Joss Whedon's 'S.H.I.E.L.D' TV series great for 'the whole family,' says ABC president(Read article summary)
Joss Whedon's show about the men and women who work with Marvel superheroes would debut in fall 2013 if it was given the go-ahead by the network.
ABC Entertainment owns the television airing rights for two lucrative geek brands, now that parent company Walt Disney Pictures controls Marvel and has acquired Lucasfilm from Star Wars creator George Lucas. The network is preppingÂ Joss Whedonâs S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, with production getting underway this month for a Fall TV season debut.
Network president Paul Lee cites the Marvel universeâs cross-generational appeal and Whedonâs storytelling style as reasons to be hopeful that the S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot gets picked up for series. Meanwhile, there are plans to re-examine the dormant Star Wars live-action TV show â which is a carryover from Lucasâ administration â and determine whether or not thatâs something worth pursing.
Whedonâs show brings together Avengers veteran Clark Gregg reprising his Agent Phil Coulson, with television actorsÂ Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe) and Chloe Bennet (Nashville) among those playing S.H.I.E.L.D. employees created for the small screen. Speculation points to Samuel L. Jackson showing up as organization head Nick Fury (admittedly, the actorâs stirring that pot himself), but otherwise the series is shaping up as a separate entity that does not overlap with the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline (e.g. Coulsonâs alive and fine).
S.H.I.E.L.D. is expected to follow the template of Whedonâs cult TV creationsÂ Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, examining contemporary family identity and moral responsibilities through a pop culture show that breezily see-saws between tongue-in-cheek action and serious drama (a laÂ The Avengers). That is, we anticipate as much emphasis on the (dysfunctional?) team dynamic as the charactersâ world-saving deeds.
Lee assures IGNÂ that his fellow ABC executives recognize the seriesâ potential, in terms of how it meets the networkâs âsmart with heartâ criteria that means they have more shows watched by parents and kids together (known as âco-viewed showsâ):
âAbsolutely Marvel has the ability to bring the whole family around it. The truth about Joss is he has some great relationships in [S.H.I.E.L.D.] so there are a lot of really funny, male/female relationships â very flirtatious ones that go through it. But itâs also Joss too and itâs Marvel and thereâs a lot of action to it.â
The relatively diverse S.H.I.E.L.D. casting has Lee believing the show can appeal to âmen and women and kids,â rather than just Marvelâs target male demographic. Hence, ABC heads will be watching the pilot earlier than those for other prospective new TV properties and plan to initiate marketing shortly after giving the series an official green-light (chances are good that will happen):
âBy the way, the scriptâs great. So I donât want to jinx it, because that may not mean a good pilot or a good series, but weâre very excited about it. Joss is wonderful to work with. And by the way, [he's] thrilled to be on television, which Iâm enjoying!â
Whedonâs last small screen foray, Dollhouse, wasnât exactly a satisfying venture, but coming off Avengersâ $1.5. billion theatrical returns â and the increased carte blanche creative control that comes with it â has probably buoyed his spirits.
Meanwhile, ABC could be dusting off the 50 hoursâ worth of scriptsÂ assembled by Lucas, producer Rick McCallum and geek-favorite writers like Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Caprica)Â for a live-action Star Wars TV series that unfolds during the years separating the prequel and âoriginalâ film trilogies. Leeâs informed EWÂ that such an option is being considered right now:
âWeâd love to do something with Lucasfilm, weâre not sure what yet. We havenât even sat down with them. Weâre going to look at [the live-action series], weâre going to look at all of them, and see whatâs right. We werenât able to discuss this with them until [the acquisition] closed and it just closed. Itâs definitely going to be part of the conversation.â
However, the potential cost may prevent this. Lucasâ original estimates were that the required effects will cost $150-200 million or an average $3-5 million episode price tag; though, before the acquisition, steps were being taken by the filmmaker and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to reduce expenses to $50-60 million (or $1 million per episode). Indeed, Lee admits the scale and approach preferred by new Lucasfilm president Kathleen KennedyÂ will affect their decision:
âItâs going to be very much up to the Lucasfilm brands how they want to play it. We got to a point here with Marvel, a very special point, where weâre in the Marvel universe, and very relevantly so, but weâre not doing The Avengers. ButÂ S.H.I.E.L.D.Â is part ofÂ The Avengers. So maybe something oblique is the way to [approach theÂ Star WarsÂ universe] rather than going straight head-on at it.â
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.