Star Wars Week: Why has there never been a live-action Star Wars TV show?

Will there be a live-action Star Wars TV show?

How come we’ve never been treated to a live-action TV series based in the rich Star Wars universe? We’ve gotten close on a few occasions, but aside from some cartoons, and a best-forgotten Holiday Special, something has always blocked the transition between big and little screens.

The reasons for the lack of a live-action Star Wars TV series can be split into two main camps – the practical and the artistic. Sometimes the problem is whether it could be done, and sometimes it’s a question of whether it should be done at all.

Coulda, shoulda…

All the shows we’ve had to fulfil our Star Wars fantasies on the small screen have come in cartoon form. From Droids and Ewoks in the mid-80s to the Clone Wars and Rebels series of the new millennium, it’s all been pen and ink or digitised images.

There are good reasons for that, and most of them are coloured green: it’s about the money.

Star Wars

The special effects budget used for the movies would need to be massively stripped back for TV, and yet somehow still deliver a convincing, alien-filled universe – with spaceships and laser-striped dogfighting – that didn’t look like a pale shadow of the main event films.

Diluting the brand might sound like so much marketing horse dung, but realistically a TV series in the 80s or 90s would have ended up rocking the same unconvincing effects as Star Trek TNG or, god-forbid, Space Precinct. And for a franchise that has always prided itself on blockbuster effects – hell, Lucas created Industrial Light and Magic because no one could do the effects he wanted – this would have been a terrible step back.

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But 2005 saw George Lucas convinced a TV show could work, and he announced plans for a live-action series set in the intervening period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. That show, later dubbed Star Wars: Underworld, was not to be centred around any of the Skywalker clan and instead would focus on the seedy underbelly of the Imperial homeworld, Coruscant, with themes of drug-running, bounty-hunting and prostitution.

George Lucas

It was described as being less like the 1930s action film-inspired movies and more like a 1940s film noir. Lucas and the prequels’ producer, Rick McCullam, kept trotting out the “darker, grittier” line despite details about the show remaining vague and unpromising for many years.

Then in 2011 Lucas announced that he’d written 50 scripts, with reports stating that he was hoping for the show to hit some 400 episodes, but that production was in hiatus as it waited on technical developments and reductions in cost. Again, it was the huge cost of creating a live-action show that was holding it back.

With Disney’s acquisition happening a year later though the idea of a dark, adult-only Star Wars TV series looks like it doesn’t stand a chance in Mickey’s world. Indeed McCullam has cited the fantastic Deadwood as an inspiration, another show focused on prostitution and bounty hunting. And those are themes which would surely struggle to fit in the Disney stable.

There were further noises coming out of the ABC network in 2013 which gave us hope, but again silence descended. As it did once more earlier this year when it was Explore all of our Star Wars Week content. Come over to the Dark Side…

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