The Star Wars live-action television series promised by George Lucas was announced back in early 2005, about two years ago. At its initial announcement, producer Rick McCallum suggested the show could reach viewers by early 2007. Since then, however, very few progress updates have been forthcoming from Lucasfilm. Most of the movie-cum-TV-studio’s press releases these days concern Star Wars fan conventions and merchandise updates rather than TV or film production. Those readers who haven’t forgotten about the series might think it should be nearing some kind of air date soon — or at least the production stage.
Not so, unfortunately. In a recent interview with Dutch Star Wars portal ToscheStation.nl, Rick McCallum painted a disappointing picture of the show’s current status. When asked about casting for the series, he replied, “I can’t tell you anything about actors because we’re not there yet. This is a long process to get it right. First of all: where are we going to shoot? Then: who’s going to write? And finally: who’s going to direct? George has been working for the last seven, eight months on the story arc line of where the series goes.”
While science fiction is a demanding medium, other contemporary and recent TV shows have demonstrated just how quickly a new series can be launched. Star Trek: The Next Generation was conceived in 1986 and premiered in time for the 1987 broadcast season. The new Battlestar Galactica went from a hit TV movie in 2003 to a full-fledged television series in 2004 despite complicated story arcs that had to be planned from the start. Babylon 5, which was similar in scope and length to the proposed Star Wars series, was a little slower out the gate — with planning getting underway in 1991 and the pilot episode airing in 1993. Still, compare the resources at Lucas’s disposal to those of B5 creator J. Michael Straczynski.
What kind of time-frame can we expect, then, for the Star Wars TV series? McCallum is currently hoping to shoot the first episode by the end of 2008, allowing the show to make it to broadcast in 2009.
McCallum also reiterated that Lucas was planning the series to be over 100 hours in length, and that the entire character ensemble would be new to audiences.
Now, I understand that it takes some good time to develop a TV series. But as IGN points out, it isn’t that long. I was there in Indianapolis in 2005 at Celebration III when the two series were announced. Here it is two full years later and there’s been no motion forward whatsoever. Granted, there’s Indiana Jones IV, but Lucas is only involved in that from a distance. Plus, if he’s got the general story arc ready to go, fully capable people can take the series and run with it. He doesn’t have to have absolute control.
Let’s be honest, the upcoming cartoon series will be a cool novelty, but what we all really want is the live action show. There’s not been a truly great sci-fi TV show since Next Generation went off the air. BS:G, Stargate, and some of the Trek offshoots have come close, but haven’t had that large of an impact beyond what the fanboys construct them to be. The live action Star Wars show can be that. But with Georgie boy acting as a dictator at a snails pace, it’s going to be a good loooooong while.