During an interview with IGN, Rick McCallum, producer of the ‘Star Wars’ prequels and one of George Lucas’s top people, discussed the major reasons why the live-action ‘Star Wars’ TV show is having difficulty making it to the small screen. According to McCallum, the main challenges are budget and determining which method would allow the most people to see the show.
Budget is the biggest issue. Since Lucas would be investing his own funds into the show, like he did the prequels, the goal would be “to break even.” They have fifty scripts completed, and the target budget would be $5 million an episode. The budget is high because of the technology involved in bringing Lucas’s vision to life. McCallum mentions they need capable technology to render the complex digital work in a timely manner and at the right price. Each hour has the same amount of special effects as the prequels with a lot of digital sets and animation, including many digital characters.
Many would go to HBO, but McCallum says the premium channel is not a possibility because HBO wants more control than Lucas wants to give. Lucas has always had the last word on ‘Star Wars,’ so giving a network any rights or any say in casting is not an option. With HBO out, finding the best way to bring the show to the public is another challenge. Lucas is used to millions of people flocking to his films, so a weekly audience of two million does not meet his standards, which is why Netflix and basic cable channels are not appealing.
Broadcast networks would give the show the best chance at a large audience, but McCallum is not a fan of network TV because of its reliance on numbers. McCallum calls the Nielsen ratings system a “complete falsehood” and “a pyramid scheme.” Broadcast television networks use the ratings to set prices for commercial time. Higher ratings equal higher rates for commercials; when ratings are low or decline, advertisers will not pay high prices, and the networks lose money. The interdependent nature of ratings and commercials is why McCallum is correct when he says that networks will not stop using the Nielsen system; networks and advertisers are “holding each other up.” McCallum does not want to invest time and money and bring the ‘Star Wars’ show to a network that is going to cancel the show because of what is on a spreadsheet.
Lucas and McCallum are willing to wait for technology and distribution methods to catch up to their vision. McCallum considers the scripts to be “timeless” because the show, which has a working title of ‘Star Wars: Underworld,’ takes place during ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and ‘A New Hope.’ The show spans the twenty years between the two films when the Emperor is seizing control of the galaxy. McCallum says that the show has a “complex, dark, adult” tone and centers on criminals, gangs, and all that is beneath the surface.
Here is the entire interview: