Joss Whedon returns to TV
Wenn, Jemal Countess/ Getty
Joss Whedon, God of Nerds, was, pre-Avengers, best known for genre TV fare like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the criminally cancelled Firefly. Then Marvel came knocking and he hasn’t had a TV show since Dollhouse (the one thing he’s done that I could not make myself like) got canned in 2010. But now he’s returning to TV with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. A trailer for the pilot was released at the ABC upfront yesterday. Marvel, in their quest for total domination of your eyeballs, is extending their reach to television beginning this fall.
Last August, word first came out about a possible SHIELD show in development with Marvel/ABC, and I said at the time it wasn’t a bad idea, given how much spy-related development they had lying around, including a scrapped movie, also titled Agents of SHIELD. Looking at the trailer, the remains of that would-be movie are clearly visible in the TV pilot. It is not hard to spot which character was supposed to be Hawkeye, which Black Widow, and they still have their anchor point, fan favorite Agent Coulson, somehow not dead after very clearly dying in The Avengers. (The explanation for that better not involve twins.) And that’s Luke Cage, right? The guy in the hoodie? That’ll end a lot of speculation on the movie side if it is.
The trailer is solid, with a large-scale cinematic scope—holy sh*t is this show going to be expensive to produce—and it’ll be interesting to see if Coulson can carry a show. I’ve no doubt Clark Gregg can do it as an actor, but part of Coulson’s cool was that we didn’t really know anything about him, he was just a drive-by badass amidst the superhero ruckus. It’s the danger of spinoffs, that a character that’s great in small doses becomes intolerable in long form. But all reports from the upfront presentation have been encouraging—the critics and advertisers were into it, and ABC is making it the cornerstone of their new fall lineup and giving it a prime Tuesday night slot.
I don’t like to bet against Whedon. He’s always ahead of the curve on trends and tastes, but sometimes that’s also been his problem. Firefly, for instance, was ten years ahead of its time. And while Whedon did write and direct the pilot, the showrunners are actually his brother, Jed Whedon, and Jed’s wife, Maurissa Tancharoen. They’re veterans of Dollhouse, that lone Whedon project that I can’t get behind. I want to like Agents of SHIELD but I can’t shake my reservations—that “superhero of the week” will wear thin, that the agents will prove uninteresting without their more glamorous movie counterparts, that it will be too esoteric for network television.
There’s no middle ground—Agents of SHIELD will either be Buffy and run for years or be another Firefly and get cancelled in ten episodes or less. Hopefully Whedon’s reversal of fortune holds and Agents of SHIELD is as awesome as Firefly but gets the lifespan of Buffy. Because I really cannot get my TV-heart broken by another cancelled Joss Whedon show.