ABC greenlights pilot for Avengers spin-off show

Nick Fury - The Avengers

Can’t get enough of The Avengers? Don’t like the idea of sullying your anachronistic jock cred by reading comic books? Fortunately for you, ABC has just signed a deal with Marvel Studios to create a TV series based on the exploits of Nick Fury and the international peacekeeping force he operates. Appropriately, the show has been dubbed “S.H.I.E.L.D.” (henceforth “SHIELD” because that punctuation is annoying).

Don’t get too excited just yet, we haven’t even mentioned the best part: Joss Whedon, writer/director of The Avengers and general purpose geek demigod, has agreed to write and possibly direct the pilot.

Deadline reports:

ABC has ordered a pilot for S.H.I.E.L.D, a live-action series from The Avengers writer-directorJoss Whedon, Marvel TV and ABC Studios. The project is based on Marvel’s peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D (which stands for Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate or Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) found in both the Marvel comic book and feature film universes, including the blockbuster 2012 movie The Avengers, in which S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury, recruits Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and Thor to stop Thor’s adoptive brother Loki from subjugating Earth.

S.H.I.E.L.D. will be written by Whedon and frequent collaborators, his brother Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Joss Whedon also is set to direct the pilot, schedule permitting. Production on the pilot, which marks the first live-action Marvel TV project to get a green light, will start immediately. Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Tancharoen executive produce with Jeffrey Bell and Marvel TV’s Jeph Loeb.

Deadline’s report then goes on to mention that Disney recently signed an exclusive television and film deal with Whedon, a seemingly smart move in the wake of the billion-and-a-half dollars that Whedon’s Avengers movie pulled in at the box office.

While this is great news for fans of Marvel’s characters, it should be stressed that this show is unlikely to match the bombast and slick style of Whedon’s Avengers film. We doubt ABC wants to drop tens of millions of dollars on each episode just to match the movie’s CGI, and this focus on Nick Fury indicates that the show will be more “down to earth” than its theatrical source material. That said, we find it hard to believe that the show won’t have occasional cameos from Thor and Captain America, if for no other reason than it would be a huge ratings boon. Plus, with ABC and Marvel both owned by Disney it should be simple to have such appearances approved by whoever approves such things.

Though we’re collectively excited by this project, we have one major concern: the cast. We have to assume that ABC doesn’t have the money to hire Samuel L. Jackson to portray the lead spy in their show, and given Jackson’s willingness to appear in all kinds of terrible projects he seems like the most likely “get” for this show. If we had to guess we’d expect ABC to announce a cast of lookalike actors, possibly mostly unknowns, who will attempt to ape the characterization seen in the past decade of Marvel Studios movies. Normally we’d see that as a death knell for this project even before it gets off the ground, but Whedon has done this kind of thing before. His Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV show featured none of the actors from the film on which it was based and it went on to be a cult success (for the purposes of this argument we’re going to ignore the half-dozen rapidly-canceled TV shows in Whedon’s wake).

Sadly, that’s only the first major hurdle this show has to jump. Will SHIELD interact with the Marvel comic book series of the same name? Will it serve to set up future Marvel Studios films? Will Agent Coulson ever return to the helicarrier? With no estimated release date yet available for SHIELD, we may be waiting a while for answers.