I’ve made no secret of my current disillusionment with Marvel, and in particular, its never-ending deluge of Disney Plus shows. I’ve written multiple articles on the matter, most recently arguing that right now the MCU sort of sucks.
While I have several gripes with the current state of the MCU — from its frequently terrible special effects to its gratuitous fan-service cameos — my biggest problem is that right now there is just way too much content being released (and the huge list of upcoming Marvel movies and series is never-ending).
The primary culprit of this issue is the abundance of Marvel TV shows hitting Disney Plus. At points in 2022, it felt like there was barely a week that went by without another slice of the MCU hitting Disney’s juggernaut streaming platform.
However, the recent releases of Werewolves by Night — which I really liked — and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special — which I mostly liked — have me hoping that Disney rethinks its streaming strategy. Let’s have fewer full TV shows and more Special Presentations hitting Disney Plus going forward.
Marvel TV shows have been underwhelming
I’m aware this is a hot take, but from my perspective to date most of the Marvel TV shows on Disney Plus have been extremely lackluster. I enjoyed WandaVision, Loki and the first few episodes of Ms. Marvel, but the likes of Falcon and Winter Solider, Moon Knight, Hawkeye, What If...? and (most controversially according to those I've heard from) She-Hulk left me very underwhelmed.
I won’t retread my previously written articles here but essentially my core issue boils down to the fact that each of these TV shows feel like filler. They felt like a tool to keep you subscribed to Disney Plus, rather than valuable chapters of the MCU as a whole. It didn't help that many of the shows, in particular Falcon and Winter Solider and Hawkeye, felt like small scale Marvel movies stretched out over at least half a dozen episodes.
Of course, there have been a couple of Marvel television shows I’ve rather enjoyed. In the case of She-Hulk, it wasn’t quite to my taste, but I can appreciate it was very clearly a TV show from the start. And, yes, I do see the value in fresh MCU content hitting Disney Plus on a regular basis.
Special Presentations should be the norm
Over the last few months, two 45-minute Marvel Special Presentations have hit Disney Plus: Werewolf by Night in October and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special in November. I don’t think either is flawless, the latter especially feels a little tonally-off compared to the Guardians’ previous MCU outings. However, both have me excited about the future of Marvel content on Disney Plus. And almost none of the TV shows have managed to do that.
That’s because Special Presentations are fertile grounds for experimentation. Werewolf by Night is a black-and-white tribute to classic monster movies, whereas the Guardians Holiday Special is a cheesy throwback that shines the spotlight on side characters — with a few toe-tapping musical numbers as well. These are a lot more intriguing to me than a TV show that appears to be little more than a smaller-scale needlessly stretched-out MCU movie.
I’d love to see more corners of the MCU being explored via Special Presentations where more risks can be taken. Guardians Holiday Special opens with a fun animated flashback sequence, that’s something that I imagine wouldn’t have made the cut in next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Based on the, admittedly small pool, of evidence, Special Presentations appear to have more flexibility to do things that might not be possible in a blockbuster movie or a full TV show.
I've also enjoyed the one-off nature of the two Special Presentations we've got to date. Sure, the Guardians will return, as could the stars of Werewolf by Night, but the presentations were self-contained stories that were wrapped up in an effective 45-minute package. Considering the increasingly-bloated nature of the MCU, there's something to be said for extremely lean content that doesn't waste a moment of your time.
The future is locked in for now
Regardless of my wish, the medium-term of the MCU has already been laid out. Earlier this year Kevin Feige took to the stage at D23 to showcase exactly where the interconnected universe will be heading over the next few years — and unsurprisingly that schedule involves a lot of TV shows hitting Disney Plus.
So, for now, at least I’m going to need to make my peace with the fact that Marvel TV shows will continue to release at a regular clip. And of course, as I’ve stated before, I plan to take a selective approach going forward so I don’t have to watch every single Marvel series. If I’m not hooked after a couple of episodes, I should just switch off — instead of watching out of sense of obligation. Plus, it's clear these shows have plenty of admirers so I can’t exactly blame Disney for giving subscribers more of them.
Curiously, Marvel hasn't detailed any future Special Presentations, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the format isn’t finished after just two installments. I very much hope that multiple Special Presentations are added to MCU’s Phase 5 and Phase 6 because the two we’ve got so far are among the best Marvel content you stream on Disney Plus right now.
If you're looking for a Marvel video game, then Marvel's Midnight Suns is worth your time.
Next: These are the 7 best new Netflix movies that are 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes.
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Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.