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"I don't get it. What is it, avant-garde?"
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October 29 2013

What's W.R.O.N.G. with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Alan Sepinwall provides his take on the show with a thorough breakdown of his creative issues with the series.

Yeah, I more or less agree with everything here. I have faith in the team to course-correct, but thus far Sepinwall's spot on.
Alan does a nice job of explaining my issues with the show. "I guess I don't hate it" sums AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. up.

[ edited by The Dark Shape on 2013-10-29 16:28 ]
Good points (but I loved the Fury cameo). I think part of the reason Coulson has taken a backseat is that the viewers already love him, so we need to get to know the other characters.
I have a lot of time for Alan Sepinwall. Good review. It just looks like the suits scanned the TV landscape and saw two options for success: NCIS or Breaking Bad. They picked NCIS. Which is fine, but it doesn't leave much scope to be any better than fine. I really hope Joss gets time to work on the show.
I agree with basically all his points. I will say that I think my initial expectations were very high as well, which has made me more critical of the show. I like it, but I don't love it.

Edit: But don't get me wrong - we all know and love Joss for his character development, so I'm still excited to see how the show progresses. Oddly enough, I don't have a favorite character yet (besides Agent Coulson, but my love for him grew out of The Avengers).

[ edited by Dandelion on 2013-10-30 03:46 ]
Yeah, pretty much.
It's a well thought out piece that raises some valid points, but really I feel it's too early to pass much judgement. I continue to give it a pass as I didn't expect a 100% Joss Whedon show given the subject matter and players involved, and every show takes some time to get its sea legs under it. And it is the first prime time show that I sit down with my kids and watch, and they're loving it. That in and of itself makes it special in our household.
I know that Joss occasionally drops in on Whedonesque. My only hope is that Jed and Maurissa do as well and that they see this entry and read Alan Sepinwall's deconstruction of the show because I think he's hit a LOT of nails on the head. I love SHIELD. I desperately want it to succeed and I think it's fixable, but only if the problems that Alan points out are addressed.

[ edited by ladypeyton on 2013-10-29 17:15 ]
The show just has to answer one question: who are these guys? It has started to answer that question with Skye, and it seems to be determined to be coy about Coulson until next May (and hopefully no later than that), but how about the rest of the crew. They're flesh, not tall action figures. At least "The Crazy Ones" have already done that.
I'm getting a little tired of these point by point dissections of why the show isn't working. Stop complaining and just fix the problem yourself - there are plenty of buttons on your remote to help out. Whole new cast of characters. Whole new plot and premise. Done and done.

For my part, whatever flaws the show has, I'm a little bummed we don't have an episode tonight.
Please, Jed, read the article and make changes. I had such high hopes and it's never a good sign when guest stars routinely show up the regulars as more interesting.
BringItOn5x5, I'm not sure that's entirely fair. The fact that other shows exist doesn't mean I don't have a right to be frustrated with the quality of a show that, whether justified or not, comes with built-in expectations.

As others have said, I think Alan has provided his typical intelligent analysis of the show and I hope to see the show correct its course over the season.
Great article, completely agree with pretty much all of it.
BringItOn5x5 - if you have a problem with an article, fix the problem yourself and click away from the page. Problem solved.
I manage both to generally enjoy the show on a quickly-forgotten popcorn level and to agree with Sepinwall's basic arguments.
BringItOn5x5, I'm sorry you think that. But discussion forums don't only have praise for shows but also criticism. I think it speaks to how much many of us want AoS to not only work but be GOOD in every aspect because we do care.

If I didn't enjoy a show - I would stop watching it (not going to bore you with a long list) but if I am attached to a show I will join in discussion, point out the good, the bad and the OMG-that-was-just- wow.

Whedon shows are about characters. They are more about making us invested and care and KNOW a character within the first few episodes. It's about human quirks and witty moments in deep storylines. I believe AoS wants that - but it's still on shaky footing IMO. I don't really GET anyone other than Coulson. With the recent Skye revelation, I'm getting her more - but not much really.

I'm liking the darker feel to the latest episode but I want to see more other than a focus on Ward and Skye because even what I see doesn't really do it for me. Or maybe I just want all round interaction between the cast not just clicks. Why not have May be Skye's S.O.? That way the forced sexual tension would hopefully stop. Maybe make them more relatable. Know the other characters too.

I really hope we will get many Tophers soon (because like Alan I too didn't really like Topher but by the end, he was my favorite) . I think Fitz can have a lot of potential - just nothing we can see now.

Suffice to say, I ain't quitting you anytime soon Agents. Writers, I know you're bringing your A-game to knock us out. I will be watching.
I largely agree with the article as well, but I continue to watch because I have a fairly deep well of faith in the creative team. We can discuss the pros and cons without getting snippy with one another.
I have had to train myself not to think too deply about the show. If I do- and this is my natural tendency- then I get frustrated with all the problems. When I can let it go, I am like B!x, in that I can watch, enjoy and put away. There is no depth here, not yet. And in reality, not much worth discussing- the mysteries of the show are just that, mysteries with no answers as yet. What I loved about Buffy was that while the mysteries existed, there was so much richness to the show, so many possible readings and interpretations. This is nowhere the case here. This show is just a procedural, set in a Marvel-sytle universe. And the characters are not yet really interesting, not in the way from episode 1 of BTVS that Willow was, for example. We never ever saw Willow running around in her skivvies; we have seen Skye already in both her skivvies and a wet dress. That is not character development.

Alan Sepinwall is not a critic who can be easily dismissed. He is well-read and has watched and written huge amounts on quality TV. I have his book, which has much love for Buffy. Him raising these concerns, in light of others as well, is something that needs to be noted.
BringItOn5x5, Sepinwall is a TV critic, so he's going to criticize the TV that doesn't work and the praise the TV that does. As for ordinary fans that complain, there is a LOT riding on this show, and we all want it to do well. I agree with the criticisms, and appreciate that he recognizes the room for growth.

I think it's a sign of wisdom when we can criticize artists whose work matters to us. It doesn't mean we love them any less.
I'm fairly easily pleased, so Ward and FitzSimmons have yet to bother me in the slightest. But Sepinwall's point about paying lip service to the complexities and the grayness of SHIELD is exactly my problem with the show so far. They've got to get a lot deeper than that before they really capture my heart.

At least with Dollhouse we could hold out hope for "Man on the Street," which we were repeatedly promised would rescue the premise. Where's that cavalry?
Im not easily pleased. But i dont think there is anything wrong with the show. Its beyond great. Its absolutely fantastic.
I think I've struck a nerve.

There's a distinction to be made between constructive criticism and slagging off on a show entirely. When you're asking questions like "Are there any compelling characters?" and finding various reasons to discount them all, you've fallen into the latter. Such reviews will happen. To see them so well and widely received on a supposed Whedon fan-site is disappointing. Ultimately, regardless of whatever expectations we hold, the show is what it is and sooner or later there's a choice for every viewer to make. It's either making you happy or it's not. Article after article, post after post chiming in with the negativity on a show people profess not to enjoy, but are unwilling to give up on. We're five hours in now - how much longer is this going to continue? At what point is this just fans behaving badly?

Sorry, but I'm just tired of reading it. Time to take my own advice and do something else.

[ edited by BringItOn5x5 on 2013-10-29 19:12 ]
I'm still hoping for a "Man on the Street" episode, but I would give them time. It was episode 6 of a 13 episodes season, we're at episode 5 of a 22 (23?) episodes one.

