It's always struck me as pretty ironic that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA got such a slatting (from critics and lawyers but not - eventually - the judge!) for being a STAR WARS rip-off (you have to admit that there are - errm - certain similarities) yet SW's own TV effort, THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL, which premiered that same 1978 Fall season (the 'Holiday' being Thanksgiving) is MUCH worse!
I imagine kids across America (the one-shot aired in very few overseas markets... which is pretty surprising considering SW was red-hot at that moment) tuned-in to CBS expecting to see a small-screen version of the summer-of-77 blockbuster. And got a shoddily-assembled, shot-on-video variety show. Larson was giving the kids what they REALLY wanted over at ABC: Star Wars weekly!
The Holiday Special has a reputation for being awful. And, for the most part, it is. But it's not without redemption: the much-talked-about animated segment (from those folks north of the border: Nelvana), introducing Boba Fett, is nice. It's great (not to mention unusual) to see (almost) the entire movie cast reunited on a small-screen project (even if they are humiliated once they arrive). The introduction of Chewbacca's family is interesting (albeit fumbled) and sows seeds eventually picked-up by the Marvel comic book and the prequel movies. 20th Century Fox's corner-cutting dusts off some interesting offcuts from the movie to bolster the flimsy production standards.
But the variety show elements are painfully out-of-place, as is the saccharine sentimentality of the Life Day celebrations. Overall, the production values are shoddy with little of the spectacular which converted a generation into Star Warriors.
George Lucas has always distanced himself from the debacle but it must have convinced him that he needed to exercise as much creative control over his creations as contractually possible and prevent their random exploitation by the Hollywood cash machine. It's notable that the special was never repeated, generally didn't travel far and has been buried by Lucasfilm ever since. That should make it amongst the rarest of SW spin-offs... but low-quality multi-generation copies of the original CBS airing have been circulating amongst fans for decades.
Kenner briefly considered a range of Wookie action figures based on the special but (although they went as far as producing prototypes) abandoned the plan in favour of sure-to-sell-better toys based on the movie series.
This article appeared in STARLOG MAGAZINE, February 1979.