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Wednesday, October 09, 2013 

Why does Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D need superheroes to be a ratings winner?

The New York Daily News says that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D lost a third of its audience with its second episode broadcast. But the article is of very poor quality, eschewing any legitimate points for the sake of ones that don't work. They begin by saying:
So much for the superheroes.

ABC tried to leap over a tall building with Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but someone at the network forgot to call “The Avengers.”

How else to explain how the show has lost a third of its viewers since the debut.

Marvel’s comic book writers have been telling stories about S.H.I.E.L.D. since industry pioneers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby cooked up the secretive organization in 1965’s Strange Tales #165. It’s a clandestine group of law enforcers who specialize in saving the world. Depending on venue, the acronym has varied from “Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division” to “Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate.”
Why does it have to emphasize superheroics with superpowers in order to hold onto its audience? If the series is supposed to be about secret agents without superpowers, then one would expect the audience to take interest based on that approach. It certainly doesn't need to feature superpowers in order to be entertaining. What it does need is good writing, and the producers probably didn't live up to that vital step. That's the real explanation.

Also, it wasn't S.H.I.E.L.D as a whole the tales focused on, but Nick Fury, since he was the main star of the show.
By ditching the iconic superhumans like the Hulk, “S.H.I.E.L.D.” the TV show tries to offer a glimpse into the part of the Marvel universe that operates behind the scenes.

Galaxy-sized battles between iconic characters like Thor and his twisted brother Loki take a backseat to more mundane threats like hackers and nascent superhumans.

This wouldn’t work in a feature film and it’s likely not going to work on TV.

Marvel has gone down this road before. Especially in comic books — and even done a far better job.
In comics up to the end of the 20th century, yes, they certainly did. Why shouldn't it work as a feature film? The late Tom Clancy specialized in plenty of elaborate spy thriller novels and expanded into films, TV and computer games, some of which were quite successful, like The Hunt for Red October, one of the first adapted into a movie, and what mattered there was the suspense, not reliance on superpowers.
Alias (no relation to the TV show) was a comic published from 2001-2004 by Marvel’s “adult” Max imprint that followed the tale of Jessica Jones, a former costumed superhero who hung up her cape to become a private investigator. While her life was deeply intertwined with solving mysteries related to her superhero past, most times she dealt with more mundane matters — all while epic battles between the forces of good and evil would unfold in the background, almost as an afterthought.

The celebrated writer of Alias, Brian Michael Bendis, also took on similar themes in Powers. That comic book series ran from 2000-2004 and explored a universe of superheroes — as seen through the eyes of two homicide detectives.

FX has been struggling to develop Powers as a TV show for years — without success.

There’s a good reason it’s been stuck in the mud
. We expect our superhero tales told on an epic scale. These are big stories that demand to be told in big ways.
There's just one little thing: Powers was about a pair of homicide detectives investigating the murders of superheroes, and they're the main spotlight, not the superpowered figures, something the article isn't clear about. And the reason it got stuck in the mud is because the premise doesn't sound very appealing, and sounds pretty absurd if people without powers end up being the victors where those who do failed. Besides, Bendis has long proven himself overrated, trivializing a lot of the most prominent characters in the Avengers for the sake of crime noir angles. There's nothing especially big about his brand of storytelling, and outside of comics circles, he's hardly been celebrated.
Or at least in a less subtle manner. The 1990s series, “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” may have been soft and hokey, but it was still a TV show about Superman.
Personally, I don't think much of it today, and Superman alone is not reason enough to view it. It's whether the writing is entertaining enough that matters, and I think Lois and Clark suffered from a juvenile idea of what a comic-based TV show should be. Or, a poor perception of what comics are all about, even Superman's. They stopped being about goofy science and slapstick in the Bronze Age, yet somebody held onto the notion for a long time that they couldn't be about serious action and drama and had to be more about silly tongue-in-cheek elements instead of serious sci-fi elements.
“S.H.I.E.L.D.,” at its best, is a bunch of characters who make a really neat backdrop for bigger storytelling — like superheroes turning back a massive alien invasion, helped along by a demi-god. You know, the stuff that happened in “The Avengers.”

The film’s director, Joss Whedon, knew that. His brother Jed and sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen, who oversee the ABC show, seem to have missed that notion.

But viewers haven’t.
But the paper has missed something. This didn't have to be about superheroics to entertaining. It had to be about good writing to be. If the suspense wasn't engaging enough, then it should come as no surprise it's been losing ratings. Similarly, if none of the actors stands out enough to appeal to the audience, then that's another detractor. There have to be a certain number of actors, at least one who can be the leading star, who take the spotlight and can generate interest. So far, it looks like they didn't. That's why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D may be losing ratings, and viewers.

Again, a mainstream paper completely fails to grasp the real keys to making a TV show something to tune in for every week on the tube.

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Actually I think it's a fun show and that the NY Daily News' complaints are lame. It takes a while for a show to develop its own thing, and I think it's starting to find its own voice. The intention of the show from the beginning was to be set on the "lower levels" of the MCU.

And someone should tell the NY Daily News that the reason why the Avengers haven't shown up yet is because it'd be expensive to bring those actors in

I'll dissent from Carl and say the first three episodes have pretty much sucked. The Skye character is killing the show as the whole premise for her being there is ridiculous. I love how she has her cell phone out getting "secret" texts while right in front of Coulson, et. al. Maybe SHIELD has a tap on her phone. But maybe not. Her character is nonsense from a spy perspective, and the genius twins are annoying as hell. Coulson and Ming-na Wen are the only saving graces of the show, but I'm afraid that hasn't been enough -- especially since Wen barely had a part in episode 3.

It lost a lot of viewers because it's up against the #1 show on TV (NCIS), and that show scheduled the exit of one of its most popular characters in week 2.

It's an okay show so far. Better than Dollhouse or Angel seasons 1. Not as good as Buffy or (obviously) Firefly seasons 1. Room to grow. Though episode 3 contained pointless left-wing talking points and fantasies; more of that will obviously drag the show down quickly.

It'll be interesting to see if Graviton comes back as a threat for the team.

And Drizzt, I agree: if they insert that junk into the series, it will be doomed.

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