Before ‘The Force Awakens,’ or a mooted new “Star Wars” trilogy was ever on the table, there was “Star Wars: Underworld,” a live-action TV show announced in 2005. “It’s kind of like ‘Episode IV‘ — it’s funny and there’s action, but it’s [a] lot more talky,” George Lucas told Total Film the time. “It’s more of what I would call a soap opera with a bunch of personal dramas in it. It’s not really based on action-adventure films from the ’30s — it’s actually more based on film noir movies from the ‘40s.”
The series was later described as “darker, grittier, and more character-based” with producer Rick McCallum hinting at bounty hunter involvement and later describing it as “ ‘Deadwood’ in space” and ” ‘Empire [Strikes Back]‘ on steroids.” Later, rumored details said the show was to be set in the Coruscant underworld with mob-like families reportedly vying for control of the criminal underbelly. Scripts were written, art designers visualized Lucas’ concepts, but in 2010 Lucas said the show was on hold due to budget constraints.
Things started to look up in recent years. In January 2013, ABC president Paul Lee told Entertainment Weekly that the live-action “Star Wars” series was being reevaluated for production and this was confirmed and echoed by Bob Iger March of the same year.
More recently, Kathleen Kennedy held out hope. “Our attitude is, we don’t want to throw any of that stuff away,” she said about developed shows and video games. “It’s gold. And it’s something we’re spending a lot of time looking at, pouring through, discussing, and we may very well develop those things further. We definitely want to.”
Rumors also swirled that a “Star Wars” series could be coming to Netflix. But it looks like that isn’t happening anytime soon there, or anywhere else. “They are focused on their movies,” ABC network president Paul Lee told TVLine this week. “So we don’t have any plans at the moment.” A Lucasfilm rep concurred: “Our current focus for TV is on animation [‘Star Wars Rebels,’ etc.].”
One industry insider told TV Line, “It’s smart brand management [not to do one]. I imagine they’re looking to avoid the Marvel-ization of the franchise.”
It goes against the wisdom that Marvel and Warner Bros./DC Films are following — both companies are okay with putting characters in film with WB content to even duplicate characters on the small screen— but arguably “Star Wars” is an exceptionally special brand that’s just been revived and maybe it’s better not to dilute that juggernaut brand in any way right now. But give it a while when there’s a “Star Wars” movie every year and that brand is maybe more commonplace — perhaps Disney and company won’t be so tight and precious about the property. That would be my bet anyhow.