Perhaps Hulu’s recent cancellation of ‘Ghost Rider’ is a sign of a larger issue. Buzz is building that Marvel TV may be kaput as Marvel Studios is moving into the TV game with a series of live-action shows coming to Disney+. Those shows will feature characters and actors from Marvel’s films and much larger budgets than what is currently offered by Marvel TV.
One TV lit agent told Variety:
“Feige’s shows are so far beyond anything Marvel TV has been able to do. He has access to all of these MCU characters that the other Marvel live-action stuff just doesn’t, not to mention way bigger budgets.”
Marvel TV, overseen by Jeph Loeb, is a division of Marvel Entertainment, headed up by Isaac Perlmutter. Marvel Studios, and its president Kevin Feige, report directly to Disney, specifically to Alan Horn and Alan Bergman. Money was one of the major reasons why Feige butted heads with Perlmutter and he threatened to quit outright before Disney agreed to break Marvel Studios off from Marvel Entertainment and set it up as its own entity.
For Disney+, Marvel Studios is set to deliver ‘WandaVision’ starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, ‘Loki’ with Tom Hiddleston, and ‘Hawkeye’ starring Jeremy Renner. On top of that, in August, Marvel announced a trio of shows with brand new characters, ‘Ms. Marvel’, ‘Moon Knight’, and ‘She-Hulk’. Disney+ will also offer ‘What If…?’, an animated series based directly on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with most characters’ voices being provided by the actors that play them in live-action.
Each of the live-action shows will consist of six to eight episodes and will have budgets on par with the movies, in the $100-$150 million range. In contrast, the five Marvel TV shows on Netflix– ‘Daredevil’, ‘Jessica Jones’, ‘Luke Cage’, ‘Iron Fist’ and ‘Defenders’— had a budget of $200 million total, which– averaged out over 13 episodes per season, eight for ‘Defenders’– comes to roughly $3.8M per episode.
Another possible red flag is that there really aren’t many Marvel TV shows left. Hulu’s ‘Runaways’ returns for its third season in December. Freeform’s ‘Cloak & Dagger’s second season aired this spring and it hasn’t been renewed for a third. ABC’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ is heading into its seventh and final season in 2020. Hulu also has ‘Helstrom’ in the works. That project was announced at the same time as ‘Ghost Rider’, and still appears to be in development, despite ‘Ghost Rider’s cancellation.
Once the Disney+ buzz started building, Netflix canceled its Marvel shows– the ones listed above, plus ‘The Punisher’. ABC tried a couple of times to create spin-offs from ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, but none ever materialized. ‘Agent Carter’ only lasted two seasons, as did FOX’s ‘The Gifted’. FX’s ‘Legion’ ended after three, but that was all creator Noah Hawley had envisioned from the start. (Yes, those are ‘X-Men’ shows and weren’t at all connected to the MCU, but they still originated at Marvel TV.)
Freeform ordered ‘New Warriors’ straight-to-series, but ended up backing out after the pilot was filmed. Though it was shopped around, no one picked it up. An animated ‘Deadpool’ series for adults was in development for FX, from creators Donald and Stephen Glover, but that was scrapped in the development stage. ‘Inhumans’… boy, where to even begin? That was a catastrophe from the start.
‘Inhumans’ is an important part of the Marvel Entertainment/Marvel Studios split. Perlmutter did not want to produce movies based on ‘Black Panther’ or ‘Captain Marvel’, and would only agree to finance them if Feige agreed to make an ‘Inhumans’ movie. Feige relented at first, but once Disney set him and Marvel Studios free from Perlmutter, those plans went out the window. Instead, Loeb turned the concept into a TV show, with a theatrical IMAX tie-in, but audiences and critics loathed it, and after one poorly-rated season, it was gone for good.
Marvel TV is delivering four new animated shows for adults, ‘Hit-Monkey’, ‘Howard the Duck’, ‘M.O.D.O.K.’, and ‘Tigra & Dazzler’. Those shows will lead into a crossover series ‘The Offenders’, a swipe at ‘The Defenders’. With its slate of live-action series down to almost nothing, some insiders believe that Marvel TV will focus mainly on animated series for the time being, leaving the live-action stuff to Marvel Studios. However, Loeb has gone on the record saying that Marvel TV is also working on shows for Disney+. (I’ll believe that when I see it. I can’t imagine Feig letting Loeb and Perlmutter play in his big shiny new sandbox.)