In what should come as no surprise at all, Jeph Loeb will exit his position as the head of Marvel Television. Marvel TV and movie-makers Marvel Studios have always had a tumultuous coexistence, and now that Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige has been named Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, controlling not just the films, but TV and comics, expect this to be just the first of many changes.
Loeb, who landed the position of Executive Vice President, Head of Television, in 2010, is working on an exit strategy and is expected to announce his departure by Thanksgiving. (Geez, Happy Freakin’ Holidays.) Insiders say that Loeb has been planning his exit prior to the announcement of Feige’s promotion on October 15. While that is meant to imply that Loeb’s exit has nothing to do with Feige’s new position, what it probably really means is that Loeb knew about the big changes coming before the news was made public.
Loeb is expected to leave Disney entirely and seek employment at another company
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Under Feige, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has racked up one billion-dollar hit after another. ‘Avengers: Endgame’ surpassed ‘Avatar’ to become the highest-grossing movie of all time. ‘Black Panther’ became the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. And now, Feige’s Marvel Studios is moving into television via Disney+ with the shows ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’, ‘Loki’, and ‘WandaVision’, all starring the same actors from the films, and all of which act as supplements to the movie universe. Marvel Studios has also announced Disney+ shows introducing new characters, ‘Moon Knight’, ‘Ms. Marvel’, and ‘She-Hulk’.
Under Loeb, the Marvel TV offerings haven’t done nearly as well. ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ premiered to strong ratings in 2013, but overall has hovered in the medium-to-low range and will end in 2020 after seven seasons. An attempt to craft a spin-off, ‘Marvel’s Most Wanted’ failed. ‘Agent Carter’ featuring Hayley Atwell’s movie character, Peggy Carter, was critically acclaimed, but only lasted for two low-rated seasons.
ABC-owned Freeform ordered 30-minute sitcom ‘New Warriors’ straight-to-series, but announced seven months later that it was passing on the show. (Attempts to shop the show to another outlet failed.) Similarly, FX ordered an adult-skewing ‘Deadpool’ animated series from Donald and Stephen Glover, but announced it was also not proceeding due to “creative differences.” (Donald Glover has publically slammed Marvel TV over the decision.)
Freeform did order ‘Cloak & Dagger’, a teen-targeted series that has aired two seasons. The show hasn’t broken out, and a third season has not been announced, but it also hasn’t been officially canceled either. The stars of that show are guest-starring in the upcoming third season of ‘Runaways’, perhaps in hopes of drumming up publicity.
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Loeb masterminded the partnership with Netflix that resulted in the shared-universe of ‘Daredevil’, ‘Jessica Jones’, ‘Luke Cage’, ‘Iron Fist’, and ‘The Defenders’, which were later joined by ‘The Punisher’. ‘Jessica Jones’ in particular was critically acclaimed, and although Netflix doesn’t release its streaming numbers, it appeared that the Marvel shows were quite successful. But with Disney creating a potential competitor to Netflix with Disney+, and coming into ownership of the existing Hulu, Netflix canceled all of its Marvel projects. It should also be pointed out that the Netflix shows were strictly adults-only, with graphic violence, sex, profanity, drug use, and other elements that are not in keeping with Marvel Studios and Disney’s family-friendly image.
It appeared that Marvel TV was hoping to establish a similar shared universe on Hulu, with live-action shows ‘Ghost Rider’ and ‘Helstrom’, both of which were ordered straight-to-series. Since both those shows were based on the supernatural, Marvel TV and Hulu were even planning to incorporate the existing series ‘Runaways’ when it was announced that Elizabeth Hurley was joining the cast as sorceress Morgan Le Fay. But five months later, ‘Ghost Rider’ was scrapped, once again, due to “creative differences.”
Also for Hulu, Loeb set up a series of adult animated shows– ‘Hit-Monkey’, ‘Howard the Duck’, ‘M.O.D.O.K.’, and ‘Tigra & Dazzler’— which would converge in a ‘Defenders’-like special ‘The Offenders’. Those shows look to still be in the works.
Marvel TV’s biggest and most expensive failure was 2017’s ‘Inhumans’, set for ABC. In an attempt to attract fans of the Marvel movies, the show was partially filmed with IMAX cameras and released in IMAX theaters prior to the start of the fall TV season. It was a disaster, earning only $2.6 million worldwide. The show underwent expensive reshoots, with $100,000 being spent just to make Serinda Swan’s CGI wig look better. (Fail.) ABC aired the low-rated first season before canceling it outright.
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The latest gossip is that Marvel Studios is ignoring the ABC series entirely, and casting its own version of the Inhumans characters that will debut on its Disney+ series ‘Ms. Marvel’.
Reportedly, despite the ‘Inhumans’ debacle, ABC is developing another Marvel show to replace ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ after it ends.
It’s no secret that the Marvel TV shows have never come close to the success rate of the Marvel Studios films. Part of that may be because the films have never acknowledged the shows (Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson is still apparently dead in the movies, despite his having headlined seven seasons of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’). When the Disney+ shows were announced, it was with characters and actors from the movies and budgets to match. The prior Marvel shows had to operate with only a tiny fraction of the money.
With Feige running all things Marvel, it’s probably a safe bet that everything moving forward will center around the movies. If ‘Runaways’, ‘Helstrom’, and ‘Cloak & Dagger’ continue– and it’s VERY possible they won’t– expect them to be tailored to fit the movie continuity. The Hulu cartoon shows are still in production, but unless they become break-out hits, it’s quite possible that they will only last one season each.
Stay tuned for more information as it arrives, but I think it’s safe to say this is the end of Marvel TV as we know it.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter