At this point, I’m pretty sure everyone who reads this article right now has heard of one of the most infamous moment in the history of US television, Star Wars Holiday Special (a.k.a. Star Wars Christmas Special). Before we go any further, I want to make clear that I’m not going to make fun of how ridiculous the plot and many elements are. Lots of reviewers have done it before, so why should I do it again? I mean, sure, this special is terrible, but I’d like to tell you from another perspective of opinion.
The “golden age” of variety show
Back in 70’s, variety TV show was clean, good, and fun for all in the family. It has the same characteristic just like what sitcom in the 50’s has. Not only variety show in US had this formula, even the most famous music show (at the time) in UK like Top of the Pops had the variety show attitude, too.
For those that don’t know, Top of the Pops is BBC weekly music show that basically consists of Top 40 hits chart rundown with performances from artists (later in the 80’s, they show more music video instead). Around mid 70’s, the show stopped being “music show” and slowly shifted into a “variety show” style just like Cliff Richards Show and many shows on the channel. Plus, popular music around the time was MOR stuffs like Brotherhood of Men, Bay City Rollers (UGH!), Showaddywaddy, and blatantly ridiculous stuffs so it’s much easier to fit into this tone. It became more and more Variety since the dance troupe on the show named Legs & Co. had to dance in various costume in each episode. Just look at this and this clip…
What about US? Well, even The Brady Bunch had their own variety show. Enough said.
This leads us to the first problem here…
Star Wars Holiday Special: Brought to you by a producer of variety show.
From what I’ve heard, George Lucas didn’t involve in this special (except the fact that he allowed someone to do it). Instead, he let Steve Binder to direct it. Who’s Steve Binder? He’s a guy behind the success of Petula Clark TV special and Elvis ’68 Special! Don’t get me wrong, I love Elvis ’68 Special (and keep in mind that I don’t really like Elvis, but that one and his first album are my favorites), but that variety formula doesn’t work here. The plot about Han Solo and Chewbacca’s family only exists for interspersion between each segment. That’s it. So if you’ve never heard of this special, PLEASE don’t expect it as 2-hour mega adventure, it’s just a stereotypical variety show from 70’s. And speaking of 70’s….
Could it stand the test of time?
No. But hey, did you see clips I posted above? It teaches us that these are products of its time. It looks bland and lame by today’s standard, but back then it’s totally different….at least in most cases.
Segments included here are…
– Acrobatics routine
– Musical performances from casts, including one video from Jefferson Starship
– Comedy sketches
– Boba Fett cartoon
These segments are unnecessary to the plot, but as I said…this is a variety show and these were classic formula of variety show back then. Sure, most of them are really painful to watch (especially musical stuffs and comedy sketches), but if they had decided to do something else (except making 2 hours TV movie) in variety TV show style, it would have been difficult to find a TV station to air it since many managers back then were kinda conservative when it comes to differentiation.
“You see, I learn something today…”
Nope. I’m not going to tell you what did I learn about Life Day (an equivalence of Christmas in this special), but the reputation of this infamous TV special teaches me something here
1) The power of bootlegging
This article is NOT encourage readers to pirate stuffs, but in this case…well, if bootlegging didn’t exist, nobody would see it. Keep in mind that this special has no reruns or VHS/DVD/Laserdisc release. Therefore, the only way to watch it is to pray that George Lucas will release it soon (which is impossible. Seriously, I think there are more chance to see a proper REMASTERED version of original Star Wars trilogy with no-CGI than this release) or watch it online. Sure, some people may say “This show sucks ass. I’d rather let it rots to the dust, maaaan”, but have you heard a proverb “A picture is worth thousands words”? I think it’s better to let people watch it and judge it than letting rumor spread around.
Also, this reminds me that there are many movies and TV shows out there that don’t get a proper release on home media thanks to copyrights issues and something like that (Hell, sometimes legal DVD are booed by fans because they replaced music, cut few scenes, or has inferior quality). Fans can watch these stuffs only because bootlegging exists. It’s a long story to tell here….
2) Sometimes, it’s better to be bad
This show still being talked about only because of how awful it is. Sure, nobody wants to be mentioned in a bad bad way, but let’s face it…there are lots of TV series and films from the past that are forgotten because they are neither that bad nor that good. Who remembers TV series like Cliffhangers, Chase, or Dusty’s Trail? On the other hand, what about Cop Rock or My Mother the Car? They still being made fun of because it appears on many lists of “Worst TV Show Ever”. Most stuffs on this list might not be that bad (especially Tom Green Show), but at least it generates new interesting and new fans to find out/re-evaluate the show again.
Overall, I still hate it. It’s not entertaining by nowadays’ standard, but at least it can teaches you something about 70’s variety show industry. Or at least, you can watch old memorable commercials like these if you can find a right bootleg of this special.