The biggest problem, for me, is that, with Dollhouse, we were waiting for Ballard to learn more about the Dollhouse, and to find echo. While I'm enjoying AoS, I'm not waiting for anything, except maybe Coulson's story. It lacks conflict. Hopefully, now that we've heard more about the bad guys, we can get that.
Man on the Street didn't sell me on Dollhouse. It was only after watching Epitaph One did I think the show could be truly great . Which it did in Season 2 but outside events forced that rather than the writers' plotted arcs.

Also there was more hate for Dollhouse than AoS at the time but now we look back on it with fondness. I suspect when we are out of the eye of the storm, we will feel the same about AoS.
Strangely enough, I didn't care much for Epitaph One. It was a really nice twist, but I didn't enjoy the episode as much as I expected to. In any case, I think the common point of both episodes is that they were game changers, and they pushed the show forward greatly.
I can see where BringItOn5x5 is coming from. It seems like with every bit of news about AoS anywhere, somebody is bound to comment with pointing out things that apparently don't work. And when you're really enjoying the ride yourself, it can become tiring at times to not help but hearing people pointing out the supposed flaws. Of course, everyone is to their opinion, but it can get a bit frustrating to keep hearing people talk down (aspects of) a show I like - especially when people seem to be more complaining than anything else, without being constructive or open to future developments (note: I don't find this to be the case with the Sepinwall article).

Personally, I have no problems with the show, and I even feel very attached to the characters already. I don't want anyone to die. I want to know all of their backstories. I want to see all of them develop. And I trust it will come, for everyone. I don't mind the current pacing.
And I just hope that enough millions of other viewers are enjoying AoS like I do, so the show will stay on the air for many more seasons.
Kind of agreeing with the sentiments expressed by BringItOn5x5 and Valentijn, here, for mine own self.... Man alive, are my friend and I the only ones who love, absolutely love AoS completely, wholly, unconditionally, and without reservation or restraint? Because looking through this site and the article comments sometimes, such as these, it certainly oft feels like we’re the only ones who are absolutely, positively hooked on it, utterly compelled by each and every single episode thus far, and we love all the characters and what’s being done with them and we totally don’t find any fault with it whatsoever – certainly nothing at all lacking with it in our eyes! But looking at site comments like this, goodness, I really would think we’re pretty well alone in that assessment, that feeling (looking at this site, I’d think that people consider the show a failure thus far, which of course – nothing could be further from the truth, yes? I mean, all the picking and picking and fault-finding with something people supposedly like, and enjoy...)....which would be sad, in my perspective.

Nonetheless, I love the show, I think it’s all manner of fabulous, fantastic, endlessly compelling – I love these characters, Skye, Ward, Fitz-Simmons, Melinda May, and of course, Coulson! (honestly, between him and Melinda, I don’t know who I’d less want mad at me – they both get downright scary, truly intimidating, in that regard! Indeed, the quieter they get, the more terrifying they can be, for all that – not yelling or raging or rampaging, but you almost wish they would be, because the alternative is just chilling :) ) I basically never comment on the site – I’m well enough content to just lurk and peruse – but when I keep seeing all these articles about “what’s wrong with AoS”, it just....really distresses me, rather grinds my proverbial gears, after a fashion, I must confess. I mean, everyone has them their own opinion and feelings, obviously, but what if I say that I and my friend, for example, don’t think that anything is “wrong” with AoS? That for us, by our kenning, it’s perfect and fab, all the awesome and amazing and compelling, magnetic, fascinating and unpredictable, just as it is? I worry sometimes about being dismissed, in that regard.... (and it has happened before, other fandoms 'n' such, and always stings when it does) ....just sayin'. And having done that, I now re-lurk....
I agree with most of the review, but I think he forgot what I'd call the main problem with AoS : it's not a "personal" show. Honestly, apart from one or two catchphrases sometimes - and J. August Richards - I can't feel any Whedon vibe in the show. That's precisely why I think it's dull and boring for the moment : it's a show that seems to be born for money, not because the guys at Marvel had a pertinent story to tell.
BringItOn5x5, I did not see Sepinwall "slagging" off the show; I saw him offering his honest criticisms of a show that many people- as seen here- think can be better. And this is whedonesque, a site which almost always provides the most positive reviews of anything Joss does anywhere on this planet. That there is no unanimity even here ought to point to potential problems in the show. I am myself surprised that so many are find it problematic, but I come to that because we are always so willing to give Joss the shadow of a doubt. I'm watching, but as I said, I needed to train myself to watch so that I could get past rolling my eyes at the problems I kept seeing. So, for me, it is an hour escape. I have nobody to invest in, no one I care about so unlike In Treatment, where I went to bed at night worried about Sophie, here I go to bed and worry about tomorrow's workload. I just cannot invest in any character. This is to me the biggest problem the show has and Sepinwall does note this.
@Stelian: I'm feeling Whedon vibes, but maybe it's just because I want them to be there. In particular, I find interactions between May and Coulson very Whedonesque. And FitzSimmons is very Topher-like.

Of course, that's not relevant to whether the show has a story to tell or not, but it has a theme (being human in a world with superhumans).

[ edited by Ragondux on 2013-10-29 20:32 ]
To see them so well and widely received on a supposed Whedon fan-site is disappointing.


While I understand the point you are trying to make, I disagree with your examples and I also don't find "this is supposed to be a fan site so you can't say anything negative or I will call your fan credentials into question" a really thrilling argument to see made. There is, as you point out, a difference between constructive criticism and slagging the show off and we have seen both here. The hammer does come down on axe grinders who come here solely to slag the show off, so don't let them get to you.

Personally, I think honest and open criticism of something is better than blind adoration and sheep-y following (and I am not suggesting that you are doing so or advocating for that, mind you :)). I have a lot of issues with the show (well illuminated in Alan's article) and I would love to see it continue to move in a positive direction. As Simon says above, this criticism has nothing on the depth and scope of the criticism leveled at Dollhouse. I was here defending it and it wasn't a large super-happy funtime party of folks doing so at the time.
And FitzSimmons is very Topher-like.


I hope some day to be able to say this. I want them to just merge into one person, which is largely how they are treated anyway. I do enjoy Skye, but I don't find Ward compelling.
Actually, I'm really enjoying it. Even anticipating it, so I'm mad as hell there's no episode today, BUT I'm just as mad at this trend of just complaining about how the characters seem bland or stereotypical. Give 'em time. That's a must for all Whedon shows. Also, I think it excels when the story belongs to the AoS universe, instead of the movies one (I'm looking at you "Eye Spy"). And they should probably capitalize on that, not all the stories for the comics. That way is something fresh and new, even though it's based on something written years ago. Also, the twists won't be as predictable as they are in this internet era where we are one click/comment away from spoiling the whole thing.

Anyway, I might be in the minority, but after the last episode I'm sold into the larger picture (and story) and specially into Skye and Ward. There's a lot of potential there (and I'm not speaking romantic potential, which there also is). I'm hoping some months from now there's more people fascinated with how they've managed to create a Scooby Gang we'd all love to be a part of, and I understand there's people who just don't see it now. But I'm kinda sure they will.
It would be interesting, but I'm guessing they'll go the other route and show us they are inseparable, then kill one of them and have the other one deal with it.

