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Weekly Alibi Star Wars: Episode 4.5

By Devin D. O'Leary

JUNE 1, 1999:  Is there anybody but the most dedicated fan who remembers this long-lost Star Wars TV special? Perhaps we've all blocked it out of our minds like some horrible episode of ritual abuse from our childhood. Everyone had to have seen it, considering that Star Wars was the biggest thing in the universe when this special first aired. Today, though, I bet you can't find one out of a hundred people who can fish the memory of this atrocity from the backwaters of their brainswamp.

Now, don't get all worked up or anything--"The Star Wars Holiday Special" is not being rebroadcast right now on any network. Still, with Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace tearing up the box office, now might be the perfect time to reflect on this tragic, televised detour into the Star Wars universe.

The year was 1978. Star Wars had been released the summer before and, all over the country, rabid young fans eagerly powered up their televisions on the evening of Nov. 17 to catch a free dose of all new space-based action. We piled into our living rooms, surrounded ourselves with Star Wars action figures and waited for "The Star Wars Holiday Special" to begin. It didn't take long for the disappointment to set in.

The entire movie centers around the efforts of Han Solo to get Chewbacca back to his home planet in time for Life Day (the Wookiee equivalent to Thanksgiving). Unfortunately, we viewers got to spend most of our time watching Chewie's wife Mala, his son Lumpy and his crotchety old father Itchy prepare for Big Daddy's return. (Who knew Chewbacca had a wife and kid?) The special effects are awful, and Chewie's family all look like Chaka from "Land of the Lost." Anyway, as the ratty 'Bacca clan gets ready, we are treated to lots of stock footage left over from Star Wars featuring Han and Chewie dodging Imperial ships in an attempt to make it home for the holidays. At one point or another, Luke Skywalker (wearing more eye make-up than Alice Cooper) and Princess Leia appear on videophones. Eventually the Millennium Falcon lands, and there's a bunch of silly partying. That's about it for the plot.

In order to fill up the full two-hour timeslot, producers added plenty of unrelated '70s "guest stars" like Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Diahann Carrol and Harvey Korman. Jefferson Starship appears at one point and does a cheesy disco song, there are loads of comedy sequences and Carrie Fisher (God help us all) actually "sings" the theme song to Star Wars. The only part that anyone even vaguely recalls is a fairly cool cartoon sequence in which viewers were treated to their very first glance at Boba Fett (two years before The Empire Strikes Back). The animation, though, is weirdly Heavy Metal-esque and Han Solo ends up looking like Mick Jagger.

Nobody, but nobody ever rebroadcasts this silly thing. Occasionally, you can find bootleg copies for sale at geeked-out science fiction conventions. All I can say is, "Beware--even television has a Dark Side!

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