May 13, 2014

Tradecraft: ABC Picks Up Marvel's Cold War Spy Series Agent Carter, Renews Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (UPDATED)

I'm afraid I fell behind on last week's flurry of network pickups. I was working all weekend, and now I'm catching up. But NBC isn't the only network to greenlight new spy series. According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC not only renewed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but also picked up another Marvel espionage series, Agent Carter starring Hayley Atwell. Set in the early days of the Cold War in 1946, Agent Carter follows Atwell's Peggy Carter, Captain America's unrequited love interest from Captain America: The First Avenger as she works for the covert agency SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), the Marvel Cinematic Universe's equivalent of the OSS and predecessor to S.H.I.E.L.D. Presumably over the course of the series, we'll witness the birth of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well, since it was revealed during Atwell's old-age makeup cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that she was one of the founders of the organization (in its MCU incarnation, anyway). Ensuring tight continuity with the Marvel movies, Captain America and Winter Soldier screenwriters Stephen McFeeley and Christopher Marcus wrote the first episode and will executive produce the series along with Marvel's Jeph Loeb (author of such classic comics as Batman: The Long Halloween and Spider-man: Blue). Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, creators of the short-lived but highly entertaining Reaper, serve as executive producers and showrunners. (Another promising sign!)

If you've seen the Marvel One-Shot short Agent Carter (available on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray and DVD), then you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the show, which was ordered straight to series without a pilot... and the short is really pretty great! While the official synopsis says that "Peggy must balance doing administrative work and going on secret missions for Howard Stark all while trying to navigate life as a single woman in America, in the wake of losing the love of her life -- Steve Rogers," I've seen nothing so far to indicate whether or not Dominic Cooper (Fleming) will reprise his Howard Stark role from the movies and the short. What the trade does offer is that "sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Agent Carter will be a short-order series and likely used as a 'bridge show' to air during the second season hiatus of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with both series ultimately being tied-in together."

After a promising start, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. disappointed me for most of its first season, but finally started to live up to its potential following the closely tied in events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. (I was delighted when we finally got an action scene with Coulson's flying Corvette, but it still wasn't the full-blown chase scene I so desperately crave...) I look forward to seeing it come into its own in Season 2. But even more, I look forward to seeing the irrepressible Hayley Atwell in a period spy series! While what I'd love to see most would be a S.H.I.E.L.D. series set in the Sixties (the Golden Age of Steranko's Nick Fury comic book), I'll settle pretty happily for the combination of one set now and (even better) one set in the late Forties! Atwell was excellent in a similar role in another 1940s-set spy miniseries, Restless (based on a novel by recent James Bond author William Boyd), playing a British agent operating in the United States on the eve of America's involvement in WWII.

UPDATE: Hayley Atwell confirmed that the Agent Carter series order is for eight episodes, which will bridge the two halves of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season.

Read my S.H.I.E.L.D. primer here.

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