Sadly, I’m not surprised by Nick having doubts about a female protagonist. Offhand, I can think of maybe two on that network before Korra - Eliza Thornberry and Ginger Foutley - and Korra’s considerably more risky, at least in the minds of the old, white men who are likely to be network executives, because she’s an action-adventure lead (…and a WoC). It doesn’t exactly jive with comments Mike and Bryan have made in the past (that Nick had some reservations about Korra being a girl, but gave M&B almost complete creative freedom and only gently suggested they make her a boy instead), but I can easily see them downplaying the network qualms, because, to give them some credit, Nick did eventually give Korra their blessing.
My understanding was that Nick picked up Books 3 and 4 after the incredible ratings for Book 1 came in, but if what Yoo is saying is true, I’m honestly more impressed. It’s one thing to have faith in a show after it’s had record viewership, but it’s quite another to go all-in on a show that hasn’t even aired yet. I am slightly skeptical that Nick considers this their flagship show, however. Why have they barely rerun the episodes (at least on the main network, which is available in basic cable packages, while Nicktoons usually isn’t)? Where are the action figures? TMNT took Korra’s timeslot when Book 1 finished and already has toys aplenty. Granted, it’s a long-running franchise that has been shown to produce excellent merchandise sales, whereas, from what I’ve heard, ATLA’s were lukewarm at best. The cynical part of me thinks that this is because Korra’s a girl - apparently they never made Katara and Toph action figures back in the day, and while they very well can’t make toys for LoK without including Korra, maybe they’d rather forgo the traditional kids’ action show merchandise entirely, because if they couldn’t get Aang and Zuko toys to sell, why on earth would that change when the protagonist is a girl? (a;ldkafakl;dfjk; giant squid of anger)
Still, I hope to be proven wrong, and for Nick to give Korra lots of love in the years to come. This is a fairly fascinating interview, by the way - give it a watch. (Just know that, unless you understand Korean, you’ll have to give it your full attention, as it’s almost entirely subtitled.) (Also, it’s long, and they do use clips from the finale - shouldn’t be a problem for any of us, though, haha. Doubt anyone but the megafans would have any interest in watching a 50-minute interview in Korean that’s only partially about LoK. (; )
I don’t think Bryke ever suggested that Nick only gently steered them away from going with a female lead - they said that it took a focus group to prove to Nick that they weren’t throwing viewers away, so it was clearly more than just a bit of uncertainty.
I think the difference in implication is more about the level of hostility to the idea: before, it was easy to think that they were willing to take enough of a chance to create something to show to test audiences and withhold their judgement until the results came in. If they suspended production, though, that suggests that they didn’t even know what Bryke were planning until they already had something worth testing and might have canceled it if Bryke and their team didn’t really push to be given a chance.
I could see that being a result of the general creative freedom thing, actually - Nick expected them to come back with something within their usual scope and told them to come back with a full presentation, and what they came back with wasn’t something Nick had even considered as something they needed to restrict until it was already in front of them.
… of course in that case means that Nickelodeon seems to think that female protagonist are more controversial than murder-suicide, which is honestly kinda messed up.
As for it being a flagship show, maybe something was lost in translation and what they meant was that it was more of a prestige show…? I can’t imagine they’d really think it would be that big of a merchandising giant, considering that Avatar: the Last Airbender never was, but I could see them thinking of it as a really pretty feather in their cap to win them all sorts of awards and garner awesome first-run ratings. It /is/ really funny to think of it as a flagship show for Nickelodeon, though, because it’s really not very much like Nickelodeon at all in… quite a few ways, many of which are not exactly minor.
Of course that won’t stop me from hoping that they /do/ turn it into a merchandising giant though, because there are so many toys from this series that I would love to have on my shelf (three of which, of course, are the main girls!).