Star Wars fans had their world rocked on October 30, 2012, when it was announced out of left field that Disney would be purchasing Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, which presumably meant that a new trilogy was on the way. Initially, there was a good deal of skepticism, but fans eventually came around. If the massive critical and financial success of The Force Awakens is any indicator, the Star Wars franchise could be bigger and better than ever.
Coinciding with the run up to The Force Awakens, Star Wars content exploded. Comics, novels, Star Wars: Rebels, and Star Wars: Battlefront all got fans excited, pushing forward a newly-unified universe of storytelling. There’s just one puzzle piece left to conquer for this multimedia powerhouse: live-action television.
The absence of any live-action Star Wars television announcements is certainly confusing. Lucasfilm is pushing forward in nearly every other medium, and considering how well the television format would suit Star Wars, it’s somewhat shocking that plans for a live-action series weren’t among the first announcements to follow the Disney acquisition.
Since Disney has yet to publicize plans for any broadcast ambitions, here’s why we think Star Wars Needs a Live-Action TV Show.
TV is Lacking Good Sci-Fi
Television is caught in a bit of a drought when it comes to good science fiction. New sci-fi shows tend to be few and far between, and the ones that do make to the screen have a fairly high cancellation rate. The shows that stay on the air for more than a season or two tend to be very light on the science fiction angle, oriented more towards post apocalyptic shows like The Walking Dead, or comic-book shows like Arrow, The Flash, or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Sure, Star Trek is on its way back to the small screen, but that’s unfortunately only an exception that proves the rule. Especially considering most sci-fi tends to go the way of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, even when it’s well-received.
Science fiction budget concerns make cancellation a major fear for most creators, but that’s where Star Wars stands out. The immense resources of Lucasfilm could go a long way toward cutting the development overhead costs normally associated with big budget TV. In addition, the massive Star Wars fan base could help justify any show put out by the franchise, similarly to how the MCU was able to support Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., despite the lukewarm reception to season one.
Large franchises are branching out into TV more and more
Cinema isn’t the only medium being taken over by large franchises. The small screen has also been dominated by superhero and comic-book shows as of late. Marvel has a constantly growing slate of shows on ABC and a burgeoning selection of critical successes on Netflix, DC has a multiple network multiverse, and Fox is about to get some skin in the game with an X-Men show.
Lucasfilm is pretty clearly the odd man out of this equation, even though it isn’t a comic book property per se. Nearly every other franchise with a release schedule that sees one or more movies per year also has at least one series on the air. If the Star Wars franchise is going to maintain its return to the spotlight, it’s could take more than a yearly tentpole to contend with the other box office behemoths. Expanding beyond the silver screen will solidify the franchise’s place alongside Marvel, Fox, and DC/Warner Bros.
Clone Wars and Rebels Target a Younger Demographic
Some of you have probably been yelling at your screens — or you’re furiously typing in the comments — that Star Wars is already on TV. This is true. The Clone Wars enjoyed a five season run on Cartoon Network and is now available on Netflix (plus a 6th season), and Star Wars: Rebels is enjoying an amazing second season on Disney XD.
While both are quality shows, they’re aimed at much younger audiences. Sure, they reach into more mature areas now and then (especially the latter seasons of The Clone Wars) but they will always be primarily targeted at much younger viewers than any of the other big TV franchises mentioned above.
This younger demographic hasn’t held either of the animated shows back in any drastic way, but a live-action show that could consistently tackle more mature subject matter would obviously draw in far more fans, making it much easier to connect to a shared universe where the audience is expected to be familiar with elements passed between a show and movie.
Hours of Live-Action Star Wars TV Have Already Been Developed
A live-action Star Wars series isn’t even an original concept. Several years ago, George Lucas had already put significant effort into a show called Star Wars: Underworld. The show was said to take place between Episodes III and IV, but it wouldn’t primarily follow familiar characters, though Lucas did say that a few fan favorite faces (or helmets) may show up from time to time.
Underworld had over 100 episodes planned, with at least 50 hours of content already written. For anyone that doesn’t consider the late 2010s as the prime of Lucas’s writing accomplishments, it’s important to note that Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) was also heavily involved in the writing.
Kathleen Kennedy said in December 2015 that the development work on Underworld is still being evaluated, so it’s possible that the efforts that have already been put into the show won’t go entirely to waste. Even if it isn’t the exact same concept, much of the writing and other material could definitely be utilized for a number of ongoing Lucasfilm projects.
Star Wars Was Originally Inspired by Serialized Cinema
Star Wars has been perfectly suited for the small screen from its inception. Sure, its large-scale space battles and epic planetscapes have always had a lot to offer on the big screen, too, but Lucas’s original inspiration for the saga came from old Flash Gordon serials – a format which is not too dissimilar from most modern television.
A foray into live-action television provides the Star Wars franchise with an excellent opportunity to return to its roots. The radio dramas for the original trilogy (specifically A New Hope) are all excellent examples of how well the classic style of serialized installments works for Star Wars. A similar style was even adopted for much of The Clone Wars animated series.
Star Wars doesn’t necessarily have to be serialized to be a success, though. An anthology show that tells short stories following a different smuggler, bounty hunter, soldier, or politician in short episode arcs would also be amazingly well-suited for the property.
Star Wars is So Big That it Doesn’t Have to be Interconnected
Along with the expectation of a television presence for large franchises comes the assumption of a shared universe, a fairly new trend that first cropped up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel’s ABC and Netflix shows all fit into the same larger MCU. Even DC’s shows — while they don’t necessarily occupy the same universe, per se — all exist in a larger shared multiverse.
