If you’ve given up on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Clark Gregg has pretty much given up on you. Even if you’re a self-identified geek.
“Those aren’t geeks. Those are losers,” the man who plays Agent Coulson said on the set of his show, somewhere in Los Angeles. (The producers want to keep exactly where kind of quiet, perhaps to keep the fanboys and fangirls away.)
Gregg is himself a self-identified geek. And he’s passionate about the party line at “S.H.I.E.L.D.” — be patient.
There has been lots of grumbling from fans about the show, a spinoff of sorts from movies like “Iron Man,” “Captain America,” “Thor” and “The Avengers.”
“We’re turning that into a TV show and we’re doing that with characters that people don’t know,” said executive producer Jeffrey Bell. “And so there were expectations.”
Not just from the fans, but from critics, who generally supported the show.
ABC’s initial tagline was, “Not all heroes are super.”
“But there are still people online who go, ‘We don’t understand why Iron Man isn’t on the show!’ ” said executive producer Jeph Loeb. “You know what? He’s not. I love Robert [Downey Jr.] — not coming by anytime soon.”
The producers, writers and cast all insist that the slow build “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” went through in its first dozen episodes was necessary to build toward what Loeb described as “the incredible momentum and urgency of what’s going to happen.”
Gregg compared it to eating “the healthy stuff first” and saving “the dessert” for later. “We’re deep in dessert right now.”
Network TV is not the most patient of mediums. Series get yanked after two or three episodes. And yet the people behind “S.H.I.E.L.D.” seem surprised that viewers haven’t been altogether patient with a show that took 12 episodes working toward the good stuff.
Ming-Na Wen, who stars as Agent Melinda May, admitted she’s frustrated with some of the fan reaction.
“I love our fans so much, but they want the end of it already,” she said. “We have 22 episodes and, hopefully, years to come of stories and developing characters, and all we want is our fans to just be patient and not come down hard. Go with us. It’s a slower ride.”
“Hopefully, a five-year-plus ride,” interjected Brett Dalton, who stars as Agent Grant Ward. “And I think all of the stuff that they want, we have in store.”
The normally super-secret Marvel — where you need a Level 7 clearance just to get onto the set — is opening up about some of what’s in store in the next few episodes:
• Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) will be revealed as the cyborg Deathlok in the Feb. 4 episode. The character has existed for 40 years in comic books; this is his first appearance on film.
• Also on Feb. 4, comics legend Stan Lee — co-creator of “S.H.I.E.L.D.” in print — will make a cameo appearance.
• In an upcoming episode, Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander) will cross over from the Thor movies to “S.H.I.E.L.D.” She’ll come to Earth in pursuit of Lorelei (Elena Satine), another Asgardian who is a minor villain in the Marvel comics.
• Also upcoming — Bill Paxton will appear in several episodes as Agent John Garrett, a tough S.H.I.E.L.D. operative introduced in the comic books in 1986.
“You start to have people like Deathlok showing up,” Gregg said. “You start to understand that a bunch of these different episodes were connected. A lot of the geeks that I respect most … are very excited about where we’re going. So I’m going to choose to work for them.”
All this will please some, but not all fans. Some will never be happy because they want the show they imagine in their heads, not the one they see on TV. Which, in the age of the Internet, is true of pretty much every show.
“But ours has the added bonus that there are an awful lot of people out there that read Marvel [comics],” Loeb said.
Just be careful if you even suggest to Gregg that some fans/geeks have given up on “S.H.I.E.L.D.” Not only is he “very protective of my team and my show,” but he’s convinced that even the uber-geeks will come around.
“I guess I don’t mean to say that people who have been frustrated by that discovery period are necessarily losers,” he said. “I just think they should be, perhaps, a little more patient.”
‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’
The series airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on ABC/Ch. 4. The next new episode airs Feb. 4.