Marvel Television is Marvel Studios' less successful sibling, like Randy Quaid or those other Hemsworths whose names no one's completely sure of. (Reginald? Chauncey?) There's always been a sense that Marvel's movie branch is kinda embarrassed of the TV one -- Daredevil can reference the time a giant green guy in stretchy pants flipped over some cars in Harlem, but the Avengers never mention the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. saving the world from cheap-looking blue aliens. And now, Marvel Television is officially getting killed off and replaced by a bunch of Marvel Studios shows where the entire selling point is "Hey, look, characters you've actually heard of! These ones do matter!"
How did such a slam dunk of an idea (make TV shows set in the same universe as some of the most successful movies ever made) go off the rails? Basically: thanks to some petty drama among the rich bastards in charge of your favorite superheroes.
You've probably heard of Kevin Feige, the apex nerd who oversaw Marvel's revolutionary approach to making superhero films, which can be summed up as "How about we actually read the stuff we're adapting?" Well, until 2015, Feige reported to Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, the reclusive Trump-loving billionaire who helped rescue Marvel from bankruptcy in the '90s. Reportedly, Feige and Perlmutter disagreed on little things like, uh, whether women and black people deserve to headline superhero movies. And that's a pretty weighty "reportedly," since it comes from the guy running Disney, Bob Iger:
Mark Ruffalo says that Feige considered quitting the Marvel gravy train due to Perlmutter's insistence that no one would see a movie starring a female superhero, presumably due to fear of catching super-cooties. But, by 2015, Feige had filled enough Scrooge McDuck money bins for Disney to get his voice heard, and so they granted his wish: no more dealing with Perlmutter. From that point on, Feige and Marvel Studios reportedly directly to Mickey Mouse while Perlmutter remained in charge of the TV shows (and comics, which Disney probably forgot existed).
That's when the Feige Gang and the Perlmutter's rivalry began seeping into the shows themselves. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s first two seasons had cameos from MCU actors like Cobie Smulders, Jaimie Alexander, and even Samuel L. Jackson, plus direct connections to movies like Captain America: Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World. And then ... nothing. They couldn't even score a cameo from the guy who plays Galaga in The Avengers at this point. Or, worse, Jeremy Renner.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn't acknowledge the fact that half of all life in the universe was snapped away at the end of Avengers: Infinity War because the writers themselves had no idea it would happen. At first, scripts were thoroughly vetted by Marvel Studios, but by the final seasons, it sure sounds like no one gave a shit:
Obviously, this has caused frustration among the actors who signed up for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. thinking they'd be part of the MCU, only to find out they have about as many chances of ending up in a Marvel Studios movie as Aquaman. Meanwhile, when the Marvel/Netflix shows were announced, Iger said that Daredevil and the gang could get their own movies if they were popular enough -- but, by the time they debuted, the Feige/Perlmutter feud had already made that highly improbable. For instance, the actress playing an important character in Luke Cage was also cast as a different one in Captain America: Civil War because there just wasn't any communication between both sides. It's not the first time an actor plays two characters in the MCU, but it's the first time it happens due to pure apathy.
It probably didn't help that Feige's counterpart on the TV side was Jeph Loeb, the (formerly) acclaimed comic book writer and producer who allegedly cut Daredevil storylines because "nobody cares about Chinese people." Long before that story came out, Loeb had already demonstrated that he wasn't the most racially sensitive guy ever when, amid accusations of cultural appropriation in Iron Fist, he decided to show up at a Comic-Con panel in full Karate Kid cosplay. We can see why Ike "Let's replace Terence Howard with Don Cheadle because all black people look the same" Perlmutter liked him.
For a while, it looked like a big point of connection between the movies and the shows would be the Inhumans (for those unfamiliar, imagine the X-Men but with even sillier hairdos and 200% more boring). But then, just as Perlmutter had successfully crammed the Inhumans into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the comics in anticipation of their announced MCU movie, Feige pulled the plug on that film. Inhumans ended up surfacing as an inhumanly crappy ABC show that was quickly cancelled and even more quickly forgotten.
When Netflix cancelled its Marvel shows last year, Loeb promised that Marvel Television would rise from the dead like Phoenix (or 90% of Marvel characters, really) through a series of terror-themed live action shows and four interconnected adult cartoons, including one called Hit-Monkey about a monkey who is a hitman. That did not happen. All those shows have since been cancelled except for Helstrom, which had the Marvel logo unceremoniously removed from its title screen. At least this opens up Hit-Monkey for a movie (and possible membership in the Avengers).
The final nail in Marvel Television's coffin came when Disney put Feige in charge of all of Marvel, sidelining Perlmutter and ditching Loeb. Presumably, this means that any new shows coming out of Marvel in the future (for streaming or old people TV) will have a much more significant connection to the movies than previous ones, unless Feige starts a feud with himself or something. Anyway, if DC is in the market for a curmudgeon to tell them to make their movies less diverse, we know one who's suddenly become available.
Top Image: Marvel Television