ABC Updates Status Of John Ridley’s Marvel Project And Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

by Erik Amaya


The future of John Ridley’s ABC Marvel project is in doubt as the network president offers an non-committal update.
Announced two years ago, 12 Years a Slave screenwriter and American Crime producer John Ridley’s Marvel project was one of the more exciting happenings in Marvel’s television space. Now, after the company moved into high gear with shows like Cloak & Dagger, Runaways and New Warriors — to say nothing of the Marvel Knights-infused Netflix series — Ridley’s project seems to have fallen by the wayside.
In fact, ABC president Channing Dungey told reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour that she was “unsure” if the project was moving forward. According to The Tracking Board, she added, “That’s a question for Marvel.”
As of the TCA winter press tour in January, Ridley was working on a rewrite of the pilot script. “I can’t say anything didn’t work the first time around,” Ridley said at the time. “For myself and certainly for the folks at Marvel, there’s been an explosion of storytelling of costumed heroes and comic book things and for us, we want to make sure we’re doing something that’s in a very unique space.” Previously, the writer seemed interested in bringing social consciousness into the project, using Jessica Jones‘ themes of survival as an example.
In April, he told Variety he still wanted to do the project but, “[Marvel’s] got a release schedule that far exceeds my life expectancy.”
Some suggested the quick-to-series development of Inhumans may have taken away some of the energy and interest in the Ridley project, but Ridley himself has never commented on the matter.
But it continues to suggest a haphazard relationship between Marvel and ABC. Unlike the CW and its Arrowverse, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. never spawned a truly successful spin-off. Though many — including me — loved Marvel’s Agent Carter, it never brought in the ratings ABC expected. The two companies also started and stopped development of the Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood starring Marvel’s Most Wanted twice in as many years; culminating in a pilot the network chose to pass on in the end. And even though Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s move to 10pm last year aided it creatively, many saw it as the beginning of the end.  The move to Friday for its fifth year also has an ominous connotation to it.
Come to think of it, the early word on Inhumans suggests another short-lived Marvel/ABC collaboration.
To the outside observer, it may seem that Marvel product is an ill-fit for the network. At the same time, Dungey referred to S.H.I.E.L.D. as a “stable performer” with significant growth in the DVR space. According to TVLine, she added, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has continued to grow creatively every season … And I’m very excited for what we have planned for Season 5.”
Will the Merry Marvel heroes defeat the strange forces of network ratings, advertisers and corporate whims? It may be their greatest fight ever.

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