Actor Allusion: Art Carney's excessive noodling with a device in exactly the same way Ed Norton did in The Honeymooners, complete with an Imperial Guard yelling, "Will you just get on with it?!" in the same way as Ralph Kramden.
Kevin: It's just not the same without a fat man threatening violence.
Originally, George Lucas was to be much more involved in the project — he helped to write the first draft of the script (a standard-issue Star Wars adventure revolving around Life Day) and contributed to the animated Boba Fett segment. Sounds great so far, but then the CBS execs decided it had to be a variety show spectacular of the type that was relentlessly inflicted on unsuspecting audiences of the 1970s. Lucas, by this time, had gone off to concentrate on The Empire Strikes Back, and other hands — namely Pat Proft and Bruce freaking Vilanch — rewrote the script to fit the network's wishes.
A more benign example happened (although it's not beneficial so much as the lesser of two evils) — The entire Mind Evaporator sequence was originally intended to be quite explicitly a porn tape. However, it was toned down in order to meet CBS's censorship standards, although the implications of what the Mind Evaporator actually was are still present.
Franchise Killer: Averted... which is kind of amazing considering the result and the special's reputation. Let's just say it's a good thing that George Lucas was already making The Empire Strikes Back when this came out; otherwise it might have been the end of Star Wars entirely. It's possible that the Force is real and Lucas pulled a Jedi Mind Trick on the entire viewing audience to convince them it never happened.
Friday Night Death Slot: CBS airing a "holiday" special on a Friday night in mid-November suggests that they knew they had a fiasco on their hands and were trying to minimize the damage. Despite heavy anticipation the show didn't even make the Nielsen top ten for the week.
He Also Did: One of the writers for this special was Pat Proft, who would go on to have a career working with the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: It's practically the poster child. The only thing about it that's ever seen an official re-release is the Boba Fett cartoon segment, as an Easter Egg on one of the 2011 "Complete Saga" Blu-Ray bonus discs.
There are three notable bootleg tapes: the New York tape (fighting the frizzies, at 11), the Baltimore tape, (used by RiffTrax) and the Chicago tape (highest quality available at FuzzyMemories.TV). There's also a Latin American Spanish dub, which is also the only known foreign language dub in existence.
The only person with an official copy of the special was Carrie Fisher, who got it from George Lucas in exchange for doing audio commentary on Star Wars. She used it to scare off house guests.
The infamy of the show, and the difficulty of obtaining copies prior to YouTube, was alluded to in the video for "Weird Al" Yankovic's "White And Nerdy", in a scene where Al's character buys a copy in an alleyway (in a plain brown wrapper!) in a way that evokes drug smuggling.
"It was a wonderful time, but I had no idea it was even a part of the whole Star Wars thing... It's odd. I've gotten so many letters and requests for autographed photos from that thing. I just remember singing to a bunch of people with funny heads."note She was a veteran of some very strange 1970s variety shows, so it was probably all a blur to her.
Also averted in the case of Lev Mailer, the guy who played the Jerkass officer bullying the store owner in the special — he was one of the few people involved in its production who actually enjoyed the experience.
Patty Maloney: It was. It was a lot of hard work, but it was also a lot of fun. It was great to be involved with all of the other characters, too.
SKot: I can imagine. It sounds like everybody had a relatively good time working on it, at least.
Patty: Yes, we did. And we got along wonderfully, and we were all very pleased with the outcome of it, actually... I was. I was very pleased with it.
However, it was voted #2 behind A Charlie Brown Christmas for Christmas specials to be exhibited during the holiday season at the Museum of the Moving Image in NYC.
The special seems to be this for the entire television network, and in the 39 years since its original broadcast has yet to ever re-air again on public television.
Throw It In: Lev Mailer and Art Carney ad-libbed the scene where his character and Saun Dann were interacting in the trading area. More specifically, they chose to do the scene in a manner similar to the "Bully and Idiot" comedy routine.
Let's just say this part of the Star Wars saga hasn't aged nearly as well as the original trilogy. Basically, if you ever doubted that Star Wars began in The '70s... this should prove it. Conclusively.
The versions which retain the television commercials and news segments add to it — and the special aired the same day that William Kampiles was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment for espionage in a high-profile case. The toy commercials have to be the nadir of this... the "Trailtracker" and "Tobor" were probably innovative when they debuted, but to children of today they might as well be old Marx tin toys. Not that the other commercials (Union-made underwear! Ma Bell! Fake-wood paneled Mercury station wagons!) are any less dated. The special also aired the same night William Kampiles was arrested for espionage and Leonid Brezhnev admitted the Soviet Union had tested a neutron bomb (in violation of a treaty) but never put it into production.