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40 Years Ago, NPR Had To Apologize For Airing ‘Return Of The Jedi’ Spoilers : NPR

Decades after its release, Return of the Jedi always draws a crowd.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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Ethan Miller/Getty Images

40 Years Ago, NPR Had To Apologize For Airing 'Return Of The Jedi' Spoilers : NPR

Decades after its release, Return of the Jedi always draws a crowd.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Forty years ago this week, the long-awaited third star wars movie, Return of the Jedihit the big screen.

At the time, in 1983, All things Considered host Susan Stamberg asked a young boy to give us a taste of the film. And be warned, you’re about to read spoilers for a 40-year-old movie that, let’s be honest, you should have seen by now.

This was part of the boy’s exam:

Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are about to go into the pit. And just as he was about to step onto the board, R2D2 fired a laser gun from his head, and Han grabbed it. And he blew up the whole ship. And the big guy – the boss of monsters – well, he choked and died.

In fact, his review was not enough LAW. It was a lightsaber that R2D2 pulled, which Luke Skywalker grabbed.

Here’s how the fight with Jabba and his villains went.


At the time, however, these plot details really bothered NPR listeners. So much so that the next day, Stamberg released an on-air apology.

Well, sort of. Here is what she said:

Well, the comic was a blunder, but we certainly blundered last night. We blundered so badly that we changed our program before rebroadcasting it on the West Coast, which means you West Coast listeners won’t know what I’m talking about. But enough of you on the East Coast have called to complain that we want to publicly apologize to everyone.

Calls – there have been more phone calls on this one than we have ever received in the midst of the hottest conflicts in the Middle East.

Calls – there were more phone calls than Richard Gere would get if he gave his number.

And all because last night All things Consideredwe allowed a six-and-a-half-year-old boy to tell us everything — and I mean everything — about Return of the Jedi. “You gave the plot”, you said. “I’ve been waiting for this movie for three years, and now you’ve ruined it for me. How could you do such a thing?”

Well, we’re sorry. We are contrite, and we are fascinated. Usually you get angry when we get our facts wrong. This time we were right, and you got angry.

It’s the difference between fact and fiction, of course, and the power of fantasy in our lives – the need for mystery, for wonderful stories pouring out for us. Of course, if they’re wonderful enough — maybe that’s an excuse, but I doubt it — if they’re wonderful enough, they’ll come to us new, even though we’ve seen them a hundred times.

That’s why people keep coming back to see Romeo and Juliet over and over again or The Wizard of Oz. We know how they end, but find plenty of fun and nourishment watching them proceed to that ending. In two years this is how we will feel about the Return of the Jedi. For now, however, our apologies – we won’t be doing this again. But listen, I just saw the new one Superman 3and Superman and Lois Lane…

Forty years later, of course, Stamberg was right. We are still watching Return of the Jedi and still love her.

Return of the Jedi theatrical trailer in 1982.


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