Scott D. Pierce: ‘S.H.I.E.L.D’ may need a superhero to save it

First Published      Last Updated Nov 22 2013 03:04 pm

Before the premiere of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," I cautioned my geek friends that they should not get their hopes up too high. Both in terms of quality and in terms of ratings.

My fellow geeks scoffed at my skepticism. Didn't I know that "The Avengers" was a box-office hit of epic proportions? Didn't I know that geeks have taken over the world and will soon rule the airwaves?

They didn't want to listen when I argued that a television series is not a movie. That ABC might not be the best place for a show like "S.H.I.E.L.D." That the show faced stiff competition from "NCIS."

In the interest of brevity, I'll just say — told you so.

Honestly, I take no joy in being right. I really wish that I could tell you I love "S.H.I.E.L.D.," but the best I can say is — I like it.

And, occasionally, I'm kind of bored by it.

It's no surprise that "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is not "The Avengers." You can't turn out weekly episodes of a TV series that look like a big-budget movie. It's just not possible.

"S.H.I.E.L.D." has good special effects. Frankly, this would be a much better show if the writing was as good as the effects. But it's not.

Eight episodes in, this still feels like a show that the writers haven't entirely figured out. These feel like characters that aren't fully formed.

(With the exception of Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson, who steals every scene he's in.)

"S.H.I.E.L.D." needs to feel more spontaneous. More fun. The attempts at comedy are only occasionally successful, and bad comedy is worse than no comedy at all.

Critics had high hopes for "S.H.I.E.L.D.," but you cannot call it a hit. It is by no means a failure, but fewer than 7 million viewers a week does not make you a hit.

This past week, "S.H.I.E.L.D." drew 6.85 million viewers — slightly more than a third as many viewers as "NCIS" (19.39 million) and only about 8 percent more than "The Biggest Loser" (6.33 million).

Fortunately for fans, "S.H.I.E.L.D." does better among the 18-49 demographic advertisers covet. Its 2.3 rating in that demo is 23 percent behind "NCIS."

But with the exception of a one-tenth point uptick last week, it's been a steady slide down since "S.H.I.E.L.D." premiered.

The show has already been picked up for a full season. ABC and Marvel are both part of the Disney conglomerate, but will that be enough to bring the expensive show back for a second season? Maybe.

Of bigger concern to my geek friends is what the relative lack of success of "S.H.I.E.L.D." might mean for the future of comic-book inspired TV shows. If "S.H.I.E.L.D." doesn't hit it big, what will?

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.