On this day in 1978, what’s now considered the greatest embarrassment to the Star Wars franchise aired on national television. The Star Wars Holiday Special is so bad that fans’ loathing of it has turned into an odd sort of affection. And really, it’s time for George Lucas to let it go, and officially release it rather than hiding it in the vault.
If somehow you haven’t heard of The Star Wars Holiday Special, it’s exactly what it sounds like: An attempt to combine Christmas and Star Wars. Han Solo and Chewbacca attempt to visit Chewie’s family for “Life Day,” and it just gets more embarrassing from there, culminating in Wookiees in red robes and Carrie Fisher being forced to sing a terrible original song. Its sole virtue: It introduced Boba Fett.
For years, watching this monstrosity was a rite of passage for nerds. Lucas took one look and immediately banned it from ever being rebroadcast or released on video, which drove it from pop culture curio to cult Holy Grail. It may not have been officially available, but that didn’t stop fans from going to a convention, finding a terrible fifth-generation VHS copy, paying too much for it, and watching it with friends.
In truth, it’s an oddly endearing relic that attempts to fuse the world of Star Wars with the world of ’70s variety shows. Lucas’ attitude towards it has always been kind of strange. He never seemed to have a problem with the TV movies that were basically nature documentaries about Ewoks, or the equally strange cartoon series starring Threepio and R2 as they blunder from master to master. While not quite as terrible, those aren’t exactly the best work in the canon. They’ve even been quietly released to home video.
At this point, the only reason to not release it is stubborn pride. Like most high-profile cult oddities, it’s escaped the bounds of physical media and is easy to find on the Internet. It was one thing when studios had almost total control over what got released and what didn’t, but this special has proven pretty much impossible to bury.
Is it embarrassing to all involved? Sure, but that’s what makes it so endearing and why most fans, once they get past the fact that it’s awful, have something of a warm spot in their hearts for it. In the end, it blunders into exactly what it was looking for. Unlike a lot of attempts to cash in on this franchise over the years, this does at least have the virtue of being sincere.
There may, of course, be other factors keeping this off Netflix and physical media. It’s not entirely clear who owns the rights to the special, beyond Lucas having a piece, and that might complicate things. That said, there’s no reason not to let the Star Wars Holiday Special out officially. After all, it’s the holidays: Everyone could use a laugh.