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

In 1983, All Things Considered host Susan Stamberg asked a young movie buff to give us a “taste” of Return of the Jedi. The flood of complaints from listeners led to on-air apologies.


Forty years ago today, the highly anticipated third “Star Wars” movie hit the big screen. It was called “Return of the Jedi”.



Back then, 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 hear spoilers for a 40-year-old movie that, let’s be honest, you should have seen by now.


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

SUMMERS: At the time, though, all those plot details, they really upset our listeners. So much so that the next day, Susan Stamberg apologized on the air. Well, sort of – let’s listen.


SUSAN STAMBERG: Well, the comic was a blunder, but we definitely 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 on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, we allowed a 6 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” or “The Wizard of Oz”. We know how they end, but find plenty of fun and nourishment watching them proceed to that ending. Two years from now, that’s how we’ll feel about “Return Of The Jedi.” For now, however, our apologies – we won’t be doing this again. But listen, I just saw the new “Superman III,” and Superman and Lois Lane…


SHAPIRO: Forty years later, of course, Susan was right. We still watch “Return Of The Jedi” and we still love it.

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