As suspected, Agents of SHIELD’s renewal is not a full-throated endorsement, but rather a backup plan if The Inhumans fails.
I was ready to say goodbye to Agents of SHIELD this year. After last summer’s bloodbath cancellation of Agent Carter, dumping on Marvel’s Most Wanted before it aired, and moving SHIELD to 10pm, it was clear that ABC’s frustration with these series and their constant ratings had boiled over in the face of Disney/MCU’s blindness to it.
SHIELD survived, but the chance of it doing so again was low. There are several reviewers who seem to think the revitalization of SHIELD in the 3rd “pod” this season might have swayed ABC, and that’s why it got a fifth season. I was less sure.
At today’s upfronts, it became clear that was wishful thinking. ABC has no interest in having two low rated Marvel shows on at once. So this coming fall, the MCU and Disney will be given the opportunity to try for ratings gold with their planned run of The Inhumans, first in Imax, then on TV. But it will be the only MCU show on ABC. Agents of SHIELD will be put on hold until the spring.
If The Inhumans somehow magically brings in those hit ratings on Fridays at 9pm that the MCU has over promised ABC since 2013, and under-delivered on each time, then we can expect the series to stay on in the spring, while Agents of SHIELD will do their thing somewhere else on the schedule. (Maybe they’ll follow The Inhumans, if it’s a hit, maybe they won’t.) The moving of the entire shebang to Fridays would make sense though.
But! If The Inhumans follows what is now a recognizable path worn by The Muppets and Agents of SHIELD before them, ABC now has an out. This pattern of a movie franchise that Disney attempts to transfer to TV with massive over hype that fails to deliver the expected audience is unfortunate, all the more so because we can identify it so easily now.
ABC has obviously identified it too, and fears this show full of obscure cartoon heroes is destined to follow that model, IMAX release or no. If so, this gives them a nice built-in excuse to shelve it come spring, and return to something that may not have the best ratings, but at least isn’t nothing.