Today in 1978 Star Wars fans turned on their TVs in excitement for the Star Wars Holiday Special, and then, well, um, maybe didn’t quite love it the way they thought they would.


According to some of those involved, the show had two goals: to help promote the growing world of Star Wars merchandise, particularly the toys and action figures, ahead of the holiday shopping season; and to tide over Star Wars fans, who were going to be waiting for several more years to get the next film chapter of the saga.

The main storyline was that Chewbacca was trying to get back to his home planet to see his family for their big annual holiday, called Life Day, and since he was wanted by the Empire, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia tried to help him avoid Stormtroopers and other obstacles.

But this wasn’t an adventure like the movie; it was mostly a classic TV variety show with a Star Wars theme.

There were stops at a cantina run by Bea Arthur, a music video from the Jefferson Starship, and a zany cooking demonstration by comedian Harvey Korman, who had four arms and some kind of purple-pink space dress.

There was also a long segment showing Chewie’s family getting ready for their Life Day party and watching TV, speaking only in Wookiee, no subtitles.

So it was a lot.

George Lucas, who dreamed up the Star Wars universe, reportedly tried to buy the rights back to the special so that it could never be seen again.

But hiding the show eventually made it into a cult classic among Star Wars fans, one in particular.

Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia herself, had one of the few official copies of the special.

And when she had people over for a party, and she decided it was time for people to go home, she’d put on “The Star Wars Holiday Special.”

Ten years to the day before the Star Wars Holiday Special, NBC was showing a nail-biter of a pro football game.

The New York Jets were leading the Oakland Raiders by three points with 65 seconds left in the game, so the network cut away from the game to a previously scheduled showing of the movie “Heidi.”

At which point the Raiders scored two touchdowns for an epic come-from-behind victory that TV viewers missed.


The Epically Terrible Star Wars Holiday Special: An Oral History (Lit Hub)

The ‘Heidi Game’ (Pro Football Hall of Fame)

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