The Star Wars Holiday Special! (1978)

[cross-posted from And Still I Persist]

Courtesy of Ace of Spades comes the most reviled, most wretched “holiday special” ever produced. First, here’s the Vanity Fair article to give you the entire ugly background:

In the summer of 1978, Bruce Vilanch had a bad feeling about the Star Wars television special he’d been hired to write. A veteran of the comedy wars who has since written material for 16 Oscar telecasts and starred as the extra-large Edna Turnblad in the Broadway musical adaptation of John Waters’s Hairspray, Vilanch had just finished working on Bette Midler’s 1977 TV special, Ol’ Red Hair Is Back, for producers Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion when they threw him what sounded like a plum assignment: a spot on the writing team that would help George Lucas adapt more of the Star Wars saga for television.

A year had passed since the theatrical release of Lucas’s gee-whiz space epic, and in that time Star Wars had become the highest-grossing movie in history as well as a cultural phenomenon with its very own lexicon and mythology. With a sequel still two years away from theaters, Lucas had been sold on the idea that a Star Wars holiday television special—to be broadcast on CBS the weekend before Thanksgiving, when Nielsen audiences were plentiful—would sustain interest in the franchise, move more toys off the shelves, and maybe even pick up some new fans who hadn’t seen the movie.

Though Lucas would not be involved in the actual shooting of the special—Smith and Hemion would oversee that—he knew the tales he wanted to tell and planned to work with the show’s team of seasoned TV writers to develop his ideas into a viable script. For those who had been summoned, the prospect of collaborating with the father of the Force initially sounded like a sure bet. “We were really excited, because, ‘My God, this is an annuity—Star Wars!’” says Lenny Ripps, another writer who worked on the special. “How could it lose?”

How indeed.

For those of you with the stamina, here a link to the complete Star Wars Holiday Special itself. I suspect most (if not all) of the actors involved wished that no record of this existed.  Heh.  ..bruce w..

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