The fall TV season will fast be upon us, and superhero geeks will likely be turning their attention to ABC’s new series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The expectations will be high, but I also assume there will be more patience with the show as it has to go through the standard motions of introducing the characters, the world, and trying to draw in an audience beyond genre fans. This is network television, and being niche isn’t good enough. That means an emphasis on case-of-the-week storytelling with little bits of character arcs and perhaps a larger story sprinkled throughout.
Hit the jump for what executive producer and pilot director Joss Whedon had to say about the show at the recent Television Critics Association press tour, and also see a poster featuring the eponymous Agents standing in front of a giant door. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres Tuesday, September 24th at 8pm on ABC.
Speaking at the TCA Press Tour, Whedon told the audience [via Vulture] that cases will vary beyond a bad guy of the week:
“Every week, it’s not going to be some new hero,” he explained. “There could be a device. There could be a mystery. There are so many aspects to what’s happened since everybody in the world found out that there is a superhero team, and there were aliens that invaded New York, and we want to be able to change it up every week. We want to be able to deal with every aspect: the spy stuff, the hero stuff, the heartfelt stuff. We want to make sure that … every week, you get something that feels a little bit different so it’s not just, you know, turkey every day.”
So even if it’s going to have to be case-of-the-week, the cases will have some variation rather than going through the motions of stopping one super-powered individual every Tuesday. Speaking of which, the show’s first super-powered character, played by J. August Richards (Angel), probably won’t be one-and-done. “I can neither confirm nor deny whether he’s coming back, but I thought he was great,” Whedon said. “So do that math.”
As for how S.H.I.E.L.D. will compare with Whedon’s other shows, it won’t, and it’s a bit misleading to call it one of his shows. Although he’ll be overseeing it in a broad sense, the day-to-day will belong to Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. But Whedon still interacted with both Marvel and ABC, and compared it to his past experiences on network TV:
“ABC and Marvel have been very active in making sure the show is what they want for their company and their network and their audiences and, at the same time, very supportive of the vision that we first laid out to them,” Whedon said. “The most important thing is that we all sort of are trying to make the same show. It’s not really about, ‘Oh, we’re past them, and we don’t want have to deal with them.’ We’re all on the same page, which has occasionally not happened to me.” Whedon also said that Marvel and ABC’s main concern about the pilot actually mirrored his own. “Their biggest note after we presented the thing was, they wanted to make sure that our investment in the characters and their interaction and their evolution was as big as the case of the week,” he said. “They wanted to make sure that people were coming for the recurring story, as well as for the story that would conclude in a single episode — which is how I’ve done all of my shows. So they basically said, ‘Would you please do it that way that you do it?’ And that made me very happy.”
Again, that’s not a drastic change from where network TV is right now. On cable and premium channels, you’ve made a commitment, and dropping in the middle is difficult (try explaining Game of Thrones to someone who sits down for an episode halfway through season three). Mysteries of the week allow neophytes to still enjoy the episode, and the overarching narratives provide a hook rather than a deterrent. Don’t expect much deviation from that format for the time being:
“We are not out to pull stunts,” Whedon said. “Buffy lent itself to a musical [episode] because it was so hyperbolically emotional and so over the top in its mythos.” This doesn’t mean S.H.I.E.L.D. will have a super-serious. tone “There is an element of absurdity in the Marvel universe that’s … satirical and bizarre,” Whedon explained. “And the fact that we’ll be able to tap into that will keep the show from feeling too self-important or dry. We definitely want to push our boundaries and give people new stuff, but we’re not just looking for a cool angle. It’s always going to be built from the characters and their stories.”