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The Star Wars Holiday Special 36 years later

Contributed by
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Aaron Sagers
Nov 17, 2014

It was sort of like catching your friends on a Tumblr porn account. People you recognized and love were caught in awkward positions, doing things that just seemed so unlike them. And afterward, you may have wanted to talk about it but the best approach was to just ignore that it ever happened.

Cue opening Star Wars theme song and title crawl, “Episode X-Mas: No Hope.”

Debuting 36 years ago today, the Star Wars Holiday Special remains one of pop culture’s dirtiest little secrets. And shortly after this endeavor began to sell toys and the brand after the original film, and about a year and a half before the May 1980 sequel, you can’t help but have a bad feeling about this. A two-hour sci-fi freak show, with one or two moment of quality, the variety show special cashed in on the success of the previous year’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. 

It aired once, on CBS, pre-empting The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman. Skits featuring a four-armed alien Julia Child-esque chef, musical interludes and uncomfortable actors flashed across TV screens before disappearing into obscurity among a lot of negative reception, yet spurring decades of conversation.

The Star Wars Holiday Special lives on.

Despite George Lucas’ desire to find the "time and a sledgehammer" and "track down every copy of that show and smash it” -- because, as he claims (but TV joke writer Bruce Vilanch questions), he wasn’t involved but learned not to let “variety TV guys” take over his characters -- a simple search on YouTube yields results of a few generations-old VHS dubs of Carrie Fisher singing lyrics to the famous theme song, and Harrison Ford telling Chewbacca’s really gonzo family that they are "like family" to him. 

Want to see classic comedic actors Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur and Art Carney (who gives us the proton pack years before Ghostbusters) enter the Star Wars universe alongside footage from the 1977 film, a holographic Jefferson Starship and a band of bizarre tumbling circus performers? You can, with minimal search engine effort. But caveat emptor videntes.