Completely Different Title: The special was called Stjärnornas krig och fred ("Star Wars and Peace") when it aired in Sweden and Au Temps de la guerre des étoiles ("At the Time of the Star War") in France.
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 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' censorship standards, although the implications of what the Mind Evaporator actually was are still present.
Fan Nickname: The Imperial guard who takes a groomer away from Saun Dann is known as "Lord Helmet" due to their similar outfits.
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 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 four notable bootleg tapes: the Ohio tape (from WHIO, which has the best quality available so far), the New York tape (from WCBS, the one with "Fighting the frizzies, at 11."), the Baltimore tape (from WMAR, used by RiffTrax), and the Chicago tape (from WBBM, highest quality available at FuzzyMemories.TV). There's also dubs in French (from TF1 in France) and Latin American Spanish, which are also the only known foreign language dubs 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 the A New Hope DVD. 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 Imperial officer bullying Saun Dann 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.
CBS themselves also seem to be ashamed of it - they've never rerun the special since its first airing.
Mark Hamill is aware of how bad the special is, but thinks it's fascinating enough and worth it to release it on home video.
Prop Recycling: The large white rat suit in the Cantina scene was made for The Food of the Gods. Additionally, almost all the alien masks in the scene are the same ones from the original film, albeit repainted.
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.
Uncredited Role: The uncredited announcer who introduces the cast near the beginning of the special is Game Show host Art James.
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 original commercials and news segments add to it. 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 sentenced 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. The news report about these events is included with other commercials on some versions of the special.
The special was supposed to segue into The Empire Strikes Back, but unfortunately the only part of the special that got it right was the animated segment.
Kenner, which at the time had the license to produce Star Wars figures, planned to make several toys based on the special including action figures of Chewbaccas family and the creature that Boba Fett rides during the cartoon, although they were scrapped after the special flopped.
According to David Acomba, he recommended Robin Williams for the special but the producers turned him down.
The documentary ''Empire of Dreams" originally had a 10 minute segment dedicated to the special to emphasize what could've happened to the franchise if Lucas hadn't maintained control over it, but it was cut out for pacing reasons.
As mentioned above, the special was supposed to be more what one would expect from a Star Wars holiday special: It was supposed to be Kashyyyk's turn to host the festivities of the galaxy's holiday, Life Day, with Chewbacca as the main host (since he's a hero due to his part in destroying the Death Star). The Empire hates Life Day but can't openly ban it without causing huge backlash and uprising, so a female Imperial officer (who Lucas wanted to be played by 1960-70s sex symbol, actress, dancer, and singer Raquel Welch) would volunteer for a secret mission to sabotage Life Day by sneaking aboard the "Starship Muscia", a ship filled with Life Day stuff which Luke and Leia have placed R2 and 3PO on to make sure it gets to Kashyyyk on time, and it's worth nothing that had this gone as planned this would have been the first appearance of a female Imperial. Chewbacca was to meet up with his family in the first 10 minutes of the special, dropped off by Han. Chewie and Lumpy would have then gone to meet up with a trader (who became Saun Daan), who would have had a bigger, less comedic role in the special as he worked on Life Day, but since his family was destroyed by the Empire years ago he has no one to celebrate with, so he plans to go to the Mos Eisley Cantina to drink with his buddies. Lumpy would have begged for the video book (which would have been what the cartoon would have been viewed on), but Chewie denies it to him, only to get it for him in secret as a surprise gift, but Lumpy, hurt, sneaks aboard Daan's ship before it takes off. The infamous VR chair/softcore porno thing Itchy watches in the final special was going to be viewed by Chewbacca, but instead of the notoriously suggestive woman it would have been a rock music number (possibly the Jefferson Starship appearance), and afterwards the machine would give Chewie a nightmare about Lumpy, and that's when Chewbacca and his family realize that their son is missing. Daan would have discovered Lumpy (who was watching the cartoon segment on another video book) and decides to take him back after he drinks with his friends, which is where the Cantina sequence would take place. It would eventually lead to Lumpy and Daan on the Starship Musica with R2 and 3PO as Raquel Welch distracted the crew with a sexy dance while she sabotaged it in secret. Chewie would board the ship and save the day, egged on by encouraging messages from Han, Luke, and Leia.
Cher was offered the role eventually taken by Diahann Carroll.