Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
UPDATE 10:30 PM: The official poster for Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.l.E.L.D. has just been revealed.
PREVIOUS 7 PM: There are no stats available on whether heavy secrecy, heavy branding or heavy hype has any correlations with TV quality. But all have raised anticipation for ABC’s new superhero drama with the unwieldy title, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.l.E.L.D. AT TCA, TV journalists were not given the usual screeners or previews of Marvel’s first TV series (from Joss Whedon and the creative team of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, with additional EP’s Jeph Loeb and Jeffrey Bell, all on today’s panel). Instead, reporters were only allowed to watch the pilot on big screens during lunch hour before the late afternoon panel. And earlier at ABC’s TCA day, entertainment president Paul Lee had joked that secrecy surrounding the show is such that TV writers could expect to be asked to submit “a sample of your grandmother’s urine or the Marvel guys won’t let you in.”
On the panel, producers and cast insisted the secrecy is not a promotional gimmick but necessary. Loeb said that the show’s first day of shooting took place on a military base, with both military security and Marvel security personnel. Still, the producer said someone snapped a picture of a vehicle on the road on its way to the set and the shot went viral. He complained about the 24-7 news cycle. “What we are trying to do with this show is bring back some of the urgency of television,” Loeb said. The idea, he added, is to get back to a place where people watch the show in real time before every element has been “shared and re-shared and spoiled and revealed and un-revealed”…
Whedon was asked to reveal what kind of notes the producing team is getting from ABC. “We’ve gotten trust, which is different than freedom,” said Joss, who is also at work on the Marvel movie The Avengers: Age of Ultron. “They are making sure it’s what they want for their company and their network, but they are supportive of our vision. We are all really trying to make the same show. We are on the same page, which occasionally has not happened to me.”
Later in the panel, Whedon added: “Honestly their biggest note after we presented the thing was, they wanted to make sure our investment in the characters and their interaction was as big as the case of the week. Which is how I’ve done all of my shows. I was told NOT to learn a new skill.”
There were a lot of questions about cross-pollination between Marvel movies — notably the upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, and Avengers 2 — and Marvel’s new foray into TV. Whedon said: “There will be as much as we can allow. It’s a fluid process.” However, he added that “I don’t want this to be an Easter egg farm” and said the TV show “has to work for an audience that hasn’t seen the movies before.”
Said Loeb: “Marvel is one universe,” including games, TV, or other franchises. “What’s important is character.”
The producers were asked whether one character in the pilot, portrayed by J. August Richards, would return to the series. Said Joss Whedon: “I cannot confirm or deny … but I thought he was great too. So do the math.”