With the latest “Star Wars” movie hitting theaters Friday, Dec. 15, let’s look back nearly 40 years to what most fans consider the sci-fi franchise’s biggest turkey. We’re talking about “The Star Wars Holiday Special,” which aired but once (CBS, Nov. 17, 1978) and has never been released on VHS or DVD (although bootlegged copies can be viewed on YouTube). Here are five things to know about the special, which was designed to maintain interest between the release of the first movie (1977) and the second (“The Empire Strikes Back”), which was due out in 1980. (If you thirst for more, there’s even a website devoted solely to the special.)
The two-hour special featured Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and revolved around Chewbacca trying to get home to celebrate Life Day with his family: wife Malla, son Itchy and father Lumpy. All well and good, but that meant a good portion of the special had no dialogue — viewers heard Chewbacca’s family “talking” to each other in the growls that make up the Wookie language.
But apparently because the stars of the movie weren’t enough star power to attract an audience, the special’s producers dragooned Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll and Jefferson Starship to make guest appearances.
The most notable part was an 11-minute cartoon that introduced galactic bounty hunter Boba Fett.
Musical highlights included Fisher singing “Life Day,” a song set to the music of the “Star Wars” theme (Bill Murray, eat your heart out!).
George Lucas was never too keen on the idea of the special. In fact, many years later, he said: “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”