In a surprise announcement, Marvel Studios has revealed plans to develop two new live-action series, both of which take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The shows set to air on Disney’s upcoming premium streaming service, Disney Play, will reportedly focus on Scarlet Witch and Loki, with MCU stars Elizabeth Olsen and Tom Hiddleston expected to reprise their roles.
Additionally, reports indicate Marvel Studios is planning future television series with characters that have yet to headline their own solo films. And while this is certainly exciting news, it was also revealed that the planned series will not involve Marvel Television which oversees programs like ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger, or the MCU Netflix original programming like Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
Instead, the Disney Play original series will be Marvel Studios productions personally overseen by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and boasting larger production budgets than its Marvel Television counterparts. With Marvel Studios effectively producing its own MCU-linked programming, this presents the question what it means for the future of Marvel Television, particularly its flagship series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
As the inaugural MCU tie-in series, Agents of SHIELD was heralded as the backbone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe upon its premiere in 2013, with Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb declaring “it’s all connected” regarding the MCU’s expansion into television. Spinning out of the events of the previous year’s The Avengers, the series was co-created by Joss Whedon and starred fan-favorite character Phil Coulson, resurrected from his untimely death at the hands of Loki in the MCU blockbuster. With Marvel Television and Marvel Studios both part of Marvel Entertainment, the same Disney subsidiary, the corporate proximity allowed for greater integration with the MCU, directly tying into the events of 2013’s Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, with 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier having an especially seismic impact on the series.
However, after the conclusion of the second season in 2015 with its season finale tying into that year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Feige navigated Marvel Studios becoming its own separate Disney subsidiary during the off-season. No longer part of the same ancillary company, the series’ subsequent seasons featured more tenuous connections to their cinematic counterparts at best, with the differences between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television in content and tone becoming increasingly apparent. While critical response to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has continued to improve upon the mixed reception it received for its debut, the ratings have been on a steady decline as the narrative continues to shift away from the MCU proper; the events of Avengers: Infinity War only cited in passing, while the events of films like Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok have not been referenced at all.
Faced with declining viewership and growing questions about its continued relevance and viability, the sixth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been relegated to the summer of 2019 with a significantly lower episode-order than previous seasons. While Marvel Television and ABC have both insisted publicly that they are not envisioning the upcoming season to be the series’ last, the scheduling change and truncated length do not bode well for its longevity.
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