As our American friends prepare for Turkey Day, Wil looks back at the Thanksgiving skeleton hanging in George Lucas' closet - The Star Wars Holiday Special.
Imagine as a child walking in on your parents having sex.
Sorry for that imagery. But stick with me.
The shock of seeing people you know and love in a weird uncompromising position. The people that you care about the most are doing something that just seems completely wrong to you, and it's hard to accept. Then there's the awkwardness afterwards. Do you talk about it? Or do you just try and pretend like it never happened and let everyone get back to normality?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Star Wars Holiday Special.
November 17th 1978 a great disturbance was felt on CBS. Millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were simultaneously silenced as Carrie Fisher sang a song in celebration of 'Life Day' to the tune of the Star Wars main theme.
Star Wars was just 18 months old, and 1978 was a time when very few people had VCRs, and prior to the video rental boom. So your only way to see Star Wars was at the cinema, and I'd chance a guess that most people, excessive fans excluded, had only seen the movie once, maybe twice. But everyone had a television set and as families gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving this variety show could've killed the franchise stone cold dead. Because it is one of the worst things you can imagine - yes worse than Jar Jar Binks!
So what was included in the line-up of the Star Wars Holiday Special? Well all of the principal cast were featured across the two hour variety show, but prior to Ms Fishers dulcet tones we were treated to, amongst other things, Bea Arthur (yes her from the Golden Girls) playing a bartender in the Mos Eisley Cantina and singing "Good Night, But Not Goodbye", backed by the Cantina's resident group, Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes. Because that seems like a great idea, right?
Wrong. And the madness continued. There was a circus style acrobatic routine, a skit with a four-armed chef, Jefferson Starship, comedy segments, and an animated cartoon - which was the high point of the whole thing, and included the very first appearance of Boba Fett.
George Lucas’ claimed he had nothing to do with it, but knowing his hands-on nature at the time that feels very unlikely. Mind you, I'd deny I had anything to do with it either! Lucas has said that he'd now like to find the "time and a sledgehammer" and "track down every copy of that show and smash it”. I felt the same way about The Phantom Menace.
The plot, if you can call it a plot, of the Star Wars Holiday Special revolves around Han Solo and Chewbacca attempting to make it home for the holidays. You see it is Life Day for the Wookies and so the big fur ball longs to be with his wife Malla, son Lumpy and father Itchy (I know!). Most of the focus is on the Chewbacca family, including a very disturbing soft core space-porn sequence between Itchy and Diahann Carroll (it starts about four minutes in, if you can stomach it!)...
And that's just within the first ten minutes! And yes, it gets worse.
The Star Wars Holiday Special was never broadcast again, understandably, but off air taped copies exchanged hands in the twenty or so years afterwards until the Interweb bought this horrific nightmare to the masses. My first exposure to the show came in the form of a completely
unofficial 2 Disc VideoCD that was doing the rounds in the late 1990s, but alongside the clips I've included above pretty much all of it is on youTube, if you're brave enough to search for it. I'm warning you though, you may think you're not afraid....You will be.
So this Thanksgiving whilst you're tucking into your turkey, spare a thought for those less fortunate than you. Those children of the 70s who got a bad feeling about this. Then went to bed crying, with heads full of disturbing images they could never forget, and a fear that something terrible had happened.
"What a piece of junk!"
Geek. Lover. Fighter. Dwarf. Follow Wil on Twitter.