On 12th May, ABC announced the cancellation of Marvel’s Agent Carter TV series, marking the first conclusion to a Marvel property since the start of the MCU in 2008. In this Marvel Bulletin, we’ll look at why the show might have been canned and also examine the direction of Marvel’s Television efforts as a whole.
With their bullet proof marketing campaign and throngs of fans worldwide, it’s easy to see why the Marvel Cinematic Universe was brought to the small screen with Agents of SHIELD, in late 2013. Since then, the TV franchise has expanded aggressively in all directions. With its cheeky tone, Agent Carter was a clear attempt to snag a larger female audience, while SHIELD still guns for Marvel’s core 18-34 demographic of mostly young males. Marvel has also used the Netflix platform to launch more adult and risky properties in Daredevil and Jessica Jones – both ultra violent and much more complex in structure. At the time of writing, Marvel currently has eight TV shows in various states of production – Agents of SHIELD and Cloak and Dagger (2017), as well as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist (2017), The Defenders (2017) and The Punisher (2017, all Netflix).
As the MCU moves to three movie releases a year, we’re seeing profits rise in excess of $10 Billion for the franchise as a whole. One would assume then that these TV series are all a safe bet, but that actually hasn’t proven true.
As an introduction to Marvel on TV, Agents of SHIELD kicked things off imitating the tone of the films and attempting to provide stories as supplements to them. However, despite a strong launch of 12 million viewers in the US, more recent episodes just scrape past 4 million. Personally I find the programme lacks character and fails to engage you on a personal level. But, the show’s lack of popularity could arguably be as a result of it playing second fiddle to the films. As efforts to not contradict the movies, SHIELD has never managed to get a major storyline off the ground in a convincing way, seemingly afraid of encroaching on the territory of the larger Avengers world. It’s most exciting moments took place during the collapse of SHIELD, post-Winter Soldier, but this was sadly a short lived burst of activity before returning to business as usual not long after.
Agent Carter played it equally safe, set in the 1940s, the show had a light sci-fi adventure feel and, in it’s own right, was very enjoyable. Peggy Carter was an unexpected fan favourite after appearing in Captain America: The First Avenger, and the series made a noble attempt to provide a strong role model to female Marvel fans of all ages. Tenacious, noble and charming, it’s clear to see how Peggy’s series came to be. But with the events of the story being so far removed from the core MCU story, it’s easy to see how it failed to hold fan’s attentions. The final episode tanked with just 2.35 Million viewers.
Being able to hold fan’s attentions is the other issue fighting against Marvel TV. Despite falling numbers year on year, Marvel continues to divide attention for its franchises. By the end of 2017, Netflix alone will host six separate Marvel series, and regardless of the quality, that’s one hell of a time commitment for fans, let alone uninitiated general audiences. Add in the current ABC series as well as their future plans for Cloak and Dagger (plus the now abandoned Most Wanted spin-off), it’s clear to see that not all these properties can sustain themselves. Forget arguments about individual story arcs or lack of cast charisma, even if all Marvel’s TV work was a perfect 10/10, some things were going to get the chop.
When you’re demanding so much time from fans, it makes sense that people will gravitate to what is easiest to see whilst also providing the highest quality. This is where Netflix’s Daredevil has succeeded most. Without worries of securing fixed ad revenue or alienating general audiences, Marvel bit the bullet and did something daring (lol). Daredevil takes the MCU in a new and exciting direction, not found in the cinematic releases – creating much needed variety. In addition to that, it includes more comic tie-ins and character adaptations than ABC’s series have done and feels more a part of the MCU as a result, despite the tonal shifts.
Overall then, it’s easy to see why –if they could only make time for one– a Marvel fan would be happiest to watch Daredevil and basically ignore the rest. It’s available on demand after all!
As a possible response to Daredevil, ABC plans to move Agents of SHIELD to air at a later time slot next season to allow for “edgier” stories. Although, it’s also been stated this is due to over scheduling conflicts, so it’s just as likely ABC wishes to bury SHIELD and hope it just goes away.
“I know my value.” – Peggy Carter. An empowering quote for series fans, Agent Carter attempted to provide a strong role model for women.
Hopefully, the cancellation of Agent Carter is a sign that Marvel have recognised this issue. You can’t fault their ambition, but it would appear their eyes have been larger than their stomach, but they’ve realised the problem before things went too far.
It’s a shame Agent Carter is out of the picture. Personally I enjoyed the series hugely! It may not have had a large impact on the MCU, but it provided a strong historic and emotional foundation for a lot of the events surrounding The Avengers – especially Steve Rogers. It’s star, Hayley Atwell (now headlining ABC’s new series Conviction) embodied the role beautifully in every appearance, and hopefully we’ll get one or two more cameos before the final curtain.
It’s worth saying that although I feel it’s clear Marvel’s TV schedule is heavily over saturated, many fans may not agree. There’s even a petition to have the show picked up on Netflix, currently standing at almost 70,000 signatures! So, there’s still a lot of love for Peggy. Hopefully if it ever does return, they’ll take the opportunity to be a bit more risky with the content and show us something of greater value to the MCU as a whole. Peggy Carter is a founding member of SHIELD after all, but this wasn’t even hinted at during the two seasons we were offered.
We may not get to see any more of Agent Carter, but let’s hope this is the first sign of reinvention for Marvel TV. If the rest of the collection is to survive, greater risks are needed and more exciting, impactful stories required! We hope you enjoyed our light analysis. Until next time!