Disney-owned Marvel Entertainment is enjoying the fruits of success on the small screen, with its two ABC programs, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, earning multiple seasons already and potentially launching more spinoffs – At least three additional Marvel TV programs are in development for the network. And at the same time Netflix is doubling down on its critically acclaimed Marvel programming as well. In the last week Jessica Jones season 2 was confirmed and reports point towards Punisher from the upcoming second season of Daredevil getting his own show too.
The point is, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a dozen films in already, has grown successfully on TV. Despite that, Disney-owned Lucasfilm reportedly isn’t interested in doing the same with the Star Wars brand, at least when it comes to the live-action TV front.
And with that, just like many of George Lucas’ ideas for Star Wars 7-12 were mostly tossed aside, so to are his ambitious plans for Star Wars: Underworld – 100 hours of live-action story set between the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope that Lucas unveiled plans for in 2005. While promoting Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December however, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy explained that the studio still had interest in “pouring through” and potentially reviving a few key projects (or ideas from them anyway), in reference to that Star Wars: Underworld TV and the canceled Star Wars 1313 video game.
That doesn’t seem to be in the cards currently. Despite rumors from last spring claiming Lucasfilm was looking into a live-action TV series project, and another rumor that they were in talks with Netflix to launch three live-action Star Wars series on the streaming service (following the success of Daredevil), ABC President Paul Lee now tells TVline that Lucasfilm is strictly focused on movies, that they “don’t have any plans at the moment.” Lucasfilm commented on this in agreement, stating they were currently only focused on animation for TV. We imagine that is only until they have something to announce of course.
Plans are changing frequently in the Star Wars universe. We saw this throughout the development of Episode VII, from release date changes to writer changes, and we just saw it again this week with a date change for Episode VIII as well, following rumors that VIII also seeing significant script changes. Combine these realities with the fact that the Anthology lineup altered and dropped a director in Josh Trank, and it’s easy to see that Disney and Lucasfilm are keeping relatively fluid with their flagship property.
Even if last year’s rumors regarding live-action Star Wars TV are totally bogus (and they are from unproven sources), that’s not to say there aren’t any ideas in early development for what expanding Star Wars live-action to the small screen could look like. An “insider” tells TVline that avoiding live-action TV is “smart brand management” for Disney but sticking exclusively to the big screen sounds absurd given the success Marvel is finding on TV. And given the limitless size and scope of the Star Wars universe, its merchandising potential, and audience interest, why wouldn’t they expand and tell new stories on a service like Netflix?
Star Wars: Underworld could still eventually be a reality, even if it’s in a different direction than originally intended. After all, there are multiple big budget Star Wars video games in development, story-based ones included that we’ll hear more about this year.
If Disney sees potential on that front, and on TV with Star Wars Rebels, you can count on there existing live-action Star Wars TV in the not too distant future. Back while promoting Revenge of the Sith in 2005, Producer Rick McCallum, a right-hand of Lucas, explained the plan for Star Wars: Underworld (Lucasfilm conveniently took down the record of it from the official StarWars.com website):
“[Lucas] envisions somewhere like 100 hours between Episode III and Episode IV with a lot of characters that we haven’t met that have been developed in some of the novels and other things. We are really excited about that. Finally, we could have the opportunity to answer everybody’s questions once and for all by the time we finish the series.”
For years, Lucas went on record saying they’d have to wait for the technology to catch up to their ambitions in order to feasibly shoot the series, but that never came to be and Disney acquired Lucasfilm. In its place during that exact era we have a few new Star Wars books, the Star Wars Rebels animated series, and this year’s film spinoff, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. All of these things going forward share the same canon, thanks to the recently formed Lucasfilm Story Group which manages the Star Wars brand’s continuity.
Perhaps new TV shows in the future can instead fill in the 30+ year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens or build off the stories and characters developing in the novels and comics. TV is a logical (and clearly lucrative) expansion to keep Star Wars top of mind all year long, especially when Rebels isn’t on the air. And there’s quite a gap in this genre niche with a lack of comparable sci-fi shows. For years, we’ve been without Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5 type shows, and even Star Trek has been off-air for far too long (although CBS is reviving that for their streaming service). It’s because of this DC’s Legends of Tomorrow looks so appealing. The niche is underserved.
The question is, what TV show(s) are most feasibly developed and what would you like to see? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now playing in theaters. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will arrive in theaters on December 16th, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Star Wars Rebels airs Wednesdays on Disney XD at 9:00 pm EST.
Star Wars Commander art by Disney Interactive