ABC has had a lot of programming shoehorned into its schedule and billed as “a limited series” or “event series” this year. Chief among these is Agent Carter, the period drama brought to us by the folks at Marvel and ABC. While 8 episodes were produced for the limited season, the question remains: What are the chances that Agent Carter will return for more episodes in the future?

First and foremost, we would like to point out that Agent Carter is not necessarily a one and done series. Those involved with the show have spoken out to say that a second season is a possibility, should the show do well. In an epic DC and Marvel crossover interview, showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters made it clear that Agent Carter could return for a second season, should Marvel and ABC feel the show is a good fit. But as we all know, “good fit” often relates to a show’s ratings.

Thus, when determining whether or not Agent Carter will come back, the best place to start is to look at the viewers the show is bringing in. After all, the ratings are what kept Fox’s Gracepoint as a limited series this fall, despite the fact the British version recently premiered a second season. The ratings are also what allowed Under the Dome to go from an event series to a full-fledged science fiction drama headed into its third season this summer. Unfortunately, Agent Carter’s ratings are pretty run of the mill for ABC. The show’s two-episode premiere averaged under 7 million total viewers. That’s not a disaster for a show that hit the schedule during midseason, but it’s certainly not breaking ratings records.

It does get worse. During the drama’s January 13 episode, the live plus same day number dropped down to 5.1 million total viewers and a 1.5 rating. That’s on par with how some other safe programs have done and are doing on ABC. For example, Once Upon A Time’s winter finale did 5.6 million total viewers and 1.7 rating. But the numbers don’t stack up when compared to some of ABC’s big winners, including Modern Family. And getting period details correct is often more expensive than throwing together a half-hour comedy.

At the Television Critics Association press tour ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee also said he was “optimistic” about the drama—and that was after the premiere hit the schedule and DVR ratings came in. The added bonus to more episodes is that it does offer convenient options for Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and TV shows to cross over.

Thus, if Agent Carter does avoid the cancellation ax and comes back for Season 2, I would hedge my bets more on another limited run of eight or so episodes to premiere in the winter gap when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is off the air. We’re certainly more optimistic that will happen than Agent Carter will expand into a full 22-episode series order next year. A short 8-episode order is a second season that works with the current ratings Agent Carter is offering. And it’s a way to keep both Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fresh... and on the air.

Than again, just like Peggy Carter, sometimes ABC can be surprising. We’ll keep you posted as the network begins making tough decisions concerning next season over the next few months. In the meantime, you can catch new episodes of ABC’s Agent Carter on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.

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