Sometimes you have to wait decades to learn the why movie studios or networks made a boneheaded choice. In the case of Agent Carter, we know some of the details just a short 18 months later.
Thanks to IGN, Agent Carter star Hayley Atwell offered a new insight into the baffling choice to shut down the Marvel show and import the actress to another series on ABC. As she puts it, it was “a network political thing.”
“They wanted to put me in something mainstream [Conviction] to get their ratings up rather than something that was more genre specific,” she continued. “There were a lot of economic decisions behind it and I wasn’t a part of the conversation.”
Conviction, the short-lived ABC series not to be confused with the short-lived NBC series of the same name saw Atwell cast as Carter Morrison, the ne’er-do-well daughter of a former president tasked with running New York’s Conviction Integrity Unit; a department in the district attorney’s office dedicated to proving convictions were properly obtained. It may come as a surprise that NBC’s Conviction did not use a similar premise, but was instead about junior assistant district attorneys in the Law & Order universe.
Once the network realized Atwell would be playing another character named Carter, they changed the name to Hayes Morrison. They also released a first look trailer that went quite a ways in proving the series lacked a certain inspiration. It also spoiled the first episode entirely. Often that’s the nature of first look trailers prepared for advertisers, but in the YouTube era, it produced a tepid response. The series limped along through the 2016-2017 broadcast season and was cancelled in May.
NBC’s Conviction managed to also air its single 13-episode order in its entirety.
What I find interesting here is Atwell’s assertion that the network thought moving her to a generic legal drama would produce a ratings win. I mean, I get wanting to be in the Hayley Atwell business. I don’t think Peggy Carter would be as beloved a character if not for her performance. But to plop her into a show which robbed her of her well-established accent and a certain part of her persona seems backwards. As I recall, the ratings on Agent Carter were never the best, but it did have a following the network could have nurtured. I guess these tepid legal dramas look better on paper than genre shows.
Then again, networks are strange beasts that think Law & Order spinoffs shouldn’t use the Law & Order brand.
For Atwell’s part, she hopes Peggy will make a comeback in another series or film. As Captain America: Civil War established, Peggy lived to the ripe old age of 96 and as she put it, “I could be employed for the rest of my life, you know.”