Every Time You’ve Seen ‘Star Wars’ On TV: A Comprehensive Guide

With Darth Vader TV specials coming next year, MTV News breaks down the history of 'Star Wars' on the small screen.

Who’s ready for some Darth Vader on your TV? News broke from the European Brand Licensing Show this past weekend that not only will “Star Wars: Episode VII” hit theaters some time in Spring/Summer of 2015, but that a year earlier, we’ll be treated to “Darth Vader Themed TV Specials.” Which is pretty vague, given that it could be anything from a retrospective to “Top Chef: Death Star.” Regardless, the good news is more “Star Wars” on our TV screens.

A New Hope
This is far from the first time we’ve seen a galaxy far, far away on the small screen. In fact, to go back to the origins of “Star Wars” on TV, you need to look one year after “A New Hope” hit theaters. 1978 saw the release of the infamous, much maligned “Star Wars Holiday Special.” Featuring all of the film’s stars, the “Holiday Special” was a variety show where the whole gang headed to Chewbacca’s planet to celebrate “Life Day.” Hideously embarrassing, the special was erased from human memory (and regretted by George Lucas), but did give us one good thing: the introduction of bounty hunter Boba Fett.

Probably still smarting from the pain inflicted by the Holiday Special, it took another six years to get “Star Wars” back on TV. In 1984, one year after “Return of The Jedi,” Lucasfilm released “Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure.” Instead of the clearly embarrassing, giant fuzzy Wookies of the “Holiday Special,” Lucasfilm instead found success with the clearly not embarassing tiny, fuzzy Ewoks. Other than ROtJ’s Wicket (played by Warwick Davis), the two-hour special focused on characters new to the mythos, particularly important since it took place between “Empire Strikes Back,” and “Return of the Jedi.”

Return Of The Jedi
Then, one year later, in 1985, “Star Wars” TV fans experienced an embarrassment of riches. First, there were two animated series released simultaneously: “Star Wars: Droids,” and “Star Wars: Ewoks.” The former focused on lovable duo R2-D2 and C-3P0, while the latter once again focused on Wicket and his furry buddies. Two months after that, just in time for Thanksgiving, Lucasfilm released a live-action sequel to the first “Ewoks” movie (and to the animated series), titled, “Ewoks: The Battle For Endor.”

Begun, The Clone Wars Have
And then… Nothing, until 2003, when Dexter’s Laboratory creator Genndy Tartakovsky unleashed the animated series “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” a show that could — and should — be credited with the renaissance of “Star Wars” on TV. The distinct visual style, and overall respectful treatment of both Star Wars fans young and old connected with viewers and critics. It only lasted 25 episodes, but the show is still considered an animated classic.

The decade following “Clone Wars” has rarely seen a moment when “Star Wars” wasn’t on television. After the Tartakovsky series ended, it was replaced by a CGI animated show confusingly titled “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which ran until March 2013. Next year, we’re getting yet another CGI animated show, “Star Wars Rebels,” set between the first film trilogy and the second.

Meanwhile, “Star Wars” comedy has also thrived on TV. “Robot Chicken” and “Family Guy” have both released multiple officially licensed “Star Wars” parody specials. And the “LEGO: Star Wars” games have spawned a few specials of their own, one focusing on R2-D2, the other on Yoda.

A Detour To The Underworld
Still, there’s a few ideas that have fallen by the wayside. Following up on the success of the “Robot Chicken” specials, creators Seth Green and Matt Senreich were set to release an ongoing animated series called “Star Wars: Detours,” right up until Lucasfilm was bought by Disney. The series has officially been put on hold while the new film trilogy is developed, despite 39 episodes of the show reportedly completed, with a total of 62 scripts written.

Maybe an even bigger loss from the Disney buy-out? “Star Wars: Underworld,” a live-action show set on the capital planet of Coruscant focused on the bounty hunters and criminals who rise to power at the same time the Empire is consolidating its hold on the Galaxy post-”Episode III.” Rumors have swirled about this show, with some semi-official confirmation that there were over 50 episodes of the hour-long show written, and sitting on a shelf somewhere. Even the title hasn’t officially been confirmed, though Lucasfilm has stated the description of the show is accurate.

Disney, on multiple occasions, has stated their interest in a live-action “Star Wars” TV show — and the success of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.” has fueled speculation that Disney could try a similar coordination between TV and Film for the “Star Wars” Universe. However, what that means for “Underworld,” a decidedly un-Disney like property, is unclear.

End of the day, with a new “Star Wars” feature film promised every year starting in 2015, a new animated series launching a year before, and whatever these Darth Vader TV specials are, we’re in for a lot of “Star Wars” over the next few years. We have a good feeling about this! #starwarsreference

Writer/Editor at MTV News. You can follow him on Twitter, but not in real life because that would be weird.
@azalben