And I mean the proposed live action Star Wars TV series, which is supposedly in development.Not Clone Anime Wars.
The working title for it is Star Wars Underworld. That’s already a bit weird. It fits with the new 1313 project. It’s an easy enough concept to sell, but is anyone really waiting around for a Star Wars series set in the criminal underworld? Is that really the best use of the property?
It might be fun to watch, it’s just weird that the concept is 40 minutes a week of the Cantina, with funny looking aliens trying to cheat and steal from each other, is the series. As a game premise, it’s reasonable. As a major expansion of the property and the first live action series, it’s not the place you expect it to go. It seems more like a cash in, the way the games are. But that’s the whole Star Wars franchise anyway.
The would-be series already has 50 scripts written, just sitting on the shelf waiting for an economically sound way to actually be produced.
That’s a major piece of weirdness because who orders 50 scripts, over two seasons worth, before having a viable TV series? TV scripts are not the most expensive part of the production, but they’re expensive enough and it makes no sense to have 50 of them sitting on the shelf, when you don’t even have an actual series.
Shows go through transformations once they begin shooting. Having 50 scripts before a show even gets to production is something a control freak or someone with no experience in TV production would do. Okay, so that’s George Lucas. But it’s still weird.
The scripts are said to be “timeless” and will deal with the darker side of the period between Episodes III & IV.
This makes a bit more sense. Republic collapsed. Empire is taking over. There’s a lot of corruption, a growing underworld, where people are escaping the laws of Imperial rule. It’s still weird though. What is the show going to do, follow Obi Wan around the underworld, another rogue Jedi looking to set up a resistance?
It might have been cleaner to do this in the Knights of the Old Republic timeline, but this way there will be a structure.
Our biggest problem is that these stories are adult. I mean…these are like Deadwood in space. It so unlike anything you’ve ever associated with George before in relation to Star Wars. These aren’t for kids. I mean, we hope they’ll watch, but it’s not being targeted at 8-to-9 year old boys. The situation we have is that each episode – or if you put two hour long episodes together – is bigger than any film we’ve ever done. It’s on the Avatar level and we’ll only have about $5-6 million we can spend on each episode.
Based on McCallum’s “We hope they’ll watch”, this isn’t going to be too dark. There aren’t going to be violent deaths and space hookers, not if you’re hoping that 8-9 year olds will watch. And that’s fine. It doesn’t have to actually be the Wild West, as long as it’s not pitched at 8 year olds.
But the subtext is that McCallum is uneasy. With the prequels, Star Wars firmly reoriented itself to the kid market. That was a smart business decision in the short term, but a lousy creative decision. It’s why no one really cares anymore about Star Wars, except parents picking out Halloween costumes for their kids.
George Lucas failed the balancing act between kid-oriented and not-for-the-mentally retarded. (Pixar has that balance.) Star Wars, for the generation that grew up with the prequels and Clone Wars, is something you leave behind when you hit puberty. Making a more adult show that’s deeper to lock in that older audience is also a smart business decision. Especially when your teenage audience is more likely to associate Star Wars with Jar Jar Binks, not with Darth Vader. (About the only reason it might not is the amount of fan activity and outside media projects like Blue Harvest and Chad Vader)
Making an adult Star Wars TV show, even one that’s a long way from Deadwood, endangers the Lucas business model of selling action figures to kids.
Why is Star Wars Underworld delayed for so long? Why does it have so many scripts sitting on the shelf? It’s not the money. If DS9 and BSG could pull off some pretty impressive settings and shows within a budget, Star Wars could do it too. 5-6 million an episode isn’t bad, if you balance it out with some bottle shows, which every TV show has to do, and reuse enough sets.
What’s the real delay? George Lucas. Lucas liked the idea of a Western Star Wars, but he hasn’t allowed a quality Star Wars product that’s not licensed to someone else out the door. The scripts were written and probably rewritten, but the project still wouldn’t move forward. But George Lucas has been slowly stepping down. Until he leaves all the way, the Star Wars Underworld will remain on hold.