takes you inside the domes­tic world of Chew­bac­ca and his fam­i­ly — his father Itchy, his wife Mal­la, and his son Lumpy — and fea­tures guest appear­ances by Jef­fer­son Star­ship, Har­vey Kor­man and Bea Arthur, plus a lit­tle stock footage of Alec Guin­ness. As for the pro­duc­tion qual­i­ty and spe­cial effects? They’re all text­book kitsch.

You’ve heard enough to know that this was­n’t the finest hour for the Star Wars fran­chise. One crit­ic called it the “the worst two hours of tele­vi­sion ever.” And, when he’s will­ing to acknowl­edge the exis­tence of the TV spe­cial, George Lucas read­i­ly admits that turn­ing Star Wars into a vari­ety show “was­n’t the smartest thing to do.” But because the show only aired once in its entire­ty, the hol­i­day spe­cial has gained some­thing of a cult sta­tus and cir­cu­lates “under­ground” on the web. Van­i­ty Fair has more on this mis­ad­ven­ture in tele­vi­sion pro­gram­ming here. H/T goes to Dan­ger­ous Minds.

Relat­ed Star Wars Good­ies:

Star Wars as Silent Film

Star Wars the Musi­cal: The Force is Strong in this One

Darth Vader’s Theme in the Style of Beethoven

Kurt Rus­sell Audi­tions for Star Wars

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.