It’s hard to think of a recent show that was more highly anticipated than Agents of SHIELD. Marvel! Coulson! He lives! Full disclosure: I don’t watch the show. But, being the in the profession I’m in, cultural osmosis has given me what I think is an accurate impression of the general reaction to the show: It’s generic. It’s slow. Coulson’s the only interesting character. There’s potential, but it doesn’t live up to it. Did I come close?
Showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen have heard your complaints, and in an interview with Comic Book Resources they responded to them.
“Overall the response has been positive,” said Whedon, “But there was also a lot of anticipation for this show and inevitably, not everyone got what they wanted.” In response to the criticism that Agents of SHIELD doesn’t feel like a “Marvel” show—which I’m guessing ties in with the complaint that it comes across a generic procedural?—Whedon had this to say:
“We are definitely a Marvel show. We double-checked with them just now and they told us so. But as to looking like a Marvel show—there is always room to improve on every front, but I think some of the negativity toward our TV show comes with the fact that it is just that: a TV show. Being held up against the Marvel films, which are the biggest, most exciting movies around. We’re generating more content with a fraction of the budget in a fraction of the time, but each episode still has that Marvel flipbook at the top, and the expectation that comes with it, which is very high. And well-earned.”
Tancharoen elaborated, pointing that they have 22 hours of programming to fill compared to a movie’s two, so people whining that Agents of SHIELD is slow need to have patience until we get to the good stuff, dammit. Well, no, she didn’t say that. Her actual answer (“We’ve spent a lot of time in the early part of the season setting things up, laying foundation. As we approach the back half, some of this set up will pay off. This has been the plan from the start.”) was much more polite.
But that plan is mutable—”We won’t keep doing things if people don’t respond to them,” noted Whedon, “and we take fan reaction into consideration, of course. However, we’ve always had a plan in place that all involved parties feel is both rewarding to those who already love the show, and to those who feel they are not getting everything they want out of it yet. But you can’t please everyone, and when you don’t, they seem to tweet at you.”
That last bit is certainly true. Among the elements people aren’t pleased about is a perceived lack of character development or depth. Tancharoen says to cool your jets on that, too:
“Our intent is to create interest in the characters, along with a desire to know more about them, then peel back the layers slowly but surely. It’s amazing how much people hate the word slowly these days. All of our characters are spies—with the exception of Skye, who is fast becoming one—and are trained to play things close to the vest. But yes, as the season and show progresses, we’ll be uncovering more and more about our characters… as well as meeting some new ones.”
What do you think? Is “JFC, we’re getting there, calm down” an insufficient excuse for sluggish storytelling and boring characters? Or are people are judging the show based on unfair expectations? After all, Firefly started slow, too. Like I said, I have no horse in this race. But I know a lot of you will be tuning in for the show’s post-holiday return tonight, so maybe you have some things to say on the subject. There is one interview response that everyone should agree with:
If you had the opportunity to use any one character from Marvel canon on the show, regardless of studio barriers, who would it be?
Tancharoen: Doctor Doom.
Whedon: Or Elf With A Gun.
Tancharoen: Elf With A Gun, definitely.