Agent Carter is a Marvel One-Shot (short filmed created as an extra feature on a Blu-Ray). It’s set one year after the events of Captain America, focusing on how Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is doing without potential boyfriend Captain America. In short: she’s sad that he’s gone (since she has no idea he’s actually still alive but frozen in a block of ice), but more annoyed with the systemic sexism which would see her – a trained field agent – live out the rest of her days as a desk clerk. So, she’s get to it, and kicks some literal ass while still finding time to check her make-up. Agent Carter debuted to rave reviews at Comic-Con, and was officially released as an extra on the Iron Man 3 Blu-Ray.
In September, Deadline reported Marvel was secretly working on adapting Agent Carter into a full TV series (Agents of SHIELD also began its life as a One-Shot). Earlier this month, UK tabloid The Daily Mirror reported Hayley Atwell was officially cast in the show, forcing her to move from Britain to Los Angeles for the 6-month shooting schedule. Marvel wouldn’t say if they were working on any such show or not, and Atwell wouldn’t say either, other than re-affirming her interest in such a project were it to *wink wink* exist. We didn’t even know if a network was attached. Marvel has SHIELD on ABC, but also 5 different shows sold to Netflix.
Agent Carter is officially in development at ABC with Hayley Atwell attached to star, and a pilot script has been written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Captain America). All of this straight from ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee’s mouth. Furthermore, Reaper creators and showrunners of upcoming ABC drama Resurrection Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas will oversee Agent Carter. McFeely described the pilot script as “good,” and said the show “has a good chance to be on the network.”
Excelsior? Not so fast. They’ve just acknowledged it’s in development; they have not ordered a pilot yet, and would likely hesitate to go straight to series after the failures of SHIELD. Even if they make it to pilot, around 70% of all pilots don’t get picked up by the network.
On the plus side, Butters and Fazekas made a truly amazing show out of Reaper, with hilarious dialogue impeccably delivered by its perfectly cast characters. On the down side, they do have Resurrection to run, although its first season order was only for 8 episodes. If it gets an even bigger second season it will be rather curious if Butters and Fazekas can run both it and a first season of Agent Carter. For their part, they do not seem worried. On the plus side, again, Agent Carter potentially becoming a TV show is a good thing for the representation of women on television, hopefully giving us a tough, kick-ass female in the grand tradition of Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Sydney Bristow (Alias).
But…at this point Marvel’s Agents of freakin’ SHIELD should have zapped any enthusiasm we might have for a live-action Marvel TV show airing on ABC. SHIELD is finally showing some signs of life, creatively, but it has had a rather rough go of it up until now. Some lay the blame at the feet of the actors (and, by extension, the casting department). However, there is an emerging school of thought that SHIELD‘s failures are more the fault of clear extensive studio nitpicking.
“The paths these episode’s plots take can be mapped out by the viewer a mile ahead, and they absolutely reek of network notes asking for things to be dumbed down for Middle America. The dialogue is the kink of clunky, mindless crap that often includes phrases like ‘He’s standing right behind me, isn’t he?’ or ‘In English, please!’ This garbage isn’t just not up to the standards of [Joss] Whedon, it’s not up to the standards of today’s television, period. “
It could also, of course, just be bad writing the studio had nothing to do with. FSR might be right, though. From the very beginning, Agents of SHIELD has felt bland as if any rawness was noted to death. Even signature Joss Whedon plays on convention are tame (or totally nonexistent) compared to the more ballsy examples littered throughout Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. Part of that is because this is NOT a Joss Whedon show. He got the ball rolling by writing and directing the pilot; his brother (Jed) and sister-in-law (Maurissa Tancharoen) are the actual show-runners who do this show while Joss prepares Avengers: Age of Ultron. Those two have shown via Doctor Horrible’s Sing-A-Long-Blog that when working without interference (and more help from Joss) they can be amazing. There is no hint of in SHIELD. With so many corporate interests invested in SHIELD, it might be too big to succeed.
And fail it has, with ratings free falling after the pilot before mercifully stabilizing over the past two episodes. They are in clear desperation mode, using the first two episodes of 2014 to put a temporary end to their two big drawn-out story lines (Coulson’s death, Skye’s parentage). They’ve cast Bill Paxton for a 4-episode arc as a well-known SHIELD agent character from the comics, and now today ABC confirmed that Jaimie Alexander will appear as Lady Sif, her Asgardian warrior character from the Thor films, in the February 15th episode. However, even the casting of Alexander reeks of corporate interference. It is no coincidence that her appearance on the show will air a week prior to the Blu-Ray release of Thor: The Dark World. Then again, as a huge fan of Jaimie Alexander as Sif I will totally watch that episode.
Beyond potential network interference, SHIELD‘s issues may be linked back to its very conception whereby Marvel and ABC hoped we would be fine with watching a comic book show that doesn’t feature any actual comic book heroes or villains as central characters. Sif will in fact be the first honest-to-goodness super hero from the Marvel films to appear on the show, and is arguably their first honest-to-goodness super hero, period. We see the Marvel movies for the heroes and villains; they gave us a show about a bunch of supporting characters, centered around a two-dimensional bit player (Coulson) from the movies who works best opposite larger-than-life figures. Would Agent Carter be doomed to the same fate? Would it be a comic book show critically bereft of the type of characters we normally associate with comic books? And could whatever they do really look as good as the Agent Carter one-shot on a TV budget across 22-episodes?
I was very high on Agent Carter in the past, and the presence of the people from Reaper should times that by ten. However, now that we know for sure this thing is officially set up at ABC my expectations are far more pessimistic. We are taking about something that doesn’t even an order for a pilot yet. Maybe by the time it reaches the pilot stage (if it does) SHIELD will have become awesome. It could happen…right? ABC sure hopes so.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.