One of the stories out of the TCA upfronts this month has been the ABC is in fact going to be bringing yet a third Marvel series to their airwaves.
This is a bizarre announcement, in truth. And I say this as someone who is a devoted fan of both Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter. SHIELD, as I mention yesterday, all-but-flopped after a very big build up, and though the ensuing seasons have done fabulous work in re-righting their ship, to the point of this past season having some of the best episodes to date, the sell by date for bringing in an audience has long past. Agent Carter‘s fortunes have been even worse. A narrowly focused period piece that functions in a limited run burst format, the first season barely had a pulse, ratings-wise, and the second has now been delayed by two weeks (the original start date was January 5th.) In a normal world, Agent Carter should never have had a second season, and SHIELD gasping its last breath.
And yet, here we are, with a third Marvel TV spin off, this one, the on-again, off-again pilot for taking Mockingbird, aka Bobbi Morse, and her husband Lance Hunter (played by Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood on SHIELD.) The MCU have been pushing this spin off since last spring, but the ABC heads chickened out at first, perhaps unable to see a way clear to bringing yet another low rated drama to their network. So what changed?
Are SHIELD and Carter really that low rated? Ask TVbytheNumbers and their Cancellation Bear, and you’ll find that they stand by their assessment that no one watches these shows. But sit down on my FB feed and ask people about it, and they say they stream all the episodes on Hulu, or they leave the episodes on the DVR until they get around to them months later. Are these post-airing ratings so high that ABC sees a path clear to bring aboard yet a third series? Or is this part of Disney’s propping up their network, as long as they leave it chock full of programming that supports the parent company’s high-profile franchises? After all, this is a network that also has Once Upon a Time (the Disney Princesses show), The Muppets, and is threatening to bring some of the Star Wars spin offs (Rebels currently lives on the Disney channel) to network. With DC filling up no less than three network stations with their own live action fare (sometimes running against each other), is it so surprising that the MCU wants to be seen as competing? (At least since all three shows are concentrated at one network, they won’t find themselves airing against each others on Monday nights. Ahem, Supergirl and Gotham.)
But with all three concentrated at one network, is it really such a smart move to have more than two shows that run at different times of the year? Carter fills in the winter break gap between SHIELD fall and spring halves of the season, so though they are low rated, at least they are not dragging down anything in tandem. Unless the plan is to run Marvel’s Most Wanted over the summer break (and it may well be), I can’t see ABC giving over an entire two-hour block in the regular season to low rated shows, even if Disney and the MCU are propping them up.
But then again, considering that the show they attempted to follow SHIELD with in the fall, Wicked City, collapsed before it could get off the ground, perhaps “low rated but guaranteed to last more than two episodes” doesn’t sound like such a losing proposition after all.