While there’s much disagreement among fans over what is the greatest of the Star Wars films, there’s no disagreement whatsoever about the single worst Star Wars product. However much viewers disliked the prequels, however angry fans were about the way Lucas altered Episode IV for its DVD release, the Star Wars Holiday Special truly stands alone. Aired only once, the Holiday Special was broadcast on CBS on Friday, November 17, 1978, about a year-and-a-half after the release of the original Star Wars and exactly one day before the Jonestown massacre. Never released on home video and preserved only in a couple off-the-air VHS recordings, the show was infamous but largely unavailable for decades after its premiere. But in the age of YouTube, the Star Wars Holiday Special suddenly became just a Google search away. Its newfound ubiquity has turned it from the most obscure piece of the Star Wars universe to a piece of widely mocked so-bad-it’s-good culture, a kind of Wookiee-flavored The Room, Birdemic with a cantina scene. The show’s 35th anniversary in 2013 even saw the creation of an unofficial website dedicated to it.
On this Christmas Day, in the midst of another moment in which Star Wars is ruling our popular culture, I figured it might be interesting to revisit the Star Wars Holiday Special with the seriousness befitting the USIH Blog. Can we learn anything from this most ridiculous and appropriately derided television show?