There's a conventional wisdom that when a major show in which a network has a lot of money invested turns out to be a bit of a letdown, it's probably going to get a second season anyway. The downside to that second season is that there will be the dreaded "creative reboot" attached, a high-profile retooling of the series meant to show both lovers and haters that the network means business, that they're aware of the problems they've had along the way and are serious about improving it. Ever since its second episode, there have been a lot of people speculating that Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will face just this situation in the fall of 2014. Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, the husband-wife team of showrunners who took the reins from Whedon's brother (and Avengers director) Joss, have been the subject of a lot of scrutiny this season, and if the second half of the show's first season doesn't get better--both in terms of reviews and in terms of ratings--nobody seriously expects that it won't get a second season...but along the way, most also assume the showrunners may be either replaced or at a minimum, have a very serious series of conversations with both Marvel Studios and ABC. If Whedon and Tancharoen were to leave or be pushed out as part of a show overhaul, who would be our picks to take over from them? We've put a little thought into it...
Joss Whedon At the end of the day, this is what the fanboys expected--and probably part of why they're disappointed. Joss Whedon's involvement is a bit like the involvement of Marvel superheroes--especially The Avengers. No matter how many times Marvel said "This isn't going to be a Joss Whedon show; Jed and Maurissa have their own voice and their own style and they're going to be running the series," all many fans heard was "Whedon," and that helped set the expectations. It's also helped the show as it flailed to find a voice in the first half of the season: as often as not, complaints that the show still hadn't figured out what it wanted to be were met with the explanation that "Well, besides Firefly, no Joss Whedon show has ever been as good in its first season as it turned out to be later." Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the most obvious example, but it seems that after Firefly most fans believe it started to become exaggerated, as Whedon played things too safe, and churned out shows that weren't up to his own standard of quality, in the hopes of building something that could outlast Firefly, which many fans think just burned too bright, too fast, for network TV. In any event, the easiest way to lend the show some star power and credibility without having to make very much in the way of behind-the-scenes changes would be to announce that his overall responsibilities at Marvel Studios have been reduced and his job is pretty much taking care of Avengers: Age of Ultron and taking on an increased role at Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Is it likely? Probably not--he'll be deep into Avengers 2 by then, and it doesn't seem likely that they'll want to heap anything else on top of him. That said, he's hinted that he's not interested in remaining the "Marvel Architect" past Avengers 2, and so while it's likely he'll direct Avengers 3, Whedon might be willing to take on a more active role in the TV universe if it were to mean he could focus more on his own projects rather than overseeing other people's scripts and having his hands in every pie. Who knows?
Jeph Loeb Marvel's head of television, who served as an executive producer on Lost and Heroes, knows all about firefighting on a show that's struggling despite its own potential. Here's the thing: while it seems on the face of it to make sense--he's a fanboy-favorite, a lover of the Marvel Universe and he's the head of their TV division, so why wouldn't you want him showrunning the live-action jewel in Marvel's TV crown? Well, because he's also responsible for overseeing the animation on Disney XD and the development of not one but five new series launching through Marvel and Netflix starting in 2015. Would giving him full-time showrunning duties just to strengthen a single show really benefit Marvel Television overall? I can't say no, but I'd have to know a lot more than I do about the workings of Marvel TV to say yes. Loeb, too, has done nothing but stand behind Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Whether this makes him a poor choice to take over (since he's obviously happy with the current showrunners and would be loathe to make serious changes unless forced) or an ideal one (because he's uniquely situated to see what the show is doing right and move forward with a minimum of unnecessary tinkering) is hard to say.
Joe and Anthony Russo If I had complete creative control over the Marvel TV universe? These guys would be my pick. Heck, they probably would have been my pick to take over at midseason if they weren't deep in post-production on a project Marvel is pretty interested in seeing succeed. The directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier have experience with both S.H.I.E.L.D.--as the organization plays a major role in the upcoming sequel--and with television. Before joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they were best known for their work on series like Arrested Development and Community. Everything they've ever touched has been full of character, humor and a strong visual style--all things that seem like they've been carried over to Captain America 2 and all things that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has in spades--and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could use some tweaking on.