As part of Joss Whedon’s three-year exclusivity deal with Marvel Studios where he will write and direct The Avengers 2 and oversee the films leading up to it, he will also help develop a live-action television series for ABC. In listing Marvel TV show ideas, we speculated that it would focus on the secretive S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) organization and that proved to be exactly the case.

Following the announcement, speculation immediately was directed at the possibility of guest stars from the films making appearances and the series tying in with the upcoming films to cross-promote the larger Marvel cinematic universe. According to Whedon – who is writing and may direct the SHIELD pilot episode – that’s not exactly the plan.

Speaking with MTV while at TIFF premiering Much Ado About Nothing, Whedon emphasized that the SHIELD would need to stand on its own and not get bogged down with specific happenings and timeline continuity issues arising from events taking place in the movies.

“It’s new characters. It needs to be its own thing,” said Whedon. “It needs to be adjacent [to the MCU] but you don’t want to do a show where you’re constantly going, ‘Iron Man just left, but he was totally here a minute ago.’ You want them to do their own thing.”

What will be the selling point?

“Well, what does S.H.I.E.L.D. have that the other superheroes don’t? And that, to me, is that they’re not superheroes. But they live in that universe. Even though they’re a big organization, that [lack of powers] makes them underdogs, and that’s interesting to me.”

By that they mean it’s an absolutely certainty that the characters of the show, these SHIELD agents, will be interacting with and helping/hunting down extraordinary characters. So, expect plenty of geeky references to Marvel Comics, at least in terms of the properties Marvel Studios owns the film/TV rights to.

Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez)

While Whedon makes it seem that he aims to distance the show from the film universe, do not rule out the potential for guest appearances and references to the films. There’s a lot to benefit from cross-promoting the “Phase Two” releases over the next three years and supporting characters (notably Cobie Smulders) and the characters featured in the Marvel One-Shots (including Item 47 which releases with The Avengers on the 25th) would lend themselves very well to such a series and were seemingly cast for exactly that reason.

Joss Whedon is writing the show with brother Jed Whedon and Jed’s wife Maurissa Tancharoen, both of whom Joss worked with on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and Dollhouse.

S.H.I.E.L.D. will air on ABC but there’s no time frame yet.

On the film side, Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014 and The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Sources: MTV