Saturday, April 18, 2015

If an Agents of SHIELD Spin-Off Does Happen, They Need to Get More Marvel Superheroes Involved With Both Shows

Last week, rumors surfaced that ABC was considering a spin-off series from Agents of SHIELD that would carry over several cast members from the current show.  That seemed like surprising news considering that AoS has struggled in the ratings throughout its second season, but then it is part of the multi-billion dollar Avengers franchise and Disney--which owns ABC--has an interest in keeping that franchise visible.  I mulled over the strategic implications of the spin-off from the network standpoint at this link, and thought I would present my idea on the best direction for these two shows here.

When Agents of SHIELD debuted last season, I rather enjoyed it at first for its witty scripts and stories that incorporated plenty of sci fi elements. But then it just seemed to start treading water and not really going anywhere before eventually rebooting itself to an extent with its tie-in to Captain America: The Winter Solder.  And when it returned this year, it went dark and almost completely lost touch with the sense of fun it had when it started.  And not surprisingly the show has seen its ratings head on a steady decline since bowing with monster numbers for its first season premiere.  But still, there are rumors of a spin-off and if that does happen then I believe they should take a page from what The CW is doing with its DC superhero shows Arrow and The Flash.

Both of those two have been strong performers for the fifth place networks, and The Flash is currently only a few ticks behind Agents of SHIELD as far as its season to date ratings average.  And I believe that a large part of the reason those shows have registered with the audience--apart from stellar casting and decent writing--is that they have shown respect for the source material.  They may have re-written much of the history of the characters for the TV universe they are creating, but they regularly dip back into the well and bring in additional characters that fans are familiar with from the comics.  That's one area that I believe Agents of SHIELD has missed out on from the beginning, yet it also presents an opportunity to revitalize the series going forward.

Personally, I believe that the show would have been better off bringing in superhero characters from the comics right from the get go.  The mission for Coulson's team should have been getting the many heroes out there onboard with SHIELD (just like we saw Nick Fury do in several of the movies) or clamping down on those getting out of control.  It wouldn't necessarily have to have followed a hero-of-the-week formula, but get familiar faces in there on a regular basis.  Marvel has a ton of them, so there's plenty that could show up on the series that wouldn't interfere with future movie plans (and DC is planning separate movie versions of some of the TV characters, so why couldn't Marvel do the same?).   And that format would have still worked after the events of the Captain America movie, because at that point SHIELD would need the help of those superheroes even more to build up the ranks of their decimated agency.

Of course that's not the way they went with Agents of SHIELD originally, but the spin-off presents an opportunity to still consider that direction.  I'm guessing that the new show will explore the Inhuman characters that have been introduced during the second half of this season (no inside information, just a hunch).  So let the spin-off go in that direction and let AoS go on a recruiting drive for superheroes.  They need the help and I'm guessing the familiar faces from the comics could re-energize interest from the fans.  Or if they want to keep the Inhumans storyline with the main show, then let the spin-off go hero hunting (though I think Coulson would be best suited for that and I don't see him leaving the main show).

The fact is that Arrow and The Flash are considered hits for The CW and they continue to parade characters from the comics through their episodes.  Agents of SHIELD is struggling in the ratings and has mostly avoided familiar faces from the Marvel ranks.  Spinning off from the current format seems sure to fail seeing as the parent series is barely holding on now.  But reconnecting with the comics could help revitalize both.  Bringing in the Inhumans is already one plus because of its nod back to the comics.  Now they need to get even more familiar Marvel faces in there, even if it is some of the B and C list characters.

Of course at this point we don't even know for certain if Agents of SHIELD will get a third season renewal, and if it doesn't then the spin-off is certainly dead in the water as well.  But just the fact that ABC is considering that spin-off suggests that AoS has a decent chance of coming back for at least one more year.  And if they do, then they need something to bring the viewers back to the show to help keep that advertising revenue flowing in.  Going back to the source material and bringing in familiar superhero faces is that something.  That's what I believe the fans want to see and that's the best chance AoS and its potential spin-off have of keeping the audience engaged.

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