why can’t George Lucas get ‘The Clone Wars’ onto TV?

Ready for more Star Wars? It’s a pretty sure bet that audiences are. And we know George Lucas is always up for more. He’s got big plans for Fall 2008, which he hopes will see the debut of a new CGI-animated series The Clone Wars. This is not to be confused with the minitoon of the same name (which is a lot of geeky fun) that aired in three-minute bursts on Cartoon Network. That one hit the highlights of the Clone Wars — this one will tell the whole damn story in-depth. (I guess it’s kinda like the difference between doing a story about WWII that depicts only Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and Hiroshima and one that includes everything from the French Resistance and Tokyo Rose to the ghettos of Poland and the airlifting of cigarettes and chocolate to our boys on the front.) You can check out a trailer for the series at the official Star Wars site. It looks pretty cool … but then again, 90 percent of the new trilogy was animated anyway, so Lucas’s gang has had a lot of practice.
Why does Lucas only “hope” the show will debut a year from now? Even though 40 of the 100 planned episodes are already completed — which is not at all the process by which television series get produced; Lucas is sinking a ton of money into something that may never even get on the air — he’s having trouble finding a TV home for the series, as he told TV Guide last week:

[I]t’s a war picture. So it’s kind of a PG-13 animated TV series, which is something that has never been done before and obviously doesn’t fit in any of the conventional slots that these things fall into. In that, it’s very different, and I think it’s very exciting. It’s got a very, very sophisticated look to it. It’s very much like the features. We’re still trying to figure out how to put it on the air…. It’s out there to people, and people are talking about it, but so far, everybody’s got the same conundrums — “How do we program it? Where does it live? Where can we put something like this?” You know, it has to go after 9 o’clock and it can’t be on a kiddie channel.

I’m not so sure that’s the real reason. I mean, come on: this sounds ready-made for the Sci Fi Channel — there really shouldn’t be any problem selling it. I think there’s something else going on that’s keeping Lucas off the air. Possibilities:

= Coruscant Broadcasting Company fears competition with its new reality show, Who Wants to Be a Jedi Apprentice?

= Network execs across the galaxy are scared off by the bounty put on Lucas by Jabba the Hutt, who is rumored to feel the filmmaker used false pretenses to get that documentary footage of his Tatooine palace.

= A great disturbance in the Force accompanies Lucas wherever he goes, as evidenced by the fact that he is the only director in the universe to have gotten both Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor to come across as “dull” onscreen.

= No one can quite put a finger on it, but everyone who has seen clips from the new show “has a bad feeling” about it.

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Wed, Oct 03, 2007 2:00pm

Assuming the shows are an hour long each, that translates into 40 * 44 minutes = 29 1/3 hours of already-filmed Star Wars goodness… much, much more room for storytelling than in the theatrical movies. Sure, we know how it all ends, but as J. Michael Straczynski has often told us, the end of the story is almost incidental to all of the good stuff that happens before then. So I say, bring it on.

As for where it should go, this seems like a no-brainer. Fox’s Sunday night lineup at 9 PM would be my first choice. (We can drop American Dad and King of the Hill, or move them to another night, and move Family Guy up to 8:30 PM.) If not there, then on the Sci Fi Channel.

Wed, Oct 03, 2007 2:46pm

Perhaps he can’t get the new cartoons on the air because the recent movies he made sucked so hard. I find it hard to believe that anybody who doesn’t own a light-saber could want to invest their hard-earned 100 hours into more of that.

Perhaps instead he should make “American Graffiti – the Middle Aged Years”

Wed, Oct 03, 2007 3:05pm

Quality of the movies aside, I really want to see this show. The trailer looks good(just like it’s supposed to), and I love the choice of all CG. Considering whats already done, it sounds like they could have had it on THIS Fall if a deal had been struck. I just don’t buy that they’re having problems selling it. It’s freakin’ Star Wars. There will always be an audience for this stuff.

Wed, Oct 03, 2007 8:10pm

Assuming the shows are an hour long each

They’re slated for half-hour slots, so each episode has about 22 minutes of actual content.

Rob Vaux
Thu, Oct 04, 2007 1:29am

“I think there’s something else going on that’s keeping Lucas off the air.”

Well, there is a writers’ strike brewing, and if it hits, it’s going to affect a lot of movies and TV shows coming out at right about that time. I have no idea if that’s the reason or not, but it bears mentioning. Lucas might be acting all coy in case a strike does happen and the show ends up getting pushed back. You know how badly we geeks respond when we don’t get our fix of Sci-Fi Nerdiness exactly *precisely* when they promise it…

Thu, Oct 04, 2007 6:39pm

But Lucas says 40 episodes are already in the can, totally complete and ready to go. If and when *Clone Wars* gets on the air, it may well be because the strike DOES happen, and the networks are desperate for content that does not require the immediate assistance of writers.

Thu, Oct 04, 2007 9:33pm

He’s powerful enough that he should just bypass the midddle man and release them straight to DVD, rake in the money with direct sales box sets and such. After all, Star Wars is as much about creative marketing as anything else.

Fri, Oct 05, 2007 7:04pm

I would say that Lucas is waiting to see who will be the highest bidder. He’s more machine than man, now. I think he’s all about the profit.

I know that the animation is being done outside of the US. (I think Singapore.) I work with a woman who’s friends with a marketing guy at Lucasfilm. That’s what she tells me.

So, even if there’s a writer’s strike in the US, I doubt that would thwart, Mr. Lucas. Australians, Brits, and Canadians write just as well as Americans.

I’d follow the money on this one. Lucas is.

Fri, Oct 05, 2007 7:36pm

Australians, Brits, and Canadians write just as well as Americans.

True, but I believe that if you want to work in the U.S. as a TV screenwriter, no matter what your nationality, you have to belong to the guild that’s threatening to strike.