Is a New Marvel TV Show Based on Agent Carter a Good Idea?

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When "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." from Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) Marvel Studios was first announced, it seemed like the perfect way for Marvel Studios to capitalize on the success of films like The Avengers. A weekly view of the Marvel cinematic universe, from the point of view of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who investigate all of the strange happenings that we've seen in the movies? It was every Marvel fanboy's dream.

When the series premiered, though, it didn't seem to quite live up to a lot of people's expectations. During the first half of the season, the show was plagued with pacing issues and seemed to have problems balancing exposition and action. On top of that, much of what happened in the show seemed completely divorced from the larger Marvel universe that it was supposed to be a part of. While things have improved significantly in these regards, the show is still struggling to regain the audience that it started with.

Despite this, a second Marvel-based series may be in the works at ABC. While this new show could be a larger risk than "Agents," its different approach could also make it more of a hit.

Agent Carter
Based on the Marvel One-Shot short film that explored the life of Captain America: The First Avenger's Peggy Carter after the film, the new "Agent Carter" show would further detail Carter's career and the early days of S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organization. Actress Hayley Atwell would return as the titular Carter, while Dominic Cooper's Howard Stark would likely return as a recurring guest star. While other Captain America stars might occasionally return as well, it's unlikely that they would play a significant role in the series.

According to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, a pilot script for the series has already been produced but the show has not been greenlit yet. The network supposedly liked the script, though, and there is a definite series idea in mind if it does move forward. Perhaps learning from some of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s" troubles, "Agent Carter" would have a much stronger focus.

A limited series?
Instead of being a full-season show, "Agent Carter" would reportedly run as a limited series that would begin in 1946 and focus on a single case or event per year. The season would run for 13 episodes or less, and the next season would jump forward to a new case in 1947.

This is the same format being used for the Disney/Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) "Defenders" collaboration. "Daredevil" and the other shows in that deal will each feature a 13-episode first season, building up to the five-episode "Defenders" miniseries that caps off the project. Disney likely sees a lot of potential in the limited-series format for its Marvel properties, so potentially riskier properties like "Agent Carter" could adopt it in the future.

Would it work?
The big question, of course, is whether people would tune in to a period piece set in the Marvel cinematic universe. While "Agent Carter" was well received as a short and a number of people called for it to be expanded to a series after its release, that popularity doesn't necessarily translate to blockbuster ratings.

With a limited-series format and a more dedicated focus than "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", however, "Agent Carter" has a lot of potential. It would cost less to hype a shorter series, and ABC could use it to fill gaps in its schedule while more popular shows are on hiatus. If it's successful, the network could even set up events in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." or Marvel Studios films by introducing artifacts and other secrets that would show up again in the "future."

More importantly, ABC could use "Agent Carter" as an "event"-type series. By withholding new seasons until sweeps or scheduling it against weak shows on competing networks, ABC could score viewers (and advertisers) during the show's limited run that might otherwise be tuning in elsewhere.

What if it flops?
The biggest risk regarding "Agent Carter" is that it might have a harder time connecting with viewers who aren't Marvel fans or who haven't seen the original short. This could put ABC in a tricky position since it would then have two Marvel-themed shows struggling for viewers and might make some viewers question the direction that the network is taking.

Fortunately, the limited-series format would make it easier for ABC to let a preliminary season run its course and opt not to pick it up if it never finds an audience. If it serves as a fill-in while a more popular show takes a break, the network could hedge its bets in case it doesn't take off. While viewers might drop off, the return of a more popular show could draw those viewers back in.

Will 'Agent Carter' get a pilot order?
If the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier does well at the box office, ABC may try to capitalize on that success by greenlighting "Agent Carter" soon after. Even if the order doesn't come then, the show has too much potential for it to not get a green light sooner or later. 

The bigger issue will be whether ABC can effectively fit the show into its schedule and use the limited-series format to draw an audience. With a limited number of episodes and a single overarching storyline for each season, ABC will need to handle its scheduling better than "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." if it wants "Agent Carter" to succeed.

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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2014, at 3:48 PM, msorrentino wrote:

    What ABC should do for the series is make the episodes available on at the same time as the show airs on TV, because that is where and how a good 90% of its viewers would watch the show. Marvel appeals to nerds and geeks; and guess what they like watching stuff on the internet not on broadcast TV or cable, in fact most like my self don't have cable.

    ABC should co-produce the show and allow Marvel to distribute it over a web based service like for example a website which could also allow fans to stream all the Marvel Studios movies, One-Shots and Marvel Animated shows released to date for around $5 a month, I think they'd find that most fans would be willing to pay for that service. They could also use it as a test bed by releasing One-Shots on the service featuring new characters in order to test their appeal among fans to determine if they should get their own series or appear in other shows/movies.

    (In my case I don't even have a TV set, my computer serves as my TV set well technically it is a PC/TV hybrid complete with TV tuner.)

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2014, at 7:25 PM, Njancek wrote:

    While SHIELD might not be focusing on the big movie plots, it doesn't need to to still be enjoyed. If you actually watch the show and pay attention, you can tell that its setting up a lot of potential villains and other story arcs. Hell, it practically helped set up Winter Soldier if you pay good enough attention.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2014, at 7:45 PM, LazyCapitalist wrote:


    Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is on Hulu the day after it appears on TV. Older episodes are Hulu Plus, but the latest episode is always on (free) Hulu.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2014, at 11:03 PM, nowandthenreader wrote:

    too much marvel !

    shield is a bust and an agent carter series has a 50/50 chance.

    why not a series of tv movies instead ?

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2014, at 2:50 PM, moraga1 wrote:

    Haley Atwell is by far Marvel's "hottest" property. If they go forward they can't flake out like Agents of Shield did. Putting her on the screen gives it a good chance no matter how they could mess it up. If they do anything resembling a decent job, Atwell's star will rise all boats so to speak. I mean, how could you mess up something she is in?

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2014, at 3:32 PM, msorrentino wrote:


    I'm aware that the shows are available on, however as of January the new episodes aren't available for free until eight days after they air. An exception was made with this weeks episode because of the tie in with Winter Soldier.

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John Casteele

John Casteele is a freelance writer, editor, and occasional web cartoonist. He prefers long-term investments, largely in retail, medical, and tech.

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