I'm not sure if what you said was a criticism, because I'm a big fan of how they're treated as one character (by other characters, not by the writers).
As Simon says above, this criticism has nothing on the depth and scope of the criticism leveled at Dollhouse. I was here defending it and it wasn't a large super-happy funtime party of folks doing so at the time.


I'm recalling the bloodbath that Buffy Seasons 6 & 7 sparked when they first aired. And how those seasons have been rehabilitated in the eyes of the fandom (and critics) nowadays. When it comes to tv shows and the immediacy of criticism, sometimes it's good to bear in mind what Zhou Enlai thought of the French Revolution.

I will also say that I am warming a lot more to the AoS characters than I did for Dollhouse at the start (maybe possibly Firefly too but that was a long time ago).
For all of you that think you might be in the minority for loving the show, you aren't. Really. I adore it and I wish there was a new ep tonight. My guess is, like me, many who love the show and can already see the potential and where it is going get a little turned off by the tone in places so choose to fanboy/girl gush in other places. It's all about what kind of energy you want to surround yourself with. People here love to debate/discuss/disagree over plot/character/story way past the point where I enjoy the conversation.

It's ok to come hang out on twitter/tumblr or FB & other places that are celebrating the goodness and try not to get too frustrated when that isn't universally shared. It's a tactic I don't always succeed at but am really trying to implement. Join me. :)
I agree with Sepinwall. It doesn't really seem to know what it wants to be. Light, comedic action comedy? Mid-level intensity with a side of real-world critique of government and personal privacy? A shindig or a hootenanny?

Until it figures this out, how can we expect to see the characters and their perception of things happening to them? Skye was presented as an activist-type - well, it only took one or two episodes for her to really conclude "these people aren't so bad after all." Ward is a hardboiled agent who likes to work alone - how come we haven't gotten any more of that? Suddenly he's not only willing to work on a team, he's willing to be a mentor (but only to Skye, who is single and pretty. Poor Simmons). FitzSimmons is woefully underutilized. Yes, they're smart. Can't they also have the greatest, most epic friendship ever without it resorting to an awkward "do they/will they/have they?" Believe it or not, men and women (even on TV) can be just friends.
Seems to me the criticism can be boiled down into two camps:

The "Alan Sepinwall Camp" takes a fairly objective view of things, and offers what would be considered constructive analysis. I had mentioned before, like Alan does, that while I liked Coulson in the mix during the Marvel movies, I'm not sure a clipped, detached middle age guy makes an excellent lead people can get excited about. On the other hand, unlike Alan, I loved the Fury cameo. So there's opinion that folks can agree or disagree with and that makes good reading

The other camp, directly or implied, believe the whole show is a Joss "sell out" That by doing the deal with Disney Whedon and team proactively neutered any chance the show had of being meaningful. That a Marvel show on a mainstream network is inherently vanilla. Most of these assessments include references to all the "pretty people" and (IMO) patronizing back hands like "Well I don't find any depth or meaning or quality worth noting, but if that doesn't bother you, then I'm glad you enjoy it"

Always happy to read stuff from the Alan Camp - even when I disagree. Find the other snarky stuff dull and embarrassing.

I like the show - every episode makes me smile at least a couple times. I get to watch it with my son and that's fun. Given what's been hinted at I believe there are some interesting things in the works for a couple of characters. I'll keep tuning in. I hope I continue to do the same here -
I admit I feel a little deflated when I keep reading these mountains of criticism, because I'm enjoying the show and I don't want to lose any of that. But many of the points made are very valid. I'd like to see more themes come to the forefront, like the knowledge vs safety argument. And I'd also like to see the characters feeling dwarfed by a superhero, because the 'Zeppo' part of the premise was very exciting. But I'm also willing to wait for the writers to get to those, hopefully before other viewers have given up waiting. I'm surprised that Skye is apparently one of the least popular characters, though. Is it just because people didn't expect her to be almost a co-lead?

I think the most heartening thing for me is that Dollhouse seems to have finally joined the ranks of Joss's other praised shows. I remember it being constantly compared to Buffy, Angel and Firefly unfavourably and criticised for being unwhedonesque. Is every new Joss show treated like an unwanted child at the time?
Yes. Most fans wanted Angel back on Buffy. Nobody wanted to watch cowboys in space.
I'm not sure if what you said was a criticism, because I'm a big fan of how they're treated as one character (by other characters, not by the writers).


It was: I don't consider the two of them together to be a full character at this point. If they were to get more development I could see really enjoying them, but they are a caricature at the moment.

Most fans wanted Angel back on Buffy. Nobody wanted to watch cowboys in space.


I immediately adored Firefly and do to this day :) I feel I am among a small minority who really loved Angel. Wesley's arc, in particular, across Buffy and through to the end of Angel is one of those utterly amazing things that I will just enjoy more and more as I rewatch.
It is kind of ironic that some of the strongest criticisms of the show are coming from the Whedon fan community. That may be partly because we expect a lot from Joss, and maybe partly because we are less capable of just changing the channel. We really, really want this show to be great, and we can't just walk away when we feel it's not. We have to stick around hoping it will change.

In a relationship with another person, this attitude might be considered dysfunctional, and I can see why it might provoke some irritation among those who like the show just as it is.
At the same time, a show is not a person. Shows can, and sometimes do, change to address the concerns of their audience. Sometimes they even improve and become great.

Ultimately, I think most of the criticism on this site has been of the functional variety. But maybe the comments of Lyria and others can serve as a helpful reminder to not lose sight of the positive.

In that regard, while I've frequently found myself frustrated with the show, I still look forward to new episodes every week. I know, at a minimum, it will provide some escapist fun in a universe that I know and love. And sometimes there are even flashes of wit and brilliance that call to mind my favorite Whedon shows. And these give me hope for the future.
I thought Angel was great too. But as I recall from those came before me, when it was announced that Angel got his own show it went down like a lead balloon.
Some of them are still upset about it :).

How can I thank you, you mysterious, black-clad hunk of a night thing?

Some people didn't want the Buffy movie to become a tv show and still complain about it (for real).
Also there was more hate for Dollhouse than AoS at the time but now we look back on it with fondness. I suspect when we are out of the eye of the storm, we will feel the same about AoS.

Dollhouse made me angry until the second season and now I do have that fondness. AoS doesn't make me feel anything. I will keep watching - some of the dialogue is enjoyable, but I don't find it compelling.
I love Buffy, and Angel will never match its peaks for me, but I maintain to this day that Angel is a far more consistently excellent show. My best friend watched it before watching Buffy and to this day thinks it's Joss's best show.

In short, I've never gotten over my surprise that it's generally overlooked (not so much by fandom as in general TV criticism).
Listen, I don't disagree or anything, I am just so sick of this culture of arm-chair quarterbacks. We all think we know so much better... yet we create nothing ourselves. I dunno, just gets to me sometimes. Not an attack on you guys.
Heh, travel back in time and find the old newsgroup during any week on Buffy were they added a new character. My God, people did not like Tara.
Some people didn't want the Buffy movie to become a tv show and still complain about it (for real).

I was one of them. I saw that movie when I was 13 and when I first watched an episode of the show I couldn't stand that Pike wasn't in it and did not get the English watcher. That alone prevented me from trying the show until years later. Now I feel like a complete idiot. At least that experience taught me to be less intolerant to stuff like that.
Part of the reason SHIELD doesn't inspire fandom bloodbaths the likes of Dollhouse and BtVS Seasons 6 and 7 is because it's too flat to inspire wholehearted offense, too uninspired to risk offending by reaching for a controversial storytelling. There's no fandom squabbling because nobody cares enough to fight. The disappointed have either walked away or shrugged their shoulders, lowered their expectations, and settled for popcorn fodder while hoping the show may somehow, some way correct course.

