Well, it’s Premier Time on television this week; that time where our poor DVR freaks out about all the competing shows all airing at the same time in an effort of win our affections over. This season, however, I had a show that trumped anything the wife would want to record and that show was Joss Whedon’s new show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Or rather, Marvel’s Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D.
There was a LOT of hype surrounding this show when it was first announced and for very good reasons. Whedon’s The Avengers was the very definition of a blockbuster hit and comics/superhero media has been saturating the box office to the point it almost seemed dumb not to bring it back to television. So how did the much awaited pilot go? Well, it really depends on who you are and what your point of view is.
First, however, it’s important to revisit the idea of a series pilot.
The TV Pilot:
Obviously, a pilot is the first episode of a show that producers hope will pan out to an entire TV series. More often than not, a TV series will not make it past its pilot or shortly thereafter.
Pilots for large scale dramas are often longer than an hour or might be broken into two parts. This is done for many reasons:
- You must establish the world in which the show exists.
- You must establish enough of the characters to make an emotional attachment to them.
- You must balance between having everything wrapped up in a single episode against the need for there to be promise of more backstory or future stories.
The more relatable a setting of a story, the less time you need to spend establishing the first two items are (compare Star Trek: The Next Generation’s pilot, Encounter at Farpoint with Ally McBeal). That third point is the real clincher, though, as no matter what the setting is to your story you need the audience to want to know more about the characters in the show.
So how did Agents do? Let’s hold off ’till we get a bit father.
Comic Book Fans’ Perspective:
Joss Whedon? Check
Super powers? Well, there was one guy so . . . check?
High Tech? The effects were passable but that doesn’t count as much as it used to.
Staying true to the source material? Well, that one is a bit more complex.
Source material and back stories in comics have always been a sort of nebulous thing; each character has been reinvented so many times that they have any number of origins or powers. Without trying to give away any spoilers, the plot involves some alien tech from Avengers, some other tech from Iron Man 3, Shepard Book, and the end of Back to the Future I. Was it enjoyable? Sure. Did it fit the realm of the Marvel movies so far? Yup.
Did it fit together well? Not so much.
The Non-Geek Perspective:
Joss Whedon is well known for having awesome dialog and very engaging cinematography. Neither were present here. Agent Coulson and Agent Hill were both there acting their parts from The Avengers perfectly, but it felt like they were rushed. That might be because the entire episode happens in 43 minutes. That’s 43 minutes to introduce five people you’ve never heard of, one person you saw on How I Met Your Mother, that dude from those superhero movies, some fancy word from a movie you probably never saw, a plane, an explosion, and a secret government group that isn’t secret.
Put lightly, things are rushed in this show.
Could things have been better? Oh yeah! Most of the characters seem genuinely interesting (with exception of Agents Fitz and Simmons, who you hope bicker their way into a jet engine), the set pieces look good, and there’s the promise of a great mysterious story that we’ve only seen the tip of. But none of that was allowed to stew for long enough to really be great!
A pilot is always going to be rough compared to the series it spawns, so you have to give it a bit of leeway. Remember, we were even kind enough to give Knight Rider three episodes to win us over. This is all assuming, however, that the network WANTS to create a long lasting, rich series that produces life long fans and wins all sorts of acclaim.
Which is not the feeling I’m getting from this one.
I get the nagging suspicious that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is viewed by someone at ABC as a golden goose that just fell in their lap; something to keep the geeks interested in until the next movie and steal ratings from other shows at the same time.
I guess time will tell.