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Mike Nelson Goofs on a Holiday Special From a long time ago, and a decade far, far away…

December 21st, 2007 by torgosPizza · 11 Comments

via eFilmCritic

by U.J. Lessing

The question that has bugged Star Wars aficionados for many years is why George Lucas followed up the quintessential science-fiction film, Star Wars, with such an infamous disaster. Before The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas spearheaded the 1978 catastrophe, “The Star Wars Holiday Special.” This two-hour primetime show follows Chewbacca and his family of wookies as they celebrate the imaginary holiday, Life Day, despite the intrusion of storm troopers, Art Carney, Harvey Corman, Jefferson Starship and Bea Arthur.

“They had to be doping up. There’s no other explanation for it,” said Mystery Science Theater alum and Rifftrax founder, Mike Nelson. Nelson teamed up with friends Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett to create a downloadable audio track for rifftrax to play in synch with the special.

“We’re always looking for holiday things,” Nelson explained, “…since Life Day rolls around so often, we figured that the Holiday Special would be perfect for that…I was not familiar with it at all. I thought it was a half hour, so I gleefully agreed, ‘Oh! That will be fun!’ Then I actually got it in house and realized… this is a full, punishing two hours. But it was so weird that in some ways it was enjoyable to work on.”

The special was such a disaster that Lucas only allowed it to be aired only once–on November 17, 1978. “It seems unbelievable that (Lucas) didn’t know what was going on,” said Nelson, “that he was busy on something else, and just gave people this thing and sketched out this little story and let them go on it. It seems hard to believe, but I guess I’ll take him on his word.”

Making their first and only appearance is Chewbacca’s previously unmentioned family. His wife Malla and son Lumpy are fairly palatable, but Itchy, the wookie warrior’s toothless, invalid father, is just plain creepy. Nelson explained, “Chewbacca… he’s sort of a charming character in his way, especially in limited doses, but to have Itchy, with his horrible jaw grinding away at his prune-like face and making those hideous sounds at length, no one could possibly imagine, ‘Oh this is going to charm everyone.’ It’s hard to believe.”

The show also serves as a veritable fashion show of the seventies. Art Carney struts around with a large-collared open shirt. Bea Arthur dons what can only be described as a red velvet curtain. For Nelson, their displays evoke memories from the past, “That was an era when anyone thought that they could wear the fashion of the day. Even old people just went nuts. My dad was a fireman, and so I hung around a lot of the firemen when I was young and, from one year to the next, suddenly these guys with their leisure suits and their cookie dusters and their permed hair… Butch and Johnny and Pat …turned into bizarre freaks of fashion.

“I think it happens that fashions tends to be linear as you go through history, but there are pockets, like The Beu Brummels and stuff, where you have three-foot ruffles on the front of your shirt and giant collars that (come) just out of nowhere. And the 70s was one of those (decades) where everyone went mad. They just went insane for about ten years.”

Mike Nelson’s latest subject is definitely worthy of a good ribbing, and Nelson feels no guilt for shining a bright light on George Lucas’ most embarrassing venture. “Well he has put me through a lot of anguish, so I don’t mind a little payback.”

Tags: In the Media · Interviews · RiffTrax

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mrbasehart on Dec 21, 2007 at 11:24 am

    Has there ever been an official answer from George Lucas as to WHY exactly did the Star Wars Holiday Special was broadcast? I get that it probably would’ve made good financial sense, but it’s such am embarassment to the whole franchise, that I’m surprised he didn’t step in and utilise some quality control.

  • 2 Rufus T on Dec 21, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    George Lucas was still kicking himself for having Han Solo shoot first. He was in such agony over the situation that the holiday special just snuck on by.

  • 3 "Digits" on Dec 21, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Seriously? Why have I never heard of this before?

  • 4 spap ooP on Dec 21, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    being a young star wars freak i actually tried to watch the original broadcast. i remember watching it. but its like that first time your friends talk you into drinking tequila,so fuzzy and like, did i really see that?

  • 5 Eddie Colton on Dec 21, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    Mommy, why does Luke look like you?

  • 6 Mr. Slick on Dec 22, 2007 at 12:28 am

    This program taught the young Star Wars actors a valuable lesson: Read Your Contract CLOSELY!!!

  • 7 Macgyver on Dec 22, 2007 at 7:12 am

    It was in the contract with 20th centuary fox. He didn’t have any choice but to make something. I’m assuming the execs had a hand in it, as he hadn’t become arse yet. That or he just made something crap because he didn’t want to make anything at all.

    It is the first appearance of Boba Fett though. Lucas has been hunting down and destroying every copy of this he can get his hands down (pretty sure it doesn’t appear in the Vault, but I’ve only flicked through it)

  • 8 Nanner on Dec 22, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Figures this was shown on CBS. They haven’t had anything good since Hogan’s Heroes.

  • 9 mrbasehart on Dec 23, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Ah, I never knew that. Poor George ;)


  • 10 Thom_Serveaux on Dec 24, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Watching this is going to be a bit of a disjointing experience for me. I was 10 when this aired, and had been a particular handful to my parents that day, and got sent to bed early without being allowed to see it. Naturally at the time I was extremely cross for being denied my star wars holiday fix. Now, from what I’ve heard over years, I may have gotten off easy. I’ll find out soon enough, I guess. I’ve scheduled my own marathon to counteract the inevitable airing of ‘A Christmas Story’ by TBS for 24 hours. It will consist of the aforementioned SWHS, and the ‘Visit to Santa Claus’ as well as the MST3K classics ‘Santa Claus’ and ‘Santa Clause Conquers the Martians’. Then I may go ahead and add a heaping helping of misted movies that aired during the Turkey Day Marathons, interspersed with the host segments. (though not the ones from ‘93 which were just a plug for Comedy Central…)

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