There's no ugly fandom battles because nobody's invested enough to start a war. And that's the fundamental problem with SHIELD.

[ edited by Emmie on 2013-10-29 22:24 ]
There's no ugly fandom battles because nobody's invested enough to start a war.


Not at all. Speaking as someone thoroughly enjoying the show, I'd rather devote my attention and energy to that loving than to war-waging. I wouldn't know why I would want to get into an ugly fandom battle at all...
Emmie, I categorically disagree. I have to stop myself daily from engaging (and wasting a whole lot of my time on negativity) with the people who talk about the show like you do. Just because I prefer to focus my energy elsewhere does not mean I'm not passionate about the show, it means I don't see the point in arguing with "haters."
"The other camp, directly or implied, believe the whole show is a Joss "sell out" That by doing the deal with Disney Whedon and team proactively neutered any chance the show had of being meaningful. That a Marvel show on a mainstream network is inherently vanilla. Most of these assessments include references to all the "pretty people" and (IMO) patronizing back hands like "Well I don't find any depth or meaning or quality worth noting, but if that doesn't bother you, then I'm glad you enjoy it""

This would be me. Though I do not believe in any way that Joss is a sell-out. I do think that there was a decision to cast what I previously called Hollywood-pretty actors, and that because it is Marvel it is constrained, and that it lacks the kind of depth Buffy had in spades. But these are just criticisms, nothing more. People can agree or not. The show is not engaging me the way a really great show does.

I am, however, a person who truly disliked Dollhouse because of the problems I felt it raised related to agency, consent, gaze and so forth. Acting was good in it, to be sure. But it was a very problematic program. It reached high but missed. IMHO.
To paraphrase Browning, an artist's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for. I felt this was true of all of Joss' previous works, even when I hated some of the execution with the strength of a 1000 suns (first half-season of DH). I felt it was true very early in each series (and even in 3-episodes of Dr Horrible). Unfortunately, I don't get that vibe from AoS yet, but I will stay committed in case it is merely delayed or detoured. As to the other discussion in this thread, another quote about 'heat' and 'kitchen' comes to mind; if encounters with those you feel are 'haters' undermines your joy, please don't expose yourself to them!
Thanks, baxter. That's my plan. :) But my point was to make clear that opposing opinions and views exist and are probably in the majority even if no one is loudly proclaiming and arguing about them here. Sometimes the echo chamber is so loud it's hard to hear anything else.
Just because I prefer to focus my energy elsewhere does not mean I'm not passionate about the show, it means I don't see the point in arguing with "haters."

There's passionate, and then there's passionate. Some shows just have a magical something to them that compels you to have those mindless arguments with the proverbial "haters", and so far the consensus (with a special emphasis on my own opinion and my perception of yours - via reading between the lines) is that MAoS isn't one of them.

Which - in a way - is a pity, since past experience has shown that Whedon-related productions tend to make for some of the most compelling viewing out there. However - I am not one of those... snobbish types who will only watch a particular kind of show. I like having a variety (in terms of how much I have to think about what I'm watching in order to stay in the moment) of viewing material to choose from so that I always have something to watch - no matter what mood I'm in at the moment. It's just feels kind of strange to have a Whedon show on my weekly watch list that appears near the bottom of said list when it comes to how much brain power it requires.
Put it this way - when Angel started airing, people ripped it a new one online. When Buffy got into late seasons, it was a hate train (still feel bad for Marti). Firefly - there was a fandom site which renamed their Firefly section 'Fireflop' after it started airing. Dollhouse - we had all these conversations about it every week. People hated it, if you read here. Seriously - reread the discussion of episode 5 here on Google.

I don't bother to defend the show here because I like it.
No brinderwalt, your perception of my opinion is incorrect. I'm pretty confident of my expertise in this case. :)
I'm also one of the folk who loved AtS more than Buffy. I found it more consistently good...or, at the very least, it was good faster.

I also got into it before Buffy, which I had decided was not for me after tuning into 'I Robot, You Jane' and hating it. I know now,of course, that the show got a lot better!

With AoS, I'm enjoying it, but it does feel surprisingly generic at times, with many tropes playing out 'straight', as it were, without the usual whedonesque subversions. It certainly feels like the most disposable of Joss' shows...I've yet to see an ep that will compel me to buy the boxset.

The end of the most recent episode did give me a human element to follow, with the revelation about Skye, so I'm def in for the rest of the season. I need more character beats for FitzSimmons and May soon, though.

The one thing that surprises me about fan reaction is how much everyone hates Ward!
With the possible exception of "Game of Thrones", I don't think I've *ever* been invested enough in a series after only 5 episodes to get into a fandom war over it.

So far AoS is my fifth-favorite Joss show... but that still puts it in the top 5% of all the shows I've ever seen. I've watched each episode twice (once on Tuesday night, once on the weekend when I go to my parents' and watch it with my mom), and I'll keep watching if it never gets any better than it is now.

I'm still hoping for a "third flower is green" moment that will make my jaw hit the floor, but I don't know if that's the way a show like this is going to roll.
I'm honestly never sure what I hate more. It's one thing to just not dig a work, because that's fair. There's stuff I don't like that other people really like. But I don't really get the big deal about the show NOT being some life changing genre show. What's so bad about it being a fun procedural, anyway?

At the same time, I hate the "Don't worry guys, it'll get good like the other ones!" mentally. It's a TV show. You don't need to build some culture around it, to put faith that something will be pleasurably to you just for the sake of it being a pleasurable experience. Why not just...not watch it? Explain why you dislike all you want, that's a conversation you're within your right to have, but to dislike it but hope that "the creators will listen to fan reaction and make it better" is astoundingly egotistical. Who says they have to listen to YOU? Because you don't like it?

It's just weird to me. Fandom is the worst thing to happen to television because it turns every TV show into a culture and when a TV show doesn't fit the culture that wants to fit it (rather than the culture it fosters on its own), suddenly that's the show's fault and it is an inherently bad product because it doesn't appeal to a specific type of person who went in wanting it to be something rather than checking it out to see what it'll be. I feel bad for TV creators, as if stuff like shipping and whatever wasn't already an inane type of practice already.

The worst part is by the end of season one most people will come around to it, when it's cancelled you'll cry, then you'll get excited when Whedon returns to TV or the web, hate that at first, then like it upon retrospect.

But I like Agents of SHIELD AND my favorite character is Agent Ward, so maybe I'm just part of whatever the show's audience is supposed to be. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised I dig the show considering I don't really care about the Marvel Cinematic Universe much at all.

It's just like...I like superheroes, but when the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies bored me to tears I didn't sit around thinking, "Well, maybe they'll be better! I'm in it for the long haul!" I just shrugged, moved on with my life, and was glad it spoke to people the way it did. I'll probably never care for the MCU, but I'm glad people do and I don't see a need to fill lines of communication with nothing but what I perceived as its drastic, intense flaws or whatever because of this asinine sense that it needs to appeal to ME and I'm gonna SIT HERE.

UNTIL IT DOEEES.

