Chewie-ing It Over: Frak It, We’ll Do It Live!
This past week at ABC’s presentation to the Television Critics Association (TCA), ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey gave Star Wars fans a new hope that the franchise could extend to live-action programming on the small screen.
Dungey spoke to reporters during the presentation as well as afterwards. Variety had the following quotes:
“As a fan I would absolutely love to say yes,” Dungey said during her executive session at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “We have had conversations with [Lucasfilm] and we will continue to have conversations with them. I think it would be wonderful if we could find a way to extend that brand onto our programming.”
After the panel, Dungey told a handful of reporters that as of now, there’s nothing official in the works in terms of a series. “It’s all a little bit hush-hush. That company exists under a big shroud of secrecy. If you feel Marvel is secretive, Lucas takes it to a whole other level,” she admitted. “[Talks] are ongoing. We don’t really have an official timeline yet.”
Of course the news of ongoing talks set a fire across the galaxy of entertainment news and fan sites.
Star Wars on television has a complicated history–there have been the Ewok Adventure TV movies, the Ewoks and Droids animated series, the Clone Wars micro-series, The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, the various LEGO Star Wars iterations, and of course the unforgettable (whether you would like to or not) Holiday Special.
There has also been the shelved-during-production Star Wars: Detours animated show and the shelved-in-pre-production Star Wars: Underworld (working title) live-action series.
ABC network has leveraged its sibling relationship with Marvel to bring Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter to network television. ABC Studios has also co-produced Marvel’s series with Netflix.
At the same time we are seeing CBS launch its new paid subscription service, “All Access” with Star Trek: Discovery being its flagship original programming. CBS is betting big that Star Trek fans will drive business to its new service.
The idea of a Star Wars live-action series has been concrete as far back as 2005 when Lucas publicly commented about wanting to do a series; over the years we got dribs and drabs of information about the series. Lucas and his prequel producer Rick McCallum went on to develop the Star Wars: Underworld series, hiring writers and commissioning scripts. Rumors are there are at least 100 finished scripts for the series. Related to the TV development, Lucas attempted to build a new production facility on his Marin County property called Grady Ranch. This development would have been a state-of-the-art digital production facility, including two indoor and one outdoor sound stages as well as other production facilities and accommodations.
Local opposition killed the Grady Ranch project and ultimately fiscal realities killed the Star Wars: Underworld series. Lucas couldn’t figure out a way to get production costs low enough for television to allow him to execute his visions to the quality he saw as necessary.
Ultimately as Disney took over and the Lucasfilm story group guided a new group of creatives forward in telling Star Wars stories, they have moved past the stories planned in the Underworld scripts. No doubt at this point there would be some conflict over plans for major and minor characters backgrounds and interactions based on what is in development for film as well as Lucasfilm Animation’s Star Wars Rebels and the various publishing partners. It is possible that we will see these Underworld scripts strip-mined for concepts, characters, or settings, but it seems likely that they will every be fully realized as a television series. It seems more likely that if a live-action series does occur it will be something different, something developed by the new team at Lucasfilm with coordination at ABC.
(On a tangent we have seen the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a stage play script in the form of a book. I would love to see the completed Star Wars: Underworld scripts or a portion of them collected and published for collectors and fans to be able to enjoy.)
But back to the topic at hand: some question whether Star Wars could and should be in live-action television. Can the special effects required to portray the Star Wars galaxy be scaled down to a television budget? Would it be too much of a good thing, resulting in oversaturation of Star Wars?
Disney and Lucasfilm have been relatively conservative in their Star Wars output. One film a year with a saga film occurring every other year, and now two animated series currently airing with potentially another in pre-production. The only way that Star Wars can continue to grow is for more content to be created, but this content must broaden the galaxy. We must move onto new characters, new settings, new scenarios. Moving into the new and the unknown can be risky but the popularity of well done limited series heavy on character and serialization have given birth to the golden age of television.
If Star Wars does come to the small screen it should be done closer to the Game of Thrones 10-episode model as opposed to the typical network 22 episodes per season model. In fact, since Game of Thrones is coming to an end in two seasons and The Walking Dead is getting long in the tooth, there is no reason that a Star Wars television series could not become the next great event series that becomes the topic of water cooler talk and pop culture fever.
The Star Wars galaxy is a big place and it is easy to see how a portion of it could be carved out that works within canon but allows for the creative freedom necessary to tell exciting new stories. Whether we go to the Corporate Sector, Hutt Space, or Corellia, the hyperspace routes are endless.
So Disney, ABC, and Lucasfilm if you are listening. Let’s do it live-action.
The Bright Center of the Universe: This Week on StarWars.com:
ANNOUNCING THE STAR WARS AFTER SHOW by Kitster
Wild Space: This Week on MakingStarWars.net:
This week on MSW we have stories on a new (almost certainly animation) project at Lucasfilm, revived talks about a live action series at ABC, Jimmy Smits returning, and a new Rogue One Trailer dropping during the Olympics.
ABC AND LUCASFILM STILL ONLY IN EARLY TALKS PHASE FOR A STAR WARS LIVE-ACTION SERIES by Amanda Ward (administrator)
To the future, to the horizon:
This week we see the release of the next episode of LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, “The Maker of Zoh” on Monday, the trade paperback release of Marvel’s Star Wars: Darth Vader Volume 3 — The Shu-Torun War on Tuesday and the release of Marvel’s Star Wars: Darth Vader 24: End of Games, Part V on Wednsday.
Until next time