Whatever you want to call ABC's newly greenlit S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, don't call it an Avengers spinoff, as co-writer Joss Whedon wants to stress that the series is largely "autonomous" from this year's $1.5 billion blockbuster and its upcoming sequel.
That said, Variety's Cynthia Littleton reported from Tuesday night's Q&A the Writers Guild Theater with Sleepwalk with Me filmmakers Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass that Whedon "reserves right to pepper in bits here and there."
Part of Whedon's new three-year exclusive deal with Marvel Studios, which of course includes The Avengers 2, the pilot centers on the global espionage and law-enforcement agency that's been a key part of Marvel comics since 1965, and has helped to provide the connective tissue between the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (predominantly through cameos by Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury and Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson before the organization took center stage in The Avengers).
As previously reported, Whedon will co-write the pilot with his brother Jed Whedon and Jed's wife Maurissa Tancharoen, with whom he previously worked on Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and Dollhouse. Jed Whedon and Tancharoen will serve as showrunners and executive producers along with Jeffrey Bell (Angel, Alias). Jeph Loeb, Marvel's head of television, will also executive produce.
Whedon, who may also direct the pilot, joked that he'll show up every now and then "and take credit for everything,"
A live-action television series set in the Avengers universe was first teased nearly a month ago, with a S.H.I.E.L.D. drama seeming the most likely candidate (as we noted at the time, the project blends the ever-popular elements of a police procedural with high-tech espionage, and makes financial sense, as Marvel already has Helicarrier sets, CG models and costumes, would would lower the production costs of a weekly show).
The pilot, which is targeted for ABC's fall 2013 lineup, would be the first Marvel project picked up by the network since the comic company's acquisition by corporate parent Disney in 2009. ABC passed on AKA Jessica Jones, a pilot based on Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, and development of the live-action revival of The Incredible Hulk by Guillermo del Toro and David Eick has been slow moving.