[ edited by ImmaDeker on 2013-10-30 00:47 ]

[ edited by ImmaDeker on 2013-10-30 00:53 ]
I am actually enjoying AoS far more than I was Dollhouse at this point (which is a show I truly would have stepped away from had it not been a Whedon show). I kept watching Dollhouse and in the end it paid off pretty well. I don't love Dollhouse like I do Firefly, Buffy, and Angel, but I thought it ended up being an excellent show - particularly in the second season (at least until the penultimate episode).

Although AoS has been a little disappointing to me so far, I definitely see potential and have high hopes for it still. I find myself looking forward to the new episodes each week and have felt a modicum of enjoyment from them thus far. The only reason I do not have 100% faith that AoS will eventually become great is that Joss is not very involved. There are numerous tv shows that never evolve past a comparable level of quality that I may watch from week to week (mostly due to the advent of DVRs - I don't NEED to watch them and usually stop at some point). From previous experience I have much higher hopes/expectations from a Whedon show.
I feel like this whole thing would have been more in the Whedon/Mutant Enemy wheelhouse had they completely repremised it and the protagonists been Not!SHIELD people who were constantly chasing after them. Not Rising Tide per se, but more like the Portman/Skarsgaard/Dennings crew trying to help Thor and get their stuff back. Fitz/Simmons still work in that setting. Skye obviously. Melinda May as a disgruntled former agent. And Coulson could just show up with no explanation and want answers and become their front man. Then you really have just reinvented "Firefly" in some ways for the Marvel Universe, and I think they'd all be much more comfortable with a purpose to it.
BringItOn5x5: I think Sepinwall's is constructive criticism. He clearly wants the show to succeed, as do we all. I think he touched on the areas that need improvement, so that it will succeed.

Sepinwall's observations are spot-on. While I don't care all that much about whether the action/special-effects scenes looks expensive or not (and think that we may well see bigger-budget episodes down the line), I do care about character-driven stories (rather than plot device meat puppets), AND am disappointed that the writers seems to miss the opportunities to make the story/ies about something bigger than the characters and action. Sepinwall gives the widespread surveillance issue as an example of missed opportunities to make the stories about something. I think, given the layers of potential in Joss's pilot, if Joss had time and energy to devote to the show, we would see fewer wasted opportunities for multi-layered storytelling.

About it just being a "fun procedural," that would work better if the characters were more interesting. Even if it turns out to be a fun, action show about nothing (which, if you look at the history of Marvel storytelling, the stories were usually about something), we need to be invested in the characters. One of the reasons Joss's other shows worked for people was that the characters were great. They each had their own distinctive personalities, and we learned to love or hate them and usually both at the same time), because they were people we could identify with... or recognize.

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2013-10-30 02:08 ]
Wanting a show to succeed and pointing perceived errors is NOT necesarily constructive criticism. Sepinswall observations are... quite without merit and miss the point completely.
But Sepinwall hasn't said anything that most of us haven't been saying since the show began. If we did not want the show to succeed, we would just change the channel, and never come here to talk about the problems with it. I think we all secretly want the writers to see our assessments, not because we want to bash them, but so they can correct the course of their writing to at least make us want to stay around. I don't need the story to go the way I want it to go, but I do want something to keep my attention on the show when it's airing.

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2013-10-30 02:12 ]
Wathever you, most of you or not, said, is irrelevant. That doesnt make you right. And therefore, no writer needs to listen to you. And they really dont need to make the show you think is good.

And thats the point, isnt it? You can like something,or not. You can think its good or not. But when you start to think that your point of view is so obvious people should act upon it as if it were fact... Well thats a problem.

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-10-30 02:27 ]

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-10-30 02:27 ]

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-10-30 02:28 ]
At this point I am enjoying the adventure-of-the-week "Mission Impossible" (the TV show, not the movies) vibe. It's a nice escape.

Do I want more? Sure!

Am I willing to wait, watch and see?

Yes
I rather liked the ambition and audaciousness of having an episode two being a bottle episode. It showed series intent. Each episode thus far has shown me that. I feel like I want it to come a little more naturally in the future, but I've not much to complain about so far. It's getting there, and I think the show is developing a rhythm. 47.9/50.
No brinderwalt, your perception of my opinion is incorrect. I'm pretty confident of my expertise in this case. :)

...fair enough.

I'm honestly never sure what I hate more. It's one thing to just not dig a work, because that's fair. There's stuff I don't like that other people really like. But I don't really get the big deal about the show NOT being some life changing genre show. What's so bad about it being a fun procedural, anyway?

Because for some people (not me) putting those two words together is a sin.

At the same time, I hate the "Don't worry guys, it'll get good like the other ones!" mentally. It's a TV show. You don't need to build some culture around it, to put faith that something will be pleasurably to you just for the sake of it being a pleasurable experience. Why not just...not watch it? Explain why you dislike all you want, that's a conversation you're within your right to have, but to dislike it but hope that "the creators will listen to fan reaction and make it better" is astoundingly egotistical. Who says they have to listen to YOU? Because you don't like it?

Hey - there's always that chance that (a. your particular gripe is spot on and (b. that the writers hear about, agree with you, and do end up changing things.

It's just weird to me. Fandom is the worst thing to happen to television because it turns every TV show into a culture and when a TV show doesn't fit the culture that wants to fit it (rather than the culture it fosters on its own), suddenly that's the show's fault and it is an inherently bad product because it doesn't appeal to a specific type of person who went in wanting it to be something rather than checking it out to see what it'll be.

Imo it's all about advertising. If an audience goes in expecting something based on having been told to expect that thing (eg. "All the awesomeness of the MCU in television form!" or "From the mysterious magical mind of the Joss Whedon himself!") you can hardly blame them for carping if they think those claims haven't been met. And when it comes down to it, you're better off potentially targeting the wrong audience for a new show than no audience at all (since it is impossible to predict precisely what audience a show will end up attracting until after the fact.)

I feel bad for TV creators, as if stuff like shipping and whatever wasn't already an inane type of practice already.

speaking as a fellow working artist in the creative/performing/entertaining arts, I commiserate with them - but I absolutely, positively do not feel bad/sorry for them. It is always a great privilege to be in a position where you are able to craft something (such as a work of art, writing, or a physical performance) and then be able to release it into the wild, as it were, to be absorbed by an audience. One of the central tenets, though, about this kind of artistic release is that once it is out there it is no longer just yours, and people are (and should be) free to individually take away from it whatever they want or need to (since that is the essence of entertainment.)


But I like Agents of SHIELD AND my favorite character is Agent Ward, so maybe I'm just part of whatever the show's audience is supposed to be. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised I dig the show considering I don't really care about the Marvel Cinematic Universe much at all.

Beleive it or not, but I am actually totally with you on this one. I am thoroughly enjoying the show (given large volumes of finger foods close to hand), am devotedly lukewarm about the MCU just as I am about all things Marvel in general (DC FTW!!!) and I actually like Ward since I am beginning to suspect that he may actually be the smartest of the bunch.

It's just like...I like superheroes, but when the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies bored me to tears I didn't sit around thinking, "Well, maybe they'll be better! I'm in it for the long haul!" I just shrugged, moved on with my life, and was glad it spoke to people the way it did. I'll probably never care for the MCU, but I'm glad people do and I don't see a need to fill lines of communication with nothing but what I perceived as its drastic, intense flaws or whatever because of this asinine sense that it needs to appeal to ME and I'm gonna SIT HERE.

UNTIL IT DOEEES.

