Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Tied to Movies, Focused on Character, Whedon & Loeb Reveal

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. poster
Credit: ABC/Marvel Studios

At the annual TV Critics Association press tour look at the next season of TV, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took the stage in a secretive manner. TV critics were only allowed to screen the pilot on site, rather than having it ahead of time, and were told to focus on one thing in particular: bringing “the sense of urgency” back to TV. That’s what Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb said their goal with S.H.I.E.L.D. was, and why the show has been kept so under wraps.

While the show will be clearly connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe established by the popular Marvel Studios films, thanks in no small part to the starring role of Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson, Executive Producer (and writer/director of the pilot) Joss Whedon cautioned that he wants the show to stand on its own.

“We don’t just want to be an “Easter egg” farm,” where the show is just constantly dropping references to the films and the Marvel Comics it is derived from. An emphasis on character was played up by both Whedon and Loeb at the conference, with Whedon saying “we want people to come back because of these people,” and Loeb adding, “Marvel is one universe. What’s important is character.”

As such, the producers hope to keep the show accessible to even those who have never seen a Marvel Studios movie. Jed Whedon, Joss’s brother, executive producer and co-showrunner with wife Maurissa Tancharoen, said that the references they do make to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or other Marvel Comics elements will be treated like “medical jargon” and should be as accessible as doctor’s conversations on shows like House. Tancharoen re-emphasized as well that they won’t “make references for the sake of making references.”

Fans of the films shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking this accessibility means the show’s connection to the films is tenuous, though. All of the Avengers are referenced in some way in the pilot episode, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) appears in the pilot, and elements from the established film universe will seep into the series “as much as we can allow,” said Joss Whedon, calling it “a fun opportunity.”

As for Joss’s direct involvement in the series, he told CraveOnline in an extended TCA interview that he is “reading every script and every story and doing notes and rewrites,” but trusts Jed and Maurissa, who know “exactly how I want the show to feel.” He did tease in the interview that he thinks it’s “a great idea for the show and a perfectly good idea for” the Avengers stars to make guest appearances, but that he won’t “use up favors” he needs for the big-screen sequel.

In a separate executive session at the TCA’s, ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee said the network is excited to further exploit Disney’s relationships with Marvel as well as Lucasfilm, although he stopped short of offering specific details.

"We are loving this relationship [with Marvel]," said Lee. "The relationship with Marvel and with other Disney [intellectual property] across the company is something we are ambitious to build. We have lots of little schemes in mind.”

Lee reportedly added that development with Lucasfilm may take more time considering Disney is gearing up for a full-scale Star Wars big-screen launch of a new trilogy in 2015.

"We have started conversations with them," said Lee. "I'd love to go there. I'm a particular fan of Lucasfilm. It's an amazing world."

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