Marvel, ABC, and Whedon Play It Safe with S.H.I.E.L.D.
My first post on this blog a couple of weeks ago concerned Joss Whedon's new contract with Marvel Studio. More specifically, the TV component of this contract. I was excited at the possibilities of the Marvel Universe coming to the small screen (ABC). One possible show I especially want to see made is an adaptation of the Runaways comic created by writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina). Unfortunately, Runaways the TV series is a no go for now. The studio, network, and director have decided to go the way of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Honestly, a S.H.I.E.L.D. project doesn't get me particular excited. The main reason: we pretty much know Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury isn't going to be in it. Yes, he could end up making a cameo here and there. As for the other S.H.I.E.L.D. members that we're familiar with, Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and the presumably deceased Agent Phil Coulsen (Clark Gregg), I don't think we're going to see much of them either.
Some have made the argument that Maria Hill could be in the series because Cobie Smulders is a TV star, not a movie star. That's a fair point. Except when you consider that the show that's made her a TV star, CBS's How I Met Your Mother, is still on the air (and probably won't go anywhere for a couple more seasons). Furthermore, even if Smulders left that show, it's unlikely that joining another TV series will be the reason. Most actors leave their TV jobs in order to pursue a movie career (they work less, get paid more). The only way I see Cobie Smulders being a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. is if they pay her an exorbitant amount of money. And I'm pretty sure that ABC's budget will be more heavily allocated to expensive sets and CGI work and less to the actors' salaries.
There's also the Agent Coulsen (Clark Gregg) factor. Many fans believe that he didn't die in The Avengers. I am not one of those fans. However, if Phil Coulsen didn't die, I think the reveal of his survival needs to play itself out in one of Marvel's movies (The Avengers 2 being the most appropriate). A studio shouldn't kill off a character in a blockbuster film seen by tens of millions of people, only to resurrect him on a TV show that has a significantly smaller audience. Because if Coulsen begins to reappear in future Avengers movies, millions of moviegoers will be confused on the fact that he's still alive.
With all that said, it looks like this S.H.I.E.L.D. project will not star any of the actors or characters previously established in Marvel's film franchise. After all, Whedon envisions the show as being "autonomous" from the films. Today, the most appealing aspect of this potential show is the involvement of Joss Whedon. For the most part, it feels as if Marvel and ABC are trying to play it safe with this one. S.H.I.E.L.D. could become just another show where government agents deal with the supernatural (X-Files, Warehouse 13, Fringe). I don't know if there is a mass appetite for these types of programs.
There is no question that a potential S.H.I.E.L.D. series will have an enormous audience when (or if) it premiers. However, in the world of scripted television, short-term success doesn't automatically mean long-term success. If S.H.I.E.L.D. is a success in the long term, ABC may look to expand the Marvel Universe on TV. This is where I find another positive aspect of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s existence. One successful Marvel series will probably lead to the development of more Marvel series. Then, maybe--just maybe-- the Runaways will get their opportunity to leave the page of comic books and join their adult counterparts on the (small or big) screen.