Fwiw I think it bears pointing out that this is whedonesque.com and not Firefly/Buffy/SHIELD.com. In other words what brings people together here is a mutual interest in Joss Whedon himself, and discussions of how the individual projects he associates himself with effect his creative output is a completely legitimate line of discussion - no matter what might be said good or bad about those properties in the process.

Wanting a show to succeed and pointing perceived errors is NOT necesarily constructive criticism.

If you're pointing out what you perceive to be problems or errors in something while at the same time providing potential solutions for those same problems, then you are - by definition - performing an exercise in constructive criticism. And since Sepinwall is doing both here (if, with a little snarky playfulness thrown in) then yes - this does count as constructive critcism.
Pretty much agreeing with a lot of what he has to say. Also pretty much agreeing with the 'give it time' sentiment. As many have said, Whedon shows often start out shaky. Heck, I wasn't even FULLY on board with BtVS until the second season. All I know is that while AoS may be a bit dull... well, I can still see a lot of potential for, if not greatness, at least some mid to high-level goodness, especially in the last couple of episodes. I'm willing to give it the test of a fairly generous amount of time. In the meantime, it's something I can stare at with mild interest while attempting to make my brain stop frantically drowning in academia, if even for a little while. And that, quite frankly, is probably something I will love it for eternally.
Darkness, I think that's an unfair assessment. Fans drive a show's success, whether they are a small but vocal number or many millions. Even successful shows depend on fans to maintain momentum. And it's got to be gratifying to know many millions of people want to see your work. I don't want AoS to change because they think fans will stop watching if they don't do everything demanded of them - but if there are real, reasonable critiques (i.e. these characters seem very one note) then it's actually advisable for writers and creators to think about these things. They're creating a show with the intent to raise reaction and enthusiasm. If something they're doing causes the opposite, they would be foolish to not investigate why. And even if they don't care about advice they can't ignore the fact that people are reacting very specifically.
the ninja report : Exactly! Well said.
I'll keep watching AGENTS for a while, because it's a Whedon venture and because I love the Marvel Universe. But the show is not grabbing me. I think the plots have been basically (if perfunctorily) fine, but the characters are not drawing me in. There are certainly attempts being made to give them some depth, but I just don't care about them enough to feel properly invested in the show. To be honest, I can't understand what Fitz/Simmons are saying half the time. The whole thing is just too twee and vacuous for me. To be honest, it feels like a children's show, not a prime-time action/drama.

The premise of the show doesn't really make much sense to me, either. As a group, they are more A-team than crack team. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but they are the most amateur bunch of experts I've ever seen. The inter-character dynamics are just plain strange to me, too.

If I had to compare to another show, it'd be NCIS, which I've always found to be slick, soulless and for me, pointless. AGENTS isn't that bad, but it lacks frisson; it lacks that real sense of narrative point or purpose. What's the show's premise? What's it's hook? I honestly have no idea. If they are the first/last line of human defence, surely you'd get a much stronger sense of a group of people willing to die or risk everything, or a far more gruelling process of initiation/training. In fact, I think they've been turned into a group far too quickly. That sense of struggle, of genuine mistrust, of power-play is being handled all too tritely.

There have been some great moments, but it's just not grabbing me. Buffy took a while to get going, but I always knew what it was. Dollhouse was flawed, but it got under my skin very quickly. Firefly was genius from the get-go. This just isn't inspired enough.

It's not that it's from a comic book world, either; that in itself is not a problem. The problem is that when you're THE Agency, surely you can do better than a ragtag much of likeable misfits to defend mankind! There should be other groups out there, that show this group up as being the inexperienced (if highly talented) rabble that they are! I should get a sense that by being stuck with these guys, Coulson has been demoted (or is mistrusted) in some sense with anyone or anything better, and that he has a point to prove against someone for treating him (and his people in this way). I just don't get any of that.

I hope it gets better. If it's still like this in another half dozen episodes, I'll be giving it the flick. I don't have the time to watch shows that don't grab me.
@Binderwalt: "Hey - there's always that chance that (a. your particular gripe is spot on and (b. that the writers hear about, agree with you, and do end up changing things."

See, this is the thing that makes me stop caring about what people have to say.

Discussing what you don't like about a particular thing? That makes sense and is reasonable discussion that could be interesting. Saying stuff like "Maybe they'll see what we say and the writers can correct their course" is entitled garbage.

"Correcting their course" (not your words, but words used) by the perspective of a certain chunk of the audience is a load of crap. They should make the show they want to make/make the show they agreed to make with their parent companies, not feel the urge to change things because of the whims of an audience. Why can't people just accept NOT liking it? Why do they have to hold the hope that the creators will see things and change them? Why are people so emotionally incapable of not liking something Tachereon (I think I butchered that) and her husband did?

And there's also the matter of deciphering changes from plans. I remember interacting with Young Justice fandom for five seconds because I hate myself and people thought the Miss Martian character's growing assertiveness was a response to fan dislike of the character...which required the creators to explain (over and over and over amen) that animation is a long process and these changes were ALWAYS intentional, with the things they hated the seeds for what came later.

Obviously, a live action show doesn't have the same lengthy turn around as an animated series would...but that still begs the question for me. What if people misinterpret what they'd always planned "in case we get that back order" as "OH LOOK, THEY LISTENED!" I guess maybe they'd say if they listened or not because we're in the age of social networking, but I've seen a billion instances of people interpreting "following up on those seeds that existed even when you say they didn't" as "THEY LISTENED." Like how people said SHIELD has no serialization when one of its explicit elements is post-credits foreshadow sequences.

Not to mention I'd rather an artist do what he or she wants, not do what he or she thinks OTHERS want. Not liking a show, pointing out its flaws in the context of a conversation? Absolutely valid.

Wishing a show you don't care for would change its ways so you can like it is the ultimate act of fan egotism. I respect your opinions on every other point you countered, even if I don't totally agree with your points, and value your input AS an active creative. So don't take this the wrong way (and Ward IS pretty great). But I will debate this. Wanting a show you don't like to change so you will like it is a desire based on genuine egotism.

I can wrap my head around "This could be cool, but some stuff bugs me. I'll keep up with it." But the exact moment of "Maybe Jed and Maurissa, people we talk about on a first name basis for some reason, will see our posts and correct the writing," that is when someone becomes a self entitled jackhole. When I hated Torchwood, I didn't wait around for it to become a version of itself better attuned to the type of pacing or storytelling I liked or whatever. I didn't wait for Once Upon a Time to become the type of fairy tale based storytelling I liked when it turned out I disliked it. I didn't take these (and other shows) to the forefront of their fandoms and explained why I hated them with the explicit hope that their respective showrunners would see me and realize "DEKER, YOU'RE A GENIUS. YOU'VE FIXED OUR SHOWS. HAVE A HANDJOB AND A TURKEY SANDWICH." I just talked about why I didn't like them (usually with friends, but occasionally on open forums) and left it at that. I know people who love those shows and, hey, more power to them! Just not for me.

If the Whedon braintrust DID integrate criticism into how they approach later stories, that's fine. They're entitled to that if they feel criticism is valid. But making that criticism, e.i. your specific perceptions of what makes something good or bad, with the INTENT of hoping someone will see your words, realize you're a smarty pants, and change their characters despite you not knowing the breadth of their plans for their arcs anyway, no. That makes you self entitled.

