Disney (NYSE: DIS)/ABC recently confirmed that it is developing a new series, Agent Carter, as the second Marvel TV spin-off following the release of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD last fall.
Peggy Carter first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) as Steve Rogers' love interest, and later returned in a short film, Agent Carter, in the Blu-ray release of Iron Man 3 last year.
It's presumed that Hayley Atwell, who portrayed Carter in both films, will reprise the central role, but not much else is known about the rest of the cast or plot of the upcoming series.
However, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD hasn't been a huge success, with viewers dropping from 12.1 million for its premiere to 6.4 million in its most recent episode on Jan. 14. The show was hit and miss over most of the past 12 episodes, and has often been criticized as being too detached from the Marvel universe seen in the films.
Therefore, let's discuss three things that the premiere of Agent Carter could mean for Marvel fans and the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
1. Who is Agent Carter?
The first problem with Agent Carter is its lead character. Agent Carter is a lot like Phil Coulson from Agents of SHIELD -- neither were major characters until the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe materialized.
In the comics, Peggy Carter was the World War II era love interest of Captain America. She was left behind after Captain America was placed in suspended animation. Up until that point, the film character is fairly similar to the comic book one.
However, Sharon Carter, Peggy's sister, later became Captain America's love interest in the present day -- a glaring anachronism that led to Sharon being retconned as Peggy's niece.
The film version of Peggy Carter was later featured in the aforementioned short film, a tie-in videogame (Captain America: Super Soldier), and will appear again in the upcoming film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this April.
At the end of the short film Agent Carter, Peggy Carter became the co-leader of the newly created SHIELD, suggesting that the new TV series could be similar to a postwar era Agents of SHIELD.
2. A blank canvas for new stories
The gap of nearly 70 years following Captain America's departure in the first film leaves plenty of room for new stories featuring Agent Carter in the 1940s and 1950s. That could be both a blessing and a curse.
A mix of historical fiction and sci-fi could be vastly original and entertaining, since recent sci-fi shows, such as Agents of SHIELD and Fox's Almost Human, seem to slavishly imitate The X-Files and Fringe. Espionage and over-the-top battles featuring HYDRA tech in a postwar setting, on the other hand, could make for a very entertaining show.
However, the show could suffer from a major drawback -- just like Fox's upcoming series Gotham, which features Gotham City without Batman, Agent Carter will feature the world of Captain America without its titular character.
However, I have higher hopes for Agent Carter since it isn't as closely tethered to the modern day Marvel Universe as Agents of SHIELD.
With most of the ties to the modern Marvel universe severed, Agent Carter could enjoy a fresh start and appeal to audiences who didn't watch the original film. Bringing back Howard Stark, played by Dominic Cooper in the film, would be a great start -- since he could play the role of a gadget-savvy Q to Carter's female Bond.
3. Balancing out ABC's male and female viewership
ABC, which has a stronger lineup of female-oriented shows like Grey's Anatomy, Once Upon a Time, Scandal, and Revenge, might finally find a show that appeals to both sexes in Agent Carter. One of ABC's core strengths is its popularity among affluent women between the ages of 18 to 49 who earn at least $100,000 per year.
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, as I mentioned in a previous article, is a crucial show to ABC since it represents a chance to capture that elusive male audience. Over half of Agents of SHIELD's audience is male -- higher than any other show on the network -- and an admirable feat considering that it goes head-to-head against CBS' (NYSE: CBS) NCIS every Tuesday night.
Agent Carter could attract an even number of female and male viewers for two simple (if overly simplistic) reasons -- women love "girl power" tales like The Hunger Games, and men could consider it an "essential" piece of the Marvel Universe.
Either way, ABC needs a shot in the arm -- last quarter, revenue at Disney's broadcasting business (primarily ABC), which accounts for 28% of its Media Networks business' top line, inched up a mere 1% from the prior year quarter. Broadcasting operating income, which accounts for 11% of the segment's bottom line, plunged 18%.
ABC also finished the 2012 to 2013 season in a mediocre fourth place among adults ages 18 to 49 and 18 to 34 -- falling far behind CBS, Fox, and Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) NBC.
The bottom line
If Agent Carter is a hit, other Marvel short films -- such as the upcoming All Hail the King (included with the home media release of Thor: The Dark World), which features Ben Kingsley reprising his role as Mandarin impostor Trevor Slattery -- could lead into other new TV series as well.
It should also be noted that Agent Phil Coulson appeared in two of those short films in 2011, which could be considered as test runs for Agents of SHIELD.
While I haven't been the biggest fan of Agents of SHIELD, I'm willing to give Agent Carter a chance. The premise is intriguing and could offer viewers a unique view into a less explored corner of the Marvel Universe.
What do you think, dear readers? Are you looking forward to the premiere of Agent Carter? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Fool contributor Leo Sun owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.