LOS ANGELES — Launching a new network television program in the fall comes with a host of obstacles.
It starts with hitting the schedule at the same time the other networks are filling their lineups with new shows. Viewers are pulled in multiple directions to shows that they have never seen before. Each unknown production also must compete with viewing habits already in place. And then there’s the ever growing problem that there are so many options beyond the networks coming from basic and premium cable channels or streaming services.
It’s like trying to find a way to be named the most popular kid in school on your first day as a transfer student. The only hope is to do something so big that it at least creates the potential of grabbing attention.
ABC is trying to get past a few of the hurdles with their latest production from the Marvel universe, “Marvel’s Inhumans,” by going large. The TV series isn’t scheduled to launch on ABC until 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, but the first two episodes are being combined for a feature film release in IMAX starting Sept. 1 and running for two weeks.
This is the first time IMAX and a network have teamed up to produce such a production. The footage that will be shown on the big screen isn’t just the TV version blown up; it was shot in the IMAX format. The theatrical version has a running time of 75 minutes while the combined length of the first two episodes in the series is 84 minutes. That means the TV version will feature footage not shown in theaters, another lure to get viewers to the new fall show.
The new network series is based on the comic book characters introduced in 1965 in issue No. 45 of Marvel’s “Fantastic Four” created by comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
TV critics were given early access to the first episode that sets up how the Inhumans are living a relatively ideal life on the moon. They have been monitoring events including those in ABC’s other Marvel series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” where those with special abilities are being hunted.
Jeff Loeb, executive vice president of Marvel Television, stresses that while the events of the “Inhumans” and “S.H.I.E.L.D.” exist in the same world, they are two very different shows. The Inhumans fled Earth centuries ago to escape persecution and now must return to the planet.
“We don’t want anyone to think that this is a show that doesn’t exist on its own, that has its own story with characters that you’ve never seen before in dealing with the royal family. And the Inhumans that are part of the ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ story are their own story,” Loeb says. “I think one of the things that we really want to focus on, is this is really a story about two brothers, in almost a Shakespearean kind of way, and the woman who is actually caught in between them, who is the queen.”
The world of the Inhumans is ruled by Black Bolt (Anson Mount), a monarch who can wipe out armies with a single whisper, and his wife, Medusa (Serinda Swan), who can use her long, red hair as a weapon. They end up on the run along with other members of the royal family after a military coup is launched by Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus (Iwan Rheon, “Game of Thones”). The group barely escapes to Hawaii where they must deal with humans who are friendly and not so friendly around people with special powers.
Rheon describes the heart of “Marvel’s Inhumans” as what happens when two brothers have a very different approach to life.
“Black Bolt can’t speak, which makes it difficult to communicate,” Rheon says. “So he sort of holds everything in, whereas Maximus is very much about getting it out.”
ABC has ordered eight episodes of “Marvel’s Inhumans,” which will run before the show gives up its time slot to the fifth season of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” The limited number of episodes means the series will need to grab an audience immediately and the IMAX debut is a big key to doing that.
Loeb isn’t worried about the limited run but looks at it as a great opportunity.
“By doing it as eight episodes, it’s a very quick, easy learn, and so and with the first two episodes being in one night, you are actually asking the audience to come in over seven different nights, and all of those questions will be answered,” Loeb says.
The cast of “The Inhumans” also includes Eme Ikwuakor as Gorgon, Isabelle Cornish as Crystal, Ken Leung as Karnak, Sonya Balmores as Auran and Mike Moh as Triton.