EDIT: And again, "general you," not specific you. You're perfectly pleasant, and certainly more pleasant than I am.
[ edited by ImmaDeker on 2013-10-30 04:17 ]

[ edited by ImmaDeker on 2013-10-30 04:17 ]
Wait, are people really complaining about the actors being to pretty in a Whedon show? Have you seen Buffy?
Or Angel?, or Firefly, or Dollhouse?
See, this is the thing that makes me stop caring about what people have to say.

Well... that's unfortunate since it is also the only reason why people say things at all (ie. - in order to be heard.)

Discussing what you don't like about a particular thing? That makes sense and is reasonable discussion that could be interesting. Saying stuff like "Maybe they'll see what we say and the writers can correct their course" is entitled garbage.

Again - what point is there in saying something (really anything) in the first place other than being heard and having some sort of effect on someone else?

"Correcting their course" (not your words, but words used) by the perspective of a certain chunk of the audience is a load of crap. They should make the show they want to make/make the show they agreed to make with their parent companies, not feel the urge to change things because of the whims of an audience.

In essence, I agree. The thing is - due to the basic business realities of the entertainment business, pleasing your audience (whomever they may end up being) is - well - kind of important to everyone involved...

Why can't people just accept NOT liking it? Why do they have to hold the hope that the creators will see things and change them? Why are people so emotionally incapable of not liking something Tachereon (I think I butchered that) and her husband did?

Because, in the basic mourning process, denial always comes before acceptance (which is to say - just give it time. Eventually they'll come to their senses, realize it's not the show for them, and move on - problem solved, all by itself.)

Obviously, a live action show doesn't have the same lengthy turn around as an animated series would...but that still begs the question for me. What if people misinterpret what they'd always planned "in case we get that back order" as "OH LOOK, THEY LISTENED!"

We live (always have/always will) in a world filled with imperfect means of communication. There is no solution to this sort of problem - as a creative it's another one of those things you just have to live with.

Not to mention I'd rather an artist do what he or she wants, not do what he or she thinks OTHERS want.

What if incorporating what OTHERS want IS part of what an artist him or herself wants to do? After all - what other purpose is there to creating entertainment/performance art other than pleasing an audience (besides yourself?)

Wishing a show you don't care for would change its ways so you can like it is the ultimate act of fan egotism.

It is also a perfectly natural reaction for a person to have towards anything that contains a mixture of elements that they do and don't like. And in a context like this it is entirely harmless (unless a show's writers are overly gullible to the point that they actually start working from such criticism - in which case the fault is squarely on them for lacking spines.)

I can wrap my head around "This could be cool, but some stuff bugs me. I'll keep up with it." But the exact moment of "Maybe Jed and Maurissa, people we talk about on a first name basis for some reason, will see our posts and correct the writing," that is when someone becomes a self entitled jackhole.

This may come as a shock but tv writers, actors, etc. are human beings just like the rest of us, and occasionally they come up with bad ideas or make mistakes that a simple comment from someone with a fresh perspective just might turn out to be very useful.

When I hated Torchwood, I didn't wait around for it to become a version of itself better attuned to the type of pacing or storytelling I liked or whatever.

The thing is - when you are dealing with a situation where a particular creative team has a track record of dealing with some aspect of storytelling particularly well (to the point where people are fans just because of that particular element) and their latest venture seems inexplicably to lack in that regard - it's hard not to try to lend a metaphorical helping hand.

If the Whedon braintrust DID integrate criticism into how they approach later stories, that's fine. They're entitled to that if they feel criticism is valid. But making that criticism, e.i. your specific perceptions of what makes something good or bad, with the INTENT of hoping someone will see your words, realize you're a smarty pants, and change their characters despite you not knowing the breadth of their plans for their arcs anyway, no. That makes you self entitled.

Again - what other point is there in airing criticism in the first place other than with the intent that someone in a position of power will hear it?
Wow. People that participate in the medium's focus groups are going to be really shocked to hear that the people making the TV shows don't (or shouldn't?) care what the audience thinks.
Have you ever listened to what the audience thought? It's terrifying. We'd still be having Buffy at school and going out with Angel.

Some fans have valid points. Others don't. Just because a fan watched an hour of tv doesn't make them an expert on how to run a tv show. Yahtzee and Bart Simpson say it a lot better than me.
The idea that I ever air my critique of anything - a tv show, who our coach is starting at QB, economic policy direction - with the idea that those in control of those things will visit the appropriate message board and be redeemed by my words of wisdom is (IMO) reallyreally silly and frankly, not at all what my intent is, nor what I want it to be.

If the ratings suffer, the team is losing, or the economy tanking, these things will self correct. The show will adapt or get cancelled, the team will make a change or the coach will be fired, the economy will improve or those in power won't get re-elected

Listening to fans on message boards for direction is a sure fire sign that you don't have one of your own, and that your expertise is limited to only your original plan, without an ability to adapt or create a new one should you experience rough waters
Some fans (note: not many) deliberately use message boards, Twitter etc to lobby for their plot. Google "SPN Silent Majority" (great name) for a group which basically tried to write the show through tumblr.

But I think most people are just expressing opinion. Which is cool. The problem comes when people think they can fix the show by doing XYZ thing, because you'll find 100 other fans who disagree with XYZ thing. Anybody who starts a sentence "the fan wants" misses the point about fandom; it's wild.

I think the secret to listening to online chatter about the show, as a creator, is to cherry pick elements of what people are saying to tweak and get to the emotion of it (also, by the way: AoS was shooting ep 7 when the pilot aired).

I can give an example I know of: during Buffy season 2, the fans disliked Oz. (That's a polite way of saying 'Hated hated hated'). They wanted Willow and Xander goin' out. They told the writers to do that. Joss ignored it all, and wrote one scene:

Willow: Do you wanna make out with me?

Oz: What?

Willow: Forget it. I'm sorry. Well, do you?

Oz: Sometimes when I'm sitting in class... You know, I'm not thinking about class, 'cause that would never happen. I think about kissing you. And it's like everything stops. It's like, it's like freeze frame. Willow kissage. Oh, I'm not gonna kiss you.

Willow: What? But freeze frame.

Oz: Well, to the casual observer, it would appear that you're trying to make your friend Xander jealous or even the score or something. And that's on the empty side. See, in my fantasy when I'm kissing *you*, you're kissing *me*. It's okay. I can wait.


Oz, made.
And finally we get to the rub of the matter. Here is the thing: we can argue that artists have the right to make the art they wish. Of course they do. But when they sell that art, they had better damned well be responsive to the people they are marketing it to. If it does not please the people they wish to sell their art to, they will not survive in the marketplace. And no matter what you wish to say, MAoS is a product. It may be art, but it is being sold to viewers. So, the creator/artist can stand on principle and do exactly what he or she pleases, no matter where the chips may fall. Or they can make change. Do they have to listen to me? Nope. But this program has bled over 4 million viewers. Since their advertising revenue is based on viewership, this ought to be a concern. Because, remember, network TV exists for the selling.

And yes, me wanting a show to be a particular way is indeed egotism. Because it is my call to watch or not. They do not fill my needs, I do not watch. It is frankly all about me. TV is disposable. I want what I want, and I like what I like. And franly, Joss is not immune to this: this is why he kept Spike on, because of the strong audience response to the character. For example.
They're not exactly selling the show to the viewers, but to the network. Which is different, because they have to please the network's expectation of what it needs. For example, if the viewers want a serialized show but the network thinks an episodic one is better (because they can air the episodes out of order, and as reruns), then no amount of criticism is going to bring us a serialized show.

