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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Star Wars Holiday Special : Merry Gen X'mas

Our first tablet.
Long ago in a galaxy we 40-somethings refer to as "our childhood," there existed a linoleum-tiled, imagination-fueled, cherry Kool-Aid world of motorized toys and remote control toys and really rad high tech toys like Lite Brite and 2XL.

Some of the time, these toys were entertaining for a solid hour or two. Most of the time, we made our own entertainment. Like Shock Tag. A shag rug, socks on your feet and at least one sibling to shock with your finger is all you needed. As an eight or nine year old in the mid-to-late 1970s America, you could make a pretty good time out of not-much-at-all.

The adults made their own fun, too. They had to -- their shows and news came on TV at specific times on specific channels, and the TV went off overnight. I don't mean the TV got turned off. I mean the transmittor shut down its signal and went to static until morning.

So the announcement for the upcoming Star Wars Holiday Special, something exciting and new and fun for the whole family, probably caused melee in the malls. Panic at the disco! M***********g Star Wars!? Up until that moment, we thought Battle of the Network Stars was the living end. What fools we were at age seven!

...upgrades.
I like to imagine the reaction of the parents of the day. If you were the eight or nine year old mentioned earlier, then I mean your parents. They knew you loved Star Wars. But you were so sugar-torqued that you couldn't sit in one place for longer than a two-parter Happy Days. The Star Wars Holiday Special seemed to last for goddamn hours.

Probably it was the "fun for the whole family" aspect that did the most convincing to gather the gang around the one single TV in the house and watch Star Wars Holiday Special. I'm sure they reasoned, on the one hand, it's got Luke and Leia and Han Solo, and the Wookie and the robots, so the kids will be so happy they'll poop their Underoos. On the other hand, it's got the biggest personalities of the year. Or at least the oldest personalities of the year. Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and even a pre-Golden Girls Bea Arthur intoning a ponderous ballad, so Grandpa will be thrilled. Let's make Jiffy Pop. No, JIFFY POP, pop! Get grandpa a fresh battery.

The Star Wars Holiday Special is set in a vague place along the Star Wars story line. It centers upon the family of Chewbacca -- his father, his wife and his little son who looks like a fat Cousin Itt who'd brushed his hair back. The show opens on the Millenium Falcon cockpit, where Han Solo is using all his pilot prowess to shake the garbage scow on their tail and get Chewbacca home in time for the Wookie holiday. It's a great start! The kids love it! But Grandpa's not sure what he's looking at, so he's talking over it, telling all about a young Art Carney on the radio.

The next million minutes alternate between Chewbacca's family, who are anxiously bickering and looking for news of Chewbacca's ETA, and performances by the "passed-over-for-Love Boat" guest stars. At one point there is a cartoon for no reason.

During the scenes at Chewbacca's home, there are long...suprisingly long...spans where the only dialog is angst-ridden Wookie howling, which is the loudest kind of Wookie howling. When Malla, Itchy and Lumpy begin to place video calls to Luke, Leia and Art Carney (wait, what?) we understand that these brief cut-scenes are the only appearances contributed to this show by the real Star Wars actors. So they're not really in it, in it. Probably if I'm nine I'm kinda starting to feel ripped off right about now.

The performances by the affordable guest stars are presented as a piece of entertainment technology, each one strange, psychodelic or wholly inexplicable in a puzzling new way.

Here's how they did it. Chewbacca's son owns some toys cooler than our Lite Brite and our 2XL. Our shit was still analog in those days, lest we forget that Lite Brite's entire operating system was a light bulb. But the Wookie has that cool hologram table from Star Wars where Chewbacca played a game with R2D2 on their way to Alderaan. You know, "Let the Wookie win, R2!" He pressed some buttons and into existence before him pranced acrobats, dancers and jugglers, a performance which went on for about a week. Lumpy clapped and howled. Then later Lump is reading a technical manual -- always compelling to watch...? And on a viewscreen, Harvey Korman appears to be acting out the instructions. Zany wacky fun for Grandpa. Also, as an aside, Harvey Korman may have invented Max Headroom.

The strangest, most perplexing guest performance is that of Diahann Carroll. Hell if we knew who Diahann Carroll was at nine years old -- this is before Dynasty, even. I think she was on Milton Berle? In her scene, Miz Carroll emerges from a kaleidoscopic field of light as a mermaid sex vixen that appears in the virtual reality visor worn by Chewbacca's shrunken, grizzled father. Not only is this segment a stultifying rambling script, it's pretty much soft porn. Working a lotta bare shoulder action, mermaid sex vixen croons and sighs to Itchy. "I am your fantasy. I am your experience. So experience me. I am your pleasure. Enjoy me. This is our moment together in time that we might turn this moment into an eternity." As he grunts and moans and writhes in the chair until he's...done. That's nice for the kids. Grandpa probably had to do a shot of Cold Duck.

This is our moment together in time that we might turn this moment into an eternity?

Um...fa la la la la, la la la la!

Here's the thing. I don't remember any of this shit. I know we would have given up our Reggie Bars to watch anything Star Wars-related, and I know for sure that we knew all about it because it aired where Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were supposed to be -- we watched those faithfully, fresh from our baths, in our jammies, hugging a bowl of dry Cookie Crisp cereal.

My theory is this. We may have made it through the first fifteen minutes of mostly all-Wookie dialog. We may have stayed to see if anything good happened (it didn't) in Harvey Korman's cooking show skit, like a cross between Julia Child and a muppet. But we definitely for suresville did not stay there and watch, with our parents, that softcore cyber booty scene with the mermaid lady and a old-ass Wookie. Our brains would have sent alarms, we'd be nothing but a streak of flammable pajamas racing from the room and not daring to watch TV again for a week.

But now that we're older and we have more viewing options and weed, the Star Wars Holiday Special is available on YouTube, and we'll probably stream it several times each and every Christmas season.

Smoke it if it's legal, and have a great Life Day.