The Star Wars Holiday Special sucked, but the commercials ruled

It’s hard to find an advertisement that dates back to the 1970s more than Reggie Jackson’s ad for a short-lived candy bar.

Screenshot by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper / CNET

I’m a kid in the ’70s and ’80s, and I’d bet my little Bionic Woman doll in the box that TV commercials of that era would be some of the last things my mind would stick to before I died. I’d be such a “Sure, Grandma” meme, being mixed up by a nursing home hostess born in 2047 as I babbled, “I’m stuck in band-aids,” and “Oh yeah, Kool-Aid!” So it’s no wonder that one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen includes commercials from 1978.

A few years ago, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 that was behind the RiffTrax set that parodied the movies got a 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. This is specialThe thing that George Lucas wished wasn’t there. The Riffers’ jokes make the gruesome show agreeable, but the best part of all is when they mock the actual commercials that aired with the show in 1978.

RiffTrax sells its products, but the company recently made its entire Star Wars Holiday Special free to watch on YouTube. You can watch everything, just zoom in and stop whenever you find a commercial, or just search for the fan-edited version for commercials. (This is Part 1, this is Part 2.) But then go to RiffTrax.com and buy something, because these guys deserve to keep working.

In an ad for General Motors, Riffers noted how workers appeared to be immobilizing the car.

Perhaps the funniest ad (at 2:53 in the video below) is an ad for the International Women’s Clothing Federation, featuring the infamous “Union Label.” Whether it’s the guys pointing out how The Dress Guild sure makes a lot of hideous suits, or Bill Corbett wistfully referring to “I’m missing out on raucous union anthems,” it’s a whole minute of perfection.

In an ad for the Kenner Trailtracker toy truck, Mike Nelson musically notes that “it’s going to be fun for about 3.7 seconds!” While Kevin Murphy freaks out how a plastic truck can follow a wavy line. (“Dear God, you’re crazy!”)

Father from the Land of the Lost appears in an advertisement for wine. Products you totally forgot about live again (Twice As Fresh, the air freshener you’re supposed to frantically wandering around in). And yes, there are Star Wars jokes, a classic commercial for Kinner Star Wars action figures and the Star Wars laser tag game.

I remember how weird the 1970s were, like when the Bell System tried to sell all kinds of new phones, because every cigar-chomping CEO wanted to cut a deal with a Snoopy and Woodstock plastic phone.

A CBS TV movie ad about the Bible does not fail to promote the Sodom and Gomorrah segment. (“And next week, The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” Murphy Cracks.) There’s an advertisement for a Reggie candy bar, which is actually still pretty tasty. (“Why haven’t they made Pujols cake yet?” Corbett slyly asks.)

I co-wrote What Happened to Pudding Pops? , the encyclopedia of pop culture in the ’70s and ’80s, and if that gives me any GenX credit, I’m checking it out here. Jelly, the collection influenced by memories of zigzag orange rugs and avocado hardware, will find this as much fun as you’ll find a Marathon candy washed down with Light Pepsi.

I’ve always thought the ’70s was an ugly, colorful decade, but it’s not like the ’20s are turning out much better. So when you want to escape the latest bleak news, upload this RiffTrax video, then go back to the ads of 1978. I hope the Force of Madison Avenue is with you.

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