Marvel Overhauling their TV Productions, Starting with Daredevil

How the mightiest have fallen. A new article by The Hollywood Reporter details the troubles Marvel has faced in the past few years, specifically in developing their Disney+ shows. None of the series began with a pilot but simply dove into production, with seasons costing up to $150 million. These series also didn’t have showrunners; a studio executive was in charge rather than a creative. And with the haphazard way they were filmed and produced, extensive post-productions and re-shoots were used to craft them into whatever you want to call the monstrosities that were the finished products. For example, Jessica Gao, the head writer and creator of She-Hulk, was not in charge of the show, as everyone reasonably assumed; she was, according to THR, “sidelined” in favor of director Kat Coiro, but resumed control in post-production. Kyle Bradstreet, the original creator and writer of Secret Invasion, was fired after a year of writing scripts for the show, replaced by writer Brian Tucker and directors Thomas Bezucha and Ali Selim.

This chaos is at its zenith with Daredevil: Born Again, which has fired its two head writers, Chris Ord and Matt Corman, and its directors, and is searching for replacements; Marvel plans to rework the series, keeping only “some scenes and episodes” that have already been filmed. Ord and Corman will remain executive producers, which means they’ll probably get some contractually obligated credit (and money) but won’t be involved creatively. THR’s sources tell them that the pair developed Born Again as “a legal procedural “ with little to no superhero action that barely resembled Netflix’s Daredevil. The problem is that Marvel greenlit Ord and Corman’s vision for the show, so their surprise at the results is a bit puzzling – if it’s true. It sounds more like, after a string of failures for a streaming service on its last legs, Marvel realized this was a bad idea and decided to start from scratch, with the two guys who were only doing what they were hired to do taking the blame. This is supposed to be the first step in a course correction for Marvel, with subsequent projects running like actual TV shows run.

To me, Marvel’s television woes look like more evidence that they got way too big for their britches. Just like the movies, they thought they could do no wrong and threw the rule book out the window, Tony Stark-style. The problem is, much like the nerd trying to recreate the arc reactor, they’re not Tony Stark. The rules they decided they didn’t need are good ones; you need a creative to steward a TV show, and you need everyone to know who’s in charge, and you need to test it with a pilot to see if it’s working, and you need to get it right during production, not rely on post-production to fix fundamental problems. (Gee, I wonder if this is part of why the special effects artists are so overworked and spread thin, with the finished product looking like refrigerated gelatin.) Some of these revelations make a lot of sense, too; for example, part of why I was so excited about Secret Invasion was because Kyle Bradstreet came from Berlin Station, which I’ve never seen but is regarded as an excellent cloak-and-dagger spy series. Marvel scrapping him in favor of people who’ve never played in that world fits the finished show, and I’ll bet the spy elements that worked early on came from Bradstreet. Initially, I wanted to reappraise Jessica Gao, but then I remembered that she bragged about not understanding how to write courtroom scenes and turning Marvel fans into the villains of She-Hulk.

I don’t have much faith in Marvel fixing this. They’re control freaks (unless it’s someone who actually needs to be reined in, like Taika Waititi), and any showrunner they hire is going to end up like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now after about a month of dealing with them. I am glad that a course correction is in the cards for Daredevil: Born Again, but since we don’t know what that entails beyond more superhero stuff (not that that’s a bad thing), we could still end up with that goofy comedy Charlie Cox said was coming. Since they appear to want to make it more like its Netflix progenitor, it would be great if they incorporated some of the missing elements from that show, like Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page and Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson. But I don’t see them doing that. I can’t imagine how much money they’re going to spend on this thing now that re-shoots and a massive reworking of the show are on deck; they need Born Again to be a hit even more than they already did. If they were smart (and, well…), they would take Gary’s advice:

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