Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Has to Prove Crossover Appeal, Admits Loeb

Agents Of SHIELD

In an interview with The New York Times, Marvel TV chief Jeph Loeb acknowledged that, even with a ton of hype and high expectations, creating a long-term success in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may be an uphill battle--one that requires them to create crossover appeal between typical Marvel fans and the audience who already has ABC programmed into their DVR.

“To succeed, we’ve got to tell stories that appeal not just to what we affectionately refer to as the 'Marvel zombies,' but to a broader audience affectionately referred to at ABC as the Scandal women,” the producer explained, referring to ABC's hit primetime soap.

Part of that equation, he explained, is casting. Both Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen are in the neighborhood of fifty (he's 51 and she's 49), which the Times explains brings them much closer to the average primetime viewer (53.4 years old) than it does to what coveted 18-35 demographic--but it's that demographic that will theoretically tune in for the Marvel brand. They're hoping that making the characters relatable to members of the audience who would be harder-pressed to look for an Avengers sequel, they can capture some of the attention of viewers who primarily remember Gregg from his time on The New Adventures of Old Christine and Wen from ER.

MING-NA WEN“We were not afraid to hire an actress who is a little older than people might expect,” Loeb said, referring to Wen. “We wanted to say something with this role: Age doesn’t matter if you’re great at what you do.”

The network also wants to make sure that the show stays character- and relationship-focused--something that most of its primetime dramas do. ABC, after all, is the network on which you're least likely to find a by-the-numbers police procedural. Even their cop shows tend to be a little soapy (see: Castle). The Times also suggests that romantic subplots will pepper the show, opening up its appeal to a more traditional ABC audience.

“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,” Joss Whedon explained in the article.

“Our long-running shows all boast complicated characters who are engaged in dynamic and rich relationships — both romantic and platonic — and S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to do the same thing,” said Channing Dungey, ABC’s executive vice president for drama development.

So, the story says, "there is a simmering chemistry between Skye and [Agent Ward], and the pilot episode suggests that Coulson and Melinda May have a past."

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. debuts on September 24.