Among television’s most notorious cases of bloodcurdling misadventure, The Star Wars Holiday Special was broadcast for the first and only time by CBS on Nov. 17, 1978.
The first dose of Star Wars since creator George Lucas redefined sci-fi cinema the previous year, fans had waited for this TV Special with bated breath — after all, The Empire Strikes Back wouldn’t hit movie theaters until May of 1980. Even a modicum of action set in a galaxy far, far away would help fill the 18-month void … right?
Umm, noh-wuh (rolls eyes, folds arms with utmost repugnance).
The Special opens with deceptive potential aboard the Millennium Falcon, with Han Solo and Chewbacca entering hyperspace to escape pursuing Star Destroyers. Any hint of entertainment then hits a screeching halt, pitilessly replaced with 90-plus minutes of unflagging tripe.
"Come back soon, I'll be waiting!" ― Ackmena
Played by Beatrice “Bea” Arthur, Ackmena is one of several new characters shoehorned into the Star Wars universe by this Variety TV nightmare. Art Carney, Harvey Korman and (wait for it) Jefferson Starship are among fellow 1970s celebrities providing songs and “comedy” routines, but none rival the bewilderment of Bea’s otherworldly bartender.
Working night shifts at Chalmun’s Cantina, the finest watering hole in all of Tatooine, Ackmena was (according to the bottomless chasm of Star Wars knowledge that is Wookieepedia) among the bar’s more popular figures. However, when patrons refused to obey the Galactic Empire-imposed curfew, Ackmena started singing “Goodnight, but Not Goodbye” in hopes of quickening the crowd's departure. Breakneck exodus of Chalmun’s Cantina promptly followed.
Speaking to the Portland Mercury, Bea Arthur later said:
"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 bunch of people with funny heads."
Stunning as it may seem, Bea Arthur was blissfully unaware of her part in the Star Wars franchise. Filming this segment in the Holiday Special took a considerable amount of time, and as highlighted in the video above, the result is among the ill-fated production's zaniest moments ...