More Than a Cult Classic: Remembering the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’

I was there. Sitting in my living room, waiting, tuned in to CBS on November 17, 1978. No Love Boat, Lou Ferrigno or Lynda Carter tonight – tonight was reserved for (epic trailer voice:) The Star Wars Holiday Special.

On screen, they announced that the Incredible Hulk wouldn’t be airing tonight and as the word SPECIAL spun around into multi-colors, the lights went down and the Millennium Falcon flew away from a dingy brown planet that looked a lot like Tatooine, its engines deafening.

Of course, the lights didn’t go dim, and my parents had maybe a 24” tube TV with built-in speakers that crackled if you turned it up to loud. But I didn’t care – I was returning to a galaxy far, far away.

When people talk about the Star Wars Holiday Special now, the words campy, silly and absurd come up a lot. Like they’re looking back with disdain, not just for the show, but for those 13-million or so of us huddled around our television sets.

Like we didn’t know. Even at 8-years old, it was clear to me that mashing together a science fiction masterpiece like Star Wars with the format of The Carol Burnett Show was questionable at best.

But it was Star Wars! With Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2! Who cared if they brought Harvey Korman and Bea Arthur along for the ride?

You see, we didn’t have Disney+ or the Cartoon Network, or Blu-rays or DVDs or even VHSs back then. My first Star Wars recording consisted of a pair of 90-minute audio cassettes, which I personally recorded from the CBS Network TV Premiere in February of 1984. The VHS had come out the previous year, finally, but was $80.00 for the clamshell videotape.

In 1978, all we had was one movie – Star Wars – that had played for over a year in still pretty packed theaters.

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