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Can 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' possibly live up to expectations?

Published September 24, 2013 10:35 am

Television • Geeks are excited, the pilot episode is strong, but keep your hopes somewhat in check.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is this fall's television version of a first-round draft pick. There are huge expectations for this show, and it had better deliver or the fans will start sniping immediately.

How big are the expectations? One TV critic prefaced a question to the show's producers and stars by saying, "There's so much talk about this show. It almost feels like, if this doesn't work, ABC is going to go under."

"If we think about that all the time, we will never make any decisions," said co-creator/executive producer Joss Whedon.

"We would never leave our houses," interjected co-creator/executive producer Maurissa Tancharoe.

"So we try to just keep it fun and try to tell stories that we want to see," Whedon said. "And not think about all of the stuff around the show."

That's easier said than done, given that "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is essentially a spinoff of "The Avengers" — the blockbuster movie that grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide and helped bring geek chic into the mainstream. The TV series lives in the world that the movie created.

"I'm completely compelled by the idea of a world post-'Avengers' where things are out of control," said Clark Gregg, who returns as Agent Phil Coulson.

Agent Coulson appeared to die in "The Avengers," and we'll get an answer to that mystery … eventually. He's the leader of an elite team assigned to investigate extranormal and superhuman people in a world where superheroes and evil aliens are now a fact of life.

The team includes Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May, Brett Dalton as Agent Grant Ward, Chloe Bennet as Skye, Iain De Caestecker as Agent Leo Fitz and Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Jemma Simmons.

The pilot episode isn't perfect, but it is very entertaining. You'll laugh, both at the genuinely funny lines and, perhaps, with delight because some really cool things happen. (No spoilers here.)

We've seen S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) not only in "The Avengers" but in the three "Iron Man" films, "The Incredible Hulk," "Thor" and "Captain America." The team dates back to a 1965 edition of the comic book "Strange Tales" by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

The geeks are beyond excited about this show. And there are a lot of geeks out there — just look at the astonishing success of Salt Lake Comic Con two weeks ago. (And there were more than a few con-goers wandering around dressed as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.)

"My expectations for the show are high," said Bryan Young of BigShinyRobot.com. "This is coming from the minds behind 'The Avengers,' and with crossover characters. It's a brilliant move to further expand Marvel's on-screen universe and it has a lot riding on it."

GeekShowPodcast.com panelist Jeff Vice concurred, to a point.

"I have fairly high expectations, but most of that is based on the fact that it comes from the mind — partly — of Joss Whedon, and I'm a fan of his," Vice said. "I'm a realist who knows this isn't going to be 'Marvel's The Avengers: The TV Show.' As long as it has the requisite laughs, thrills and surprises, I'll be happy."

Again, the good news is that the pilot is very good. The less good news is that Whedon — who wrote and directed "The Avengers" and co-wrote and directed the "S.H.I.E.L.D." pilot — is not going to be working full time on the TV series. He said he'll be involved "as much as an executive producer can who is also making a movie."

So … not much. Even though that movie is "The Avengers: Age of Ultron."

The hands-on producers include Joss' brother, Jed Whedon. and sister-in-law, Tancharoen ("Dollhouse," "Drop Dead Diva," "Spartacus"); Jeph Loeb ("Smallville," "Lost," "Heroes"); and Jeffrey Bell ("X-Files," "Angel," "Alias").

Unlike the world of D.C. Comics, where the TV characters on "Smallville" and "Arrow" are separate from the movie superheroes, "Marvel is one universe," Loeb said. "We'll try to follow the continuity as best as we can."

But if you're looking for a lot of appearances by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) or Captain America (Chris Evans), you're going to be disappointed. Oh, there might be a cameo appearance by a familiar superhero now and again, but that's not what "S.H.I.E.L.D." is all about.

"It's not the reason behind the show." Joss Whedon said. "We don't want just to be an Easter egg farm. We want people to come back because of [the TV cast], and not because of some connection to the movie universe. This show has to work for people who aren't going to see those movies."

"The Avengers" is, however, a template for "S.H.I.E.L.D."

"That's not a movie for one particular group of people. That's a movie for everybody," Loeb said. "And our hope is that everyone who is watching television on Tuesday nights is watching our show."

The series also has to work for people who have seen the movies and want more.

"It's an opportunity to whet your live-action Marvel appetite more often than once or twice a year," said Jimmy Martin, another GeekShowPodcast.com panelist. "I do expect clever writing, diverse characters and enough winks to hard-core fans to make them squeal for more."

The success of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is part of a larger plot — a least in the minds of the geeks.

"This is a big deal for geekdom on TV, and if it succeeds, it will help pave the way for more shows like it," said GeekShowPodcast producer Tony Eccles, "but I don't think it's make-or-break for the genre."

The big hope is that this show will be a success so that there will be more like it. Because geeks want to dominate the world … of entertainment.

"This could open the door for lesser-known comic franchises/characters to have their moment in the sun rather than locked away in the shadows," Martin said. "There are so many well-written comic-book characters out there that don't have the box-office numbers of Iron Man, Thor or Captain America, but maybe this could give them the chance they deserve. Fingers crossed!"

Editor's note: Scott D. Pierce is also a regular panelist on GeekShowPodcast.com.

spierce@sltrib.com —

Three reasons 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' will fail

1. It's in a tough timeslot (Tuesdays, 7 p.m., MT, ABC/Channel 4), up against the No. 1 show on TV, "NCIS."

2. It's leading off an entirely new night of programming (three hours of new shows) on ABC — and that has never worked on any network in the history of TV.

3. Expectations are too high.

Three reasons 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' will succeed

1. It gets off to a very strong start.

2. The success of "The Avengers," "Iron Man," "Captain America," "The Incredible Hulk" and "Thor" has created an audience for it.

3. Geeks are taking over the world — and TV.






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