A '90s Daredevil Show Was Cancelled In Favour of a Doomed DC Series
We could have had a Daredevil TV series in the early ’90s, but an ill-fated adaptation of a competing DC show saw plans cancelled for a series starring the Man Without Fear.In the latest IGN Inside Stories documentary, The Incredible MCU That Time Forgot, actor Rex Smith reveals that NBC had TV plans for Marvel’s Daredevil, before a CBS adaptation of The Flash show saw them abruptly abandoned. Smith played Matt Murdock in 1989’s The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, which left a set-up for a Daredevil show when arch-enemy Wilson Fisk (played by Indiana Jones’ John Rhys-Davies) escapes before the conclusion.
Smith told IGN that the set-up was intentional, but ultimately never paid off. “It was not just a guest star thing for film. This whole effort was a springboard for a series for the Daredevil,” he explains.
Trial of the Incredible Hulk screenwriter Gerald Di Pego confirmed that for us: “The whole reason to do [the 1980s Hulk] movies was not just to show the Hulk again, but to bring in the other universe characters. So if you’re going to bring in Daredevil and Kingpin, you’re certainly not going to put them in jail or kill them off.”While the project never moved far enough along to see a truly set storyline, Smith told us that John Rhys-Davies was also signed up for the TV project, to reprise his role as Wilson Fisk. “We were so excited, John and I both,” he explained. “He was signed on for the series too, to be my Moriarty for Sherlock Holmes. There’d be other baddies, but the real baddie that always had his hand in it was going to be John.”
Unfortunately, the show never made it out of the gate due to the CBS network’s interest in a competing DC project, a 1990 series about The Flash. “I hear from my agent,” says Smith, “He goes, ‘We have a problem.’ I go, ‘What kind of problem?’ He goes, ‘Well, [CBS] bought your contract for Daredevil, because they’re coming out with The Flash and they don’t want the competition. So NBC sold your contract.'”
That contract sale saw the Daredevil show put on ice, and Smith was essentially paid not to play Daredevil, so that The Flash could succeed – although that series would only see a single season before being cancelled itself.
“They wanted to have the only superhero show,” Smith continues. “So Flash got it and Daredevil got buried. But what a strange twist of events, isn’t it? […] I’m glad to be able to let people know. And also let them know that, this thing, every intent of it was to bring to television the Daredevil. And we’ll never know how that could have gone.”
Of course, we would eventually see Daredevil emerge as a 3-season Netflix streaming series – which itself would see a sudden end after the emergence of Disney+. The TV rights for the character now lie with Marvel Studios, but we’ve heard nothing about a revival for the character from Disney, with fans petitioning to allow Netflix series star Charlie Cox to return to the role.
There’s much more to learn about Marvel’s early on-screen projects in The Incredible MCU That Time Forgot, which includes major players from the ’80s Hulk projects that introduced Thor, Daredevil, Stan Lee cameos and more to the TV-watching world. And if that’s not enough for you, check out our other superhero documentaries, Batman: Year One – The R-Rated Reboot That Almost Was, and Batman Beyond: The Classic That Nobody Wanted.