No movie franchise has had a more mixed venture into TV than Star Wars – even Highlander has a greater consistency than the most successful movie saga of all time, which has always either floundered (the Holiday Special, Droids), struggled initially (The Clone Wars) or gained widespread acclaim (Clone Wars).
Basically, it’s rarely been a perfect fit for television. The problem, to me, has always been Lucasfilm’s drive to force what is a very cinematic franchise into archaic TV templates – as much as Clone Wars is revered by animation fans, we’ve still never had a breakthrough TV series emerging from the movie saga, one that has become a runaway hit in and of itself.
So, what does a Star Wars TV series need to be, in order to please everyone and be commercially successful? I believe the following four elements are key to the franchise’s TV future, whether we’re talking about the long-in-production live-action TV series, or indeed something else much further down the line:
1) A sense of adventure
Star Wars’ wider universe is something that has always captured my imagination. A great Star Wars TV show would cut its ties to the Darth Vader story, show us a different side of the galaxy than that portrayed in the movies, and further the mythology of the franchise overall. The show should stand independently of the movies.
2) Modern TV storytelling
A Star Wars TV show should be a serialised drama. A bounty hunter-of-the-week procedural sounds like a nightmare, to me, and an anthology series that switches between different characters would also be a misfire. A good Star Wars TV show would be a high-concept character drama with ongoing mysteries and storylines.
3) Elaborate special effects
This is more about crowd-pleasing, than anything else, but laser effects, space battles and lightsabers would also need to find their way into a decent Star Wars TV show. Let’s not pretend this is Blade Runner – Star Wars is as much about high-budget battles as it is about family drama and of course, gay robots.
4) Not just for kids
I appreciate that children are an important part of Star Wars’ core audience, but a more mature TV series (in tone, no nudity or swearing) would lend the franchise some real critical credibility. Also, I think The Force Unleashed showed that a Star Wars story targeted at grown-ups can have a strong impact, plus it doesn’t necessarily preclude children from appreciating it.
Who knows? Maybe the live action TV show, whenever it turns up, will tick all of these boxes, and maybe a few besides.