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The Star Wars Holiday Special: Revenge of the Stiff

The Star Wars Holiday Special CBS

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there began a perilous adventure involving Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Han Solo…and Bea Arthur and Bruce Vilanch?

That's right, this year is the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars Holiday Special, the notorious television event in which Chewbacca's family celebrated Life Day, Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia serenaded her Wookiee friends, and the future Golden Girl Arthur entertained the cantankerous cantina crowd. Even Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford were on hand, if perhaps not entirely willingly.

Star Wars creator George Lucas, it's been said, is not a big fan. (He reportedly called it a "travesty," and the special, broadcast on CBS on Nov. 17, 1978, has never aired again.) But on a positive note, the special also introduced the bounty-hunter character Boba Fett, so there's that.

While the special has long held a special place on the Internet, whether on the fansitesWikipedia or more recently even StarWars.com, this year Vanity Fair has a terrific piece on the making of the special, which became an unwieldy mix of Star Wars characters and lore and thickly applied variety-show shtick written by Vilanch and others. 

It was a combination that was ultimately more forced than The Force.

Although the Jefferson Starship landed perhaps its easiest booking ever, even the band's guitarist Craig Chaquico still marvels at the result.

“It was such a strange iteration of the original big-screen-movie concept and your regular variety-show, Carol Burnett vibe,” he says. “I was like tripping on it myself, man.”

Join the club.

Still, it's Star Wars, and for that reason it holds a place in the hearts of those who watched it so many years ago and were baffled by it, and those who watch it today and continue to be baffled by it. Like The Force, it unites us.

Happy Life Day, everyone.

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