The popularity and creative quality of television is at an all-time high thanks to shows like Mad Men and the recently completed Breaking Bad. The success of these series allows for many more risks to be taken on the small screen because networks have more faith in the medium than they ever have before. As of this past Tuesday, we’re two episodes into one of these risky ventures, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This is a show that might never have seen daylight in a less prolific era of TV, but with fans now flocking to their sofas in record numbers, Disney and ABC were able to capitalize on one of the most successful movies of all time in an unprecedented way. And I have a feeling this is only the beginning of a brand new era of multimedia storytelling.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. provides a different lens through which we can view the cinematic universe established in The Avengers, where superheroes, aliens, and gods have made themselves known to the world at large. It gives us another angle on the aftermath of the climactic battle in New York, building on what we saw on the big screen. Not only that, but it also has the potential to serve as a bridge between the events of The Avengers and Marvel’s next phase of movies. In just these first two episodes, there have already been more than a handful of references to characters and events from Marvel’s film slate – it stands to reason that if/when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes more established that it will work in concert with the movies to further storylines and set up future events that could occur across platforms.
This is an exciting prospect, and it’s not the first time something like this has been attempted (though it’s among the first, if not the first, to succeed). Ron Howard has recently been involved with a project adapting Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” novels into a series of films to be released every couple of years, with a TV series running concurrently with the same cast that would fill in the details of the story to a greater extent than could be covered in two hours every other year. The complexity of this ambitious project has put it on hold in recent months, but it’s apparently still on Howard’s back-burner, and just the fact that it was/is a possibility shows how much potential there is in a cooperative film/television relationship.
Partnerships between TV networks and movie studios open up so many opportunities. Film adaptations of long, sprawling book series’ could be made that much richer with a companion TV show, and using both media is an ideal way to adapt material that is by nature serialized (e.g. comic books). This approach is obviously a financial risk, as the money is in the movie theater and an in-between TV series would likely mean not enough story left to tell for more than a few films, but the advance of television could make studios more willing to take a creative gamble in order to sell more tickets to fewer movies. Regardless, this kind of cross-media collaboration could mean only good things for fans, and that’s something to be excited about.