Magazine article Variety

ABC Needs to Come out from Behind the 'SHIELD'

Magazine article Variety

ABC Needs to Come out from Behind the 'SHIELD'

Article excerpt

This week, DC Comics/Warner Bros.' "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" begins the daunting task of establishing the kind of cinematic universe of costumed heroes that Disney's Marvel has so lucratively built. In television, however, the roles have been somewhat reversed, with DC/Warners shows like "The Flash" embracing their comic-book origins, a feat ABC's Marvel tieins have struggled to achieve. The question, then, is whether it might be time for ABC - under new leadership, and with parent Disney eager to boost the network's performance - to unshackle Marvel from its over-reliance on "Agents of SHIELD."

Understandably, Joss Whedon emerged from his success directing "The Avengers" with considerable clout at Disney, which tapped him as a producer to extend the property to TV, with a lower-wattage, loosely connected version. Since then, however, ABC has seemed too content to ride "SHIELD'S" modest coattails while tinkering with spinoffs, including the critically admired but virtually unseen "Agent Carter."

Advantageously, these series tie in with Marvel movies, providing integrated promotion for upcoming releases. Yet the relationship hasn't appeared to boost ratings, suggesting any benefits are not only puny, but also something of a one-way street.

At the same time, Warner Bros. Television has invested heavily in DC superheroes, producing "Arrow" and "The Flash" - clear hits by the CWs more modest standards - as well as the super-team "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" and CBS' "Supergirl." Marvel did adapt second-tier characters, such as Daredevil and Luke Cage, but funneled them to Netflix, which, being a subscription service, was rightfully eager to tap into properties with a small but fiercely loyal fan base.

Admittedly, nothing within this genre on TV or streaming has approximated the blockbuster performance of "The Avengers" or other Marvel movies. Nevertheless, as television becomes more of a niche proposition, there's clearly an appreciable appetite for such series which, as Warner Bros, has demonstrated, can now be realized credibly enough to satisfy audiences within the parameters of a TV budget. If anything, the medium requires the development of stronger characters, since producers can't afford many of the let's-level-half-of-Metropolis sequences like the one that closed out "Man of Steel. …

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