Agent Carter and other second chances at the spotlight

Agent Carter image

If you like modern noir or pulp throwback stories, as we did with last year’s The X-Files: Year Zero comic book series, ABC’s new Marvel Universe series Agent Carter is pretty much going to be a sure win.

Actors take note:  When you take on a supporting character role in your next film or TV series and do better-than-expected job at it, make sure you love the part as you may just end up living with the role for a while.  Along with a first film and franchise that also was taking off to parts unknown thanks to it success, Hayley Atwell’s tough 1940s British Secret Intelligence agent Peggy Carter pulled off that rare chance at a second life.  Tomorrow night she gets her own spotlight as her own weekly series beginsAside from the brief return of Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark (father to Tony aka Iron Man), Atwell’s Carter will be forging ahead on her own.

Some of TV’s best characters were the results of a spin-off from one of those supporting characters who, because of great acting and great writing, popped with viewers beyond any expectation of the show’s creators.  Going back to the 1970s whether unintended surprises or gambled backdoor spin-offs, we wouldn’t have seen more Jeffersons or Maude, or J.J. Evans and his family from Good Times, but for their standout performances spun out of All in the Family.  We wouldn’t know Buddy Epsen’s seven years of sleuthing as Barnaby Jones without his guest role on Cannon, a decade of the kids in Facts of Life if not for Diff’rent Strokes, or spend primetime with the cops and firefighters on Adam-12 or Emergency! if not for some cool guest spots on Dragnet.

Agent Carter

What would our TV night fun have been like without years of Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy resulting from guest star bits on Happy Days, or, let’s not forget, our fave Lindsay Wagner’s Bionic Woman took on her own series from the episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man?  Modern genre fans’ reactions helped propel John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who into multiple Torchwood series.  Other coming spin-offs are Breaking Bad’s Better Call Saul and Walking Dead’s in-the-works spin-off (with the working title Cobalt), and we’re still hoping for a Special Operations Bureau spin-off from The Closer’s own spinoff, Major Crimes.

Atwell has already reprised Agent Carter in the short film Agent Carter, which can be found with the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray extras, as well as the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and she’ll be back in both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the series:

Our only doubt for the TV series is the likely letdown of the show’s MacGuffin, usually the secret nature of the story’s enigmatic villain, which tends to be the weakest part of every entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  But those kinds of more minor failings haven’t yet torpedoed an otherwise exciting blockbuster film from Marvel Studios (Iron Man 2 aside).

Agent Carter appears tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 6, 2015, on ABC at 7 p.m. Central, with the first two hours back-to-back, so set your DVRs accordingly.

C.J. Bunce

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