I think everyone knew Coulson was alive, or at least did not die after Loki's attack? It even gets brought up in the film.
I'm pretty excited for this, as Whedon's pretty good with a lot of his stuff and there's no dead end like Doll House sort of had.
The only issue might be the lower-level TV effects, but I wouldn't mind them doing some "spy vs spy" stuff with SHIELD going up against Hydra, working with SWORD, etc.
Well, it was certainly the prevailing theory amongst fans; but its not like he had been shown in the credits or had some other big reveal.
But as you say, I just always assumed he was alive as well.
I agree that the TV budget could be a bit of a downer, but some shows with much smaller pedigrees than this have gotten decent budgets in the past. If they can milk a bit of advertising money and start to put a smart product on screen, there may be some hope for it yet. I wonder what kinds of tie-ins they can realistically put forth with the current round of Marvel movies. Also, I am hopeful that they can get Cobie Smulders away from HIMYM long enough to get at least a cameo or two in.