The problem is, this isn’t always the easiest way to tell a story. Events told on television need to be significant enough to be entertaining, yet minor enough to not cause continuity errors with the big screen installments. This is where Star Wars would actually work better than many other shows.
While there are other shared universes on TV, they’re really more of a shared world. The ultimate scope is restricted in such a way that can make it hard to fit stories into continuity. Star Wars doesn’t have this restriction. Not only is there an entire galaxy in which to tell stories, but there is even room to thread new stories through the events of existing movies, as evidenced by Star Wars books like Lost Stars, by Claudia Gray, or Battlefront: Twilight Company, by Alexander Freed.
While everyone would obviously love to see their favorite TV characters pop up in movies, and vice-versa, Star Wars could easily tell multiple large-scale intertwining stories without triggering the “where’s so-and-so?” question so prevalent in other shared universe story-telling.
Movies Are Too Big to Focus on the little things
Expanded continuity is an awesome thing for hardcore fans, but it’s hard to find many ways to significantly tie it into the films because most viewers can’t be expected to do all the necessary homework. A TV show with a larger audience, however, is a different story.
Live-action TV is a phenomenal medium to communicate a lot of the more detailed aspects of the Star Wars canon that the movies don’t have time to address — and more casual fans don’t take the time to read. No, we’re not going to see Luke and Vader having lightsaber battles on the small screen, but that doesn’t mean the medium can’t be used to explain more about galactic history, the mysteries of the Force, and other more nuanced concepts.
The prequels tried to address all of this, but the general audience reception suggests the finer elements of universe building might be better received from longer form storytelling. Since then, many of the smaller details of the galaxy far, far away have been fleshed out quite successfully by The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. It’s not hard to imagine similar, if not greater, success that could be seen in this endeavor from a live-action show.
A TV Show Would Make Non-Movie Canon More Accessible to Casual Audiences
The Star Wars universe not only has a massive shared continuity, but it also has a massive following. The box office numbers for The Force Awakens may speak for themselves, but take a stroll through the toy section of your local (insert preferred retail store here) for another glimpse of its behemoth popularity. Most people have seen Star Wars, and most of those that have seen it love it. Not all of them, however, dive into all the supplemental material.
The current continuity expands from movies and novels, to comics and animated shows, but the additional canon content isn’t nearly as actively followed as the movies themselves. A live-action TV show would be an ideal way to establish a middle ground, since it would draw a much larger audience than the other canon material.
It’s become easy for Star Wars movies to casually portray things like Jedi mind tricks, light speed, and lightsabers because audiences already have a familiarity with those concepts. A TV show with a large audience frees the movies up to do less expositional work, enabling Lucasfilm to casually approach even more out-there concepts in the movies.
Star Wars Fans Gravitate Toward Background Characters
People may have gone crazy about FN-2199 (better known as TR-8R) for weeks after the release of The Force Awakens, but this wasn’t the first minor character to inspire fans. One of the amazing things about Star Wars fans is the way they’ve always been enticed to know more about minor background characters.
Just recently, the identity of the actor that played the blink-and-you’ll-miss-him smuggler BoShek from A New Hope was finally confirmed. The fact that such a minor character could get so much attention shows just how much potential there is for a TV series that doesn’t follow the main characters. Fans have been creating background stories for the likes of BoShek for decades, proving just how much fertile ground there is for expansion into the larger Star Wars universe on a smaller screen.
TV is the Perfect Platform to Reintroduce Legends Characters
Despite the abundance of new canon content, some fans are still upset over the decision to relegate all of the former expanded universe into the non-canon “Legends” status. Some of these elements have started to make their way back in to canon, however. Star Wars: Rebels specifically has been excellent fertile ground for re-canonizing old EU elements, hopefully with more to come!
A live-action show could provide even more opportunity to resurrect old Legends characters, vehicles, and stories. While it might not be the most inherently entertaining concept to fans not familiar with the original content, it’s a good way to recycle the hard work of some fan-favorite writers, and a subtle nod toward the long time fans.
TV is a Perfect Testing Ground for Future Films
In addition to being a great medium to tell some high stakes stories, television is a great opportunity for Lucasfilm and Disney to take some low stakes risks. DC has used some of its CW shows to test concepts for their cinematic potential for years. If Lucasfilm wants to know how a certain element works on-screen, it can always be tackled in a television episode first to gauge fan reaction.
If something doesn’t play well, then no big deal. Move on. If it really catches on with audiences, then maybe it’s worth covering more in future episodes, or even have it pop up in a movie. Not that a TV show would be disposable, but individual episodes can afford to take more risks than a feature film.
TV Offers Opportunities for Genre Exploration
Some of the risk taking that could be utilized in such a show is with genre exploration. This was one of the greatest strengths of The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series. Some episodes are very action heavy with large space and ground battles, while others are more noir-ish detective stories, or even intimate character stories. This same genre diversity could work in live-action.
Most good TV shows have a distinct style, but that doesn’t mean the entirety of any given show can’t mix it up. There is so much flexibility to be found from episode to episode, arc to arc, and season to season. This flexibility would permit a Star Wars show to (occasionally) venture into the darker and sometimes more mature content that much of the fan base has wanted for some time.
As if any reasons are actually needed to justify a live-action Star Wars series. Most fans just need to hear the words “Star Wars TV show,” and they’ll be tuning in on day one. What about you? Do you have anything in particular you’d like to see from a Star Wars series? Let us know about it in the comments!