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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Star Wars Holiday Specials Through Non-Fan Eyes

I’m about a third of the way through reviewing the Star Wars movies as a non-Star Wars fan. Since it’s Thanksgiving, the start of the holiday season, and since Wookie Life Day was last week, it seems like a good time to take a break and review the Star Wars Holiday Specials.

Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. There are two of them.

Full explanation of my ranking system is here. Summary: C is average, A/B is recommended, D is badly made, F is something to avoid.

Star Wars Holiday Special (RiffTrax)

Rating: D
RiffTrax Rating: A

I did not see the Holiday Special when it first aired. Or maybe I saw a few minutes while switching channels. I’m not sure. I only know that I didn’t deliberately look for it, because I hadn’t seen Star Wars yet and wasn’t entirely interested.

But I did see the special in a fully-mocked RiffTrax version. I’ve watched it a couple times now, and I’ve tried to interpret what it would be like, as a fan, to eagerly tune in and see … that thing. It’s very bad. Recently, Frank Conniff (I think it was him) mentioned that it almost killed Star Wars, but definitely killed TV variety shows for a couple decades. I saw a number of variety shows before that special aired, and they got worse over time, but I don’t think I’ve seen a variety show done that badly before. And the cartoon in the middle? I know there are some Star Wars fans who claim that’s the only good part of the special, because it introduces Boba Fett, but really, it’s only “good” by comparison. It’s really poorly written and the story makes no sense.

So why have I watched this a couple times? It’s not because I enjoy the cruelty it must have inflicted on the fans. I feel very sorry for what they had to go through. No, I watch the RiffTrax version because the riffing is enormously funny. I saw this for free via a YouTube video someone uploaded without authorization, and then, THEN, I paid for my own copy, so I can have it all to myself. And that copy is now a better video tape transfer than before, so it was worth it.

The tape the RiffTrax crew used includes the commercials that originally ran in one geographical area, which lends a certain additional comic value, as does weird moments in the show itself, such as Chewbacca’s family making futuristic communications on what looks like a TRS-80 Model III. or an Imperial Officer watching Jefferson Starship perform a cheesy '70s song on a video screen.

Favorite lines (only a few of many!):

“Santa’s death armada!”
“It’s a unique idea, watching a farm animal open a present.”
“How come they haven;t made a Pujols candy bar yet?”
“[R2D2] actually said ‘I find Boba Fett’s popularity as inexplicable as Nickelback’s!’”
“It’s like an entire band of Paul Shaffers!”
“This has got to be how the Heaven’s Gate crowd envisioned their final moments going down.”

LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special

Rating: C+

I’ve seen the first LEGO Movie, and the LEGO Batman movie, and enjoyed both, so I was looking forward to the new for 2020 LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special. I figured it might be as good.

First impression: Man, I guess I should have watched everything else, ever, before watching this. It has references to a couple movies I haven’t watched yet.

Second Impression: It’s supposed to be a comedy. Although it’s better than the Star Trek: Lower Decks “comedy”, it reminds me a little of that: not the same rapid short-attention span delivery, but it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, just amusing and in a couple places I did actually chuckle. Certainly, the big battle between Darth Vader and… well, I won’t spoil it. Because although in general I think it’s only C-tier, the extreme fans of Star Wars who are familiar with many corners of the universe will probably enjoy it quite a bit. So, I recommend it to them and to people with kids who like Star Wars. It’s a pretty well-made special, even if only a little better than average.

(And yes, it’s connected to the original holiday special, not only because it’s about Life Day, but also because Chewbacca’s family from the original show up. No Bea Arthur or Harvey Korman, though.)

Next Up: Not completely decided on this yet. I’ll decide by next week.

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