Jessica Jones was terrific on Netflix, wasn’t it? Violent, foul-mouthed, drunken, and a little sexy, it was handily the edgiest thing to come out of Marvel Studios so far.
But its worth remembering that Jessica Jones (back when it was still called AKA Jessica Jones, a title that followed it until shortly before its Netflix debut) was once slated for primetime on broadcast TV, namely ABC, the home of Agents of SHIELD.
Several of key players were involved with the ABC version (which was never shot), including executive producer Jeph Loeb, and Jessica Jones‘ Netflix showrunner Melissa Rosenberg. Ms. Rosenberg recently spoke about some of the obvious differences and challenges that bringing Jessica to primetime would have faced.
“It was after the whole Dexterand Twilightruns when I took meetings,” Ms. Rosenberg told Deadline. “ABC Studios asked what I was interested in doing next. I said I’d love to do a really damaged, complex female superhero, like Iron Man. They quickly put me together with Jeph Loeb, and he brought me Jessica Jones. We did it for the ABC network, but it turned out not to be the right tone for them…That project was only on the page, it never went beyond that.”
Aside from the obvious things, like the amount of sex, violence, and profanity, there would have been structural differences, too. “When you have a series that’s on week to week with commercial breaks, it lends itself to the case-of-the-week scenario,” she said. “It was heavily weighted in that direction.”
Back in November, she told The Hollywood Reporter a little bit more about what the ABC show might have looked like. “When I was doing the network version of it I was able to stay closer to the original comic book plot. The universe, the mythology of the universe in the book, is that people with powers are fairly integrated into society and there’s a lot of prejudice against them. There’s the metaphor of The Other, which was a fun story to tell, but by the time we got up to Netflix, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a slightly different mythology so I really had to move away from that storytelling.”
Tonal issues aside, a “more faithful to the comics” standpoint and a “case-of-the week” standpoint, would have fit Jessica Jones quite well. Much of the Netflix series was inspired by the fourth volume of the Alias comics that the show was based on. Earlier volumes have a somewhat more procedural aspect to them, but they lack some of the emotional power of the Killgrave story.
One thing that might have been the same, though, was the casting of Krysten Ritter as Jessica. “She was one of the first actresses to come in, even back when I was developing it at ABC,” Ms. Rosenberg said. “She was always on my mind.”
Luckily, Jessica Jones will return for a second season…eventually. There’s no premiere date set, and we have to get through Luke Cage (September 30th), Iron Fist (2017), and probably The Defenders before we’ll get to see more of Jessica solo.