Back in the 2014-15 season, ABC came up with what seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. They had picked up the series Agent Carter which would air while Agents of SHIELD was on hiatus in the same timeslot. Since the shows were related, it would appeal to the same audience and keep them tuning in while AoS was on its typical mid-season break. Agent Carter followed the adventures of Agent Peggy Carter–first introduced in the Captain America movie–working for the SSR (Strategic Science Reserve) in the years following the end of World War II. It surely seemed poised for success before it debuted because it was a spin-off from the popular Avengers movie franchise and it tapped into the AoS audience while also acting as a prequel of sorts to that show. Plus it had a stellar cast with Haley Atwell in the lead role and James D’Arcy as her sidekick along with quite a few more strong players in supporting roles. The first season of the show was a ton of fun with its throwback spy fi approach and it received high marks from fans and critics alike, but for some reason, not many people tuned in to watch it. Agents of SHIELD was already in a ratings slump that year and Agent Carter bowed to even lower numbers when it debuted at mid-season.
But both shows had Disney on their side, though, as apparently the Mouse House wanted to keep the Avengers tie-ins alive and well on the network that they owned, and they received renewals for the 2015-16 season. But when Agent Carter returned in January 2016, the same day ratings were even lower (yes, the broadcast networks do continue to look closely at those numbers), and its fate was definitely in question. It was still well received by fans and critics, but just not enough people were tuning in, and the network decided to pull the plug. Haley Atwell later claimed that ABC cancelled the show because they wanted to move her to the more conventional procedural series Conviction (which was cancelled as well):
It’s a shame the network canceled it and wanted to put me in something more mainstream. You know, Marvel didn’t want it to end. There’s lots of online campaigns to bring her back. Fans loved her. I think it was just a network economical thing: ‘Let’s put Hayley Atwell in something more mainstream that’s less genre-specific and see if we can get higher ratings.’
A fan campaign tried to lobby Netflix to pick up the show for a third season, and their petition eventually amassed over 130K signatures. And Haley Atwell had said at that time she would be willing to do “whatever it takes” to make a third season happen. There were also rumors that Peggy Carter could cross-over to AoS in its fourth season, but neither that nor the hoped for third season ever emerged.
Then, this past May after ABC had cancelled the Roseanne reboot following to a controversial tweet sent out by the show’s lead actress, fans started lobbying for ABC to bring back Agent Carter to replace the demised sitcom. AC started trending on Twitter and another petition emerged, but the network showed no interest in bringing back the series. Haley Atwell herself seemed to have lost enthusiasm for the character, making the following comments about returning to the show:
I think the main thing, though, is if it were — if there were interest in Netflix or in her being in a film or something — that it would have to feel… it would have to feel right. I wouldn’t want to go over old ground. It would have to be new, there would have to be higher production values so she could do more. I’d have to feel like it’s not just, you know, ‘a case a week with Peggy Carter’.
Agent Carter definitely had an impact on television because the show was smartly written genre entry that delivered a strong female lead. It garnered praise from critics and developed a loyal following, but unfortunately it did not draw enough of an audience for it to survive on a broadcast network. There is still a chance that Peggy Carter could crossover with Agents of SHIELD in its upcoming season, and fans are still hoping for a return of the show proper. But for now we have to settle with the two seasons that were produced and perhaps continued fan support could bring Peggy Carter back for another round of adventures down the road at some point.
Aired: ABC, 2015-16, 2 Season Totaling 18 Episodes
Developed By: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj