40th Anniversary of the Infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special”

Way back in 1978, the only “Star Wars” movie that anyone had ever seen was “Star Wars IV: A New Hope”, which had been released in 1977. But the public hungered for more and, at the time, the release of the next movie installment (“Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back”) was still 2 years away.

According to an article that was published in the Sept.-Oct. 1980 issue #42 of the magazine “Mediascene Preview”, George Lucas and Charles Lippencott (the then head of marketing at the now defunct “Star Wars Corporation”) were approached by CBS Television about doing a “Star Wars” TV special (though there is some dispute about this).

Nonetheless, George Lucas had imagined an un-subtitled “film just about Wookiees, nothing else,” around a family of Wookiees and their celebration of Life Day, when he was outlining “Star Wars”. This concept became the basis for the “Holiday Special” and the man hired to write the special was writer Bruce Vilanch, whose prior experience was predominantly with writing variety TV shows, including the “Donny and Marie” show, “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour”, “The Barry Manilow Special”, “The Paul Lynde Halloween Special” and “The Bette Midler Show” (a TV special).

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Sept-Oct 1980 Issue #42 of “Mediascene Prevue”

This above list is rather important in connecting some dots:

  • Among the episodes of “Donny and Marie” that Bruce Vilanch wrote for was the first episode of season 3, which aired on Sept. 23, 1977.
  • Ep. 1 of season 3 of “Donny and Marie” was the episode that was essentially a series of “Star Wars” variety show musical skits strung together as a single story.
  • The episode featured Kris Kristofferson (as Han Solo), Redd Foxx, Paul Lynde (as an Imperial Officer), Anthony Daniels (as C-3PO) and Peter Mayhew (as Chewbacca) as the guests. Thurl Ravenscroft voiced Darth Vader in the skits and acted as the narrator.

Bruce Vilanch wasn’t the only writer brought in for the “Star Wars Holiday Special”. Four other writers were also involved:

What about actors who appeared in the “Holiday Special”? First, all of them had extensive experience acting on various shows that appeared on CBS Television.

  • Harvey Korman was a regular on the “The Carol Burnett Show”. Thus, he had worked with both Pat Proft and Mitzie Welch.
  • Art Carney had previously appeared twice on “The Carol Burnett Show”.
  • Diahann Carroll had also previously appeared twice on “The Carol Burnett Show”. She had worked with Miztie Welch on the second appearance.
  • Bea Arthur‘s long-running sitcom “Maude” had ended earlier that year in 1978. She had also had a lot of previous experience on other variety comedy TV shows.

Now, for anyone who hasn’t seen the “Star Wars Holiday Special”, it can best be described as the un-subtitled Wookie story as originally envisioned by George Lucas combined with various variety-show-esque musical skits.

The “Star Wars Holiday Special” was ever only aired once on Nov. 17, 1978 and the reviews and fan response were very bad. In fact, it’s current rating on IMDb is 2.3 out of 10 stars. Consequently, it was never been released on disk and George Lucas (who isn’t in the credits) prefers to not discuss it. Copies only exist in bootleg form.

As poorly received as it was (and most people who watch it don’t like it), a few things that were introduced in the “Holiday Special” have become part of “Star Wars” canon:

  • Boba Fett (though he was only shown in animated form), who appeared in the next 2 movies (“Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back” and “Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi”).
  • The Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk and its architecture. (This wouldn’t be seen again until “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith”).

Thus, even though the “Holiday Special” is mostly despised, parts of it live on in the “Star War” canon.

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RIP Stan Lee

#RIP: we are deeply saddened to report that #MarvelComics legend Stan Lee has died. He was 95. His credits include the co-creation of:

  • #BlackPanther
  • #SpiderMan
  • #XMen
  • #Thor (The Mighty Thor)
  • #IronMan
  • #FantasticFour
  • #IncredibleHulk
  • #Daredevil
  • #AntMan
  • #DoctorStrange
  • And many more.

His huge impact on the worlds of science fiction, fantasy & comic books will never be forgotten. He will be deeply missed.

Our sincerest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues & fans.

Stan Lee (1922-2018)

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RIP Douglas Rain

#RIP: the classically trained actor Douglas Rain has died at the age of 90. He voiced the computer HAL 9000 (“HAL” for short) in the classic 1968 #SciFi movie #2001ASpaceOdyssey. He later reprised the role in the 1984 sequel #2010TheYearWeMadeContact. He also voiced several robot butlers & the evil computer in the sci-fi comedy #Sleeper, & more.

Our condolences to his family, friends and fans. He will always be remembered as the voice of the infamous computer HAL.

Douglas Rain (1928-2018)

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Advice from Viggo Mortensen to the Next Actor to Play Aragon in Amazon’s Upcoming LOTR Series

While it may be hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since the third and final #LordOfTheRings film was released in theaters, #Amazon is pouring tons of money into its new #LOTR series that will reportedly feature a younger Aragorn.

Actor Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy, has some advice for the actor to take on the younger version of the character:

“I would say, not only read the book, you know, very thoroughly, that giant book of Lord of the Rings, but you could read some of the Nordic sagas. You’ll get some clues there as to where Tolkien got his information. Like, Sigurd the Dragon Slayer, and the Volsunga saga. Read that.”

Mortensen also recommends watching Kurosawa films. Mortensen also discussed his unusual preparation for the films, for which he only had hours after replacing the original actor for the role:

Lord of the Rings was a case where I replaced an actor and they were already filming – not only filming, but they’d been rehearsing for months and learning all these skills they had to have for those movies – language skills, invented the Elvish, and swordplay, and horse riding, all this stuff. And I was kind of freaked out because I said yeah and I’m on the plane, on this 13 hour plane flight, and I’m looking at the book, which I had never read. But as I started looking at it, I was like, ‘Well, there’s something.’ There’s always something that you can draw on. I had read or been read to as a kid, stories about Vikings and Nordic sagas and stuff, and there was something there that was familiar, but it was still – you know, fortunately when I started doing that shoot it was physical stuff, not dialogue. So it was like sword fighting, so I could get my feet wet with that before I actually had to start speaking. It’s not ideal, but it seemed – my son was really into me doing it, and he was 11 at the time, and that kind of pushed me over the edge to say, ‘Yeah, okay.’ And obviously I’m glad I did it. It opened a lot of doors for me, and we had a lot of fun making those three movies. But it’s not ideal. I sometimes have said no because I’m not gonna be able to do justice to it.”

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Disney Announces Another New Live-Action “Star Wars” Series

Earlier today, #Disney Chairman & CEO Bob Iger announced that #LucasFilm will begin development of a 2nd live-action series for its direct-to-customer streaming service. The series will be based on the #RogueOne rebel Cassian Andor before the events of that movie, and actor Diego Luna will be reprising the roll.

“Going back to the Star Wars universe is very special for me,” said Diego Luna. “I have so many memories of the great work we did together and the relationships I made throughout the journey. We have a fantastic adventure ahead of us, and this new exciting format will give us the chance to explore this character more deeply.”

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The announcement was also released on #YouTube:

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