Marvel Studios has pushed into the bold new frontier of bringing its Marvel Cinematic Universe to the TV screen, via Disney+. So far, the MCU series (WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) have been very successful in generating hype and mainstream attention from viewers – and that popularity looks like it will only grow with upcoming series like Loki, Hawkeye, and Ms. Marvel. However, as Marvel Studios conquers TV in addition to movie theaters, some in the industry are growing concerned that Marvel’s approach to television could be detrimental and eventually (as one person put it), “It’ll bit them in the ass.”
A new feature from Variety titled “Marvel Studios’ Disney Plus Shows Don’t Use Showrunners, and That Has Some TV Writers Worried” looks deeper into how the Marvel Disney+ shows are transforming the culture of the television industry. Marvel relies on its creative executives (such as Kevin Feige) or appointed directors to call shots on the production of these Disney+ series, which has upset the traditional role of a “showrunner,” according to some insiders. As one “writer of elevated genre TV” stated anonymously:
“At some point, it’ll bite them in the ass when it comes to recruiting top-shelf writer talent. If you’re a midlevel writer getting a giant bump to ‘run’ a Marvel show, of course you’re going to do it. But if you’re an experienced showrunner with multiple shows under your belt, are you gonna work under those conditions? Probably not.”
While this may be an upsetting changed for longtime TV veterans, it is actually a strategy that Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige have come to rely on for success – after much trial and error. During the first Phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers), Marvel Studios relied on big-name directorial talent like Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branaugh, Joe Johnston, and Joss Whedon (respectively) – and it was problematic, to say the least. Established directors came with their own visions and procedures for making the films, leading to reports of behind-the-scenes clashes with Marvel execs, which led to a lot of those directors walking away after making their initial films.
By Phases Two and Three of the MCU, Feige and co. learned to tap into “midlevel” talent waiting for a breakout opportunity: such as Ant-Man director Peyton Reed, Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Jon Watts, Black Panther‘s Ryan Coogler, Guardians of the Galaxy‘s James Gunn, or (most notably) TV directors The Russo Brothers, who are now two of the most notable filmmakers in the world. Marvel’s strategy is clear: up-and-coming talent is more pliable about creative collaboration and taking notes, while still retaining their respective unique filmmaking signatures and talents. Now, this Marvel production process is simply moving over TV. And it’s looking like the ‘Marvel Way’ will gradually dominate and transform that industry, just like it did the movies.
You can watch Marvel’s MCU TV series on Disney+.