Star Wars TV: How to Save a Franchise
Star Wars is one of the biggest media franchises in history, spanning 11 movies, multiple TV shows and comic books (read Vader Down, it is great). The movies exist on a sliding scale, from the highs of Empire Strikes Back to the lows of The Last Jedi. But one thing that has not only kept Star Wars relevant, but continued to deliver consistent quality are the TV shows.
Now, this isn’t the first piece I’ve written on Star Wars TV (you can read this one on The Clone Wars), but I felt like this one had to come out. There has been a boon in Star Wars TV shows over the last few years, and these shows have been (for the most part) incredibly well received. This isn’t an accident. Star Wars TV is really good TV. Going back to the days of The Clone Wars and Rebels, when the franchise was essentially in No Man’s Land, those shows set the standard for not just Star Wars, but animated shows as a whole. They changed what was possible with the medium, what you could do in a “kid’s show”, and (perhaps most impressively) what you could do with a prequel. Because yes, by technical definition, all the Star Wars TV shows are prequels. Dave Filoni and his merry band of creatives reinvented the prequel tag by creating compelling drama and stakes within the confines of the show, untethered by what the audience may or may not know from already existing movies. And this continued with the Disney+ shows. The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett (really just Mando S3) all exist between the Original Trilogy and the Sequel Trilogy. But it’s divorced from those stories, using it instead as merely setting, allowing the writers to tell compelling stories with compelling characters.
In addition, the stories told in the TV shows are some of the best in the Star Wars universe. I’ve told people this, and I’ll say it here: the 4-part finale of The Clone Wars is the best Star Wars movie of all time (yes, even better than Empire). And it’s not just TCW. The tales of the early days of The Rebellion in Rebels, the adventures of a marauding Mandalorian bounty hunter, even all the way up to the return of the icon Obi-Wan (full disclosure, haven’t seen Kenobi). All very interesting stories with naturally inviting characters (even if they are banking on quite a bit of nostalgia). All told within the very familiar setting of a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.
Star Wars is great for a lot of reasons, and one of the biggest is the success of the stories told on the small screen to reach the highest standards of quality possible for a TV series.