Of course, losing viewers can change the network's mind, but it seems their actions are rather binary: cancel or renew. I doubt they would say "OK, please the fans", but rather "make us a new serialized show".
Alan Sepinwall, as a critic, may be legit, but his suggestion that the show ditch the bulk of the main cast and start over only five episodes into the first season definitely isn't.

I'd also take issue with his criticism that Skye's search for her parents somehow undercuts her stance that SHIELD has too much power and may be abusing it. That fact that SHIELD is responsible for covering up who her parents are seems like a pretty severe abuse of power.
It's not unusual for fans of a show to nitpick it to death. In fact, it's pretty much the point of fandom. There's nothing Doctor Who fans enjoy more than criticizing Steven Moffat, but they keep watching the show. Buffy fans used to post long essays every week, pointing out every continuity error and every bad line of dialogue. If you had gone up to one of those fans and said, "Why do you keep watching this show if you hate it so much?" they would have given you a baffled look and said, "What do you mean? I love Buffy."

Sometimes, when we really love a series, we start to think about it all the time, and we want to dwell on every detail. It's a strange sort of love, and maybe it's a little unhealthy, but it's still love. And most of the fans who've been complaining about S.H.I.E.L.D. will complain even more if it ever gets cancelled, and we'll immediately start campaigning to get it back.
If Whedon's name wasn't attached to this show I would have stopped watching by now. And I’m still not quite sure why that’s keeping me around when he’s less involved in AoS than any of his previous series. But I stick with it because, frankly, as someone who has always admired his past work (though of course with varying degrees; BtVS >>>> everything else) it’d feel downright strange to drop a Mutant Enemy show mid-season. But my mind wanders every episode and I get the strong impression that the writer’s team seem quite content with the quality produced thus far and that doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence. It may not have been a lot of fun but even in those dark, dark days of mediocrity which Dollhouse had to suffer through, I always had the reassurance that ME wasn’t content with what they were producing either and that they were aiming for better. I know this because they said so themselves (“wait for episode 6!”) and I saw the ambition trying to break through in each episode of those first 5 weeks. The same can’t be said for AoS.

Also, I must admit, it sort of rubs me up the wrong way when people deflect criticism of the show with "Ignore them, didn't you know everybody hated BtVS/AtS/Firefly/Dollhouse too?" Not only does it somewhat derail the discussion but it feels like people are belittling those with valid criticisms of AoS by lumping them (and their opinions) in with the masses who disliked other Joss shows at the time and who’s opinion should just be ignored or handwaved aside.

I mean, yes, all those shows had their detractors as well, but other than distracting from the points people are making what good does it do to repeatedly bring this up? It just comes across as rather condescending. I for one have never been under any illusion that all those shows were met with 100% audience satisfaction and that AoS is just the black sheep in the family, so I don’t need to be continuously reminded of that. I frequent Buffyforums every day and have come across every criticism under the sun about BtVS/AtS. I know many fans who never "got" the Firefly love and find it grossly overrated. I was here on Whedonesque throughout Dollhouse's run and saw how polarised the fandom was about the series. But it doesn’t make me any less disappointed with AoS and it feels a bit like people are trying to stifle discussion.
Ragondux, I don't think the two are totally separate. The network wants a certain type of show, but it also wants viewers for advertising and revenue. Without a solid product that people enjoy, you won't get those eyeballs. It's in the network's best interest to have a show that gets viewers and enthusiasm.

Barry Woodward, I didn't interpret it that way at all. I thought the scene served to show that her parents were involved with SHIELD in some way (how, we don't know) and could not take care of their child, hence why Skye went into an orphanage/foster system. The "cover up" seemed less about SHIELD and about the parents. Are they even the good guys? Are they just witnesses or bystanders caught in between something big? I don't know if it's safe to assume SHIELD "covered up" anything for nefarious reasons. And in fact, Skye didn't seem to interpret it that way in that episode. I think the progression of her character suggests that before the pilot and during the pilot, she assumed that SHIELD was just a group of jackbooted thugs who did something nefarious and took away her parents...but after being around the team and seeing the work they do, her interpretation of their intent might have changed.

And related to that, what I think Sepinwall meant was that it's contradictory for her to be accusing SHIELD of abusing its powers when she deliberately steps outside the boundaries for her own purposes. She is doing what she accuses SHIELD of doing, but she justifies it by ascribing much more responsibility to SHIELD as a massive agency with endless resources. Skye thinks that SHIELD's great power requires a lot more consideration for morality, ethics, etc. and one regular person can't be held to the same standard.

Here's where I don't agree with Sepinwall on this point. Skye wants to expose SHIELD and the people involved in it, but she doesn't want to harm anyone. She thoroughly believes that information should be out there but through her interactions with SHIELD, she realizes that her actions have consequences that may not be as harmless as she thought. This last episode was the tipping point of that because she was thoroughly upset when Boyfriend McSmoochSmooch leaked all that information and she defended the team.

I think there's a subset of the fanbase that truly, really believes it can do better than the writers, producers, etc. Then there's another subset that is so obsessive as to confuse real life and fiction. Vulture has a recent interview with Scott Foley on how Scandal fans harass him on Twitter because of his character getting between the leads' romance. He seems to take it in stride, but I can't imagine being harangued by random internet people who actually can't distinguish you as an actor and your character. That has to be weird and kind of creepy. I never want to be either of those types of fans.
I mean, yes, all those shows had their detractors as well, but other than distracting from the points people are making what good does it do to repeatedly bring this up? It just comes across as rather condescending


Because sometimes it's good to place things in context and say "you know what, this has happened before".
Have any of the previous offerings been this "meh" through five episodes, though? I think only with "Dollhouse" could one even attempt to make the argument, but a) I'd take all but one of those episodes (horrible, horrible pop star thing) over any of these so far, and b) as pointed out, it was as-advertised that it was going to get better.
You could make a case for Angel Season 1. Excluding "In the Dark", the first seven episodes were pretty wet.
They're not exactly selling the show to the viewers, but to the network.

Oh, not so. No network in the world keeps a program on TV simply because they think it is good, no matter how poor the ratings.
I think "meh" is probably what SHIELD is right now. It's entertaining at times, but it's nothing to rave about (yet).

Dana5140, I think there are shades of gray in that. Mad Men gets very low ratings but makes up for it in enthusiasm from fans and acclaim. By the amount of chatter you see on social media and the amount of articles that are generated from it, you'd think it was a huge, massive show. But it pulls an average of 2.49 million viewers. AMC is available to roughly 85% of people who have cable. Meanwhile, anyone without cable can still get NBC and Hannibal was renewed for a second season despite only attracting 1.98 million viewers for its season finale. The network liked it enough to keep spending money on it because it was getting a decent amount of talk online.
@Simon I think the first 22 episodes of Ats were pretty boring x) That's why I still suppose AoS will get better soon - or at least next season.
Why isn't Dollhouse succeeding at Whedonesque is a fun read. I don't highlight that stuff to invalidate criticism of the show - I called the last AoS episode here "weakish" as I couldn't connect with it - I'm just making the point that the Whedonverse fandom has history on this. The Whedons make TV because they enjoy the long game -- otherwise, make a movie. It's about building to the flowers in a vase meaning something, and hopefully have some fun on the way. It always has been. Does anybody really think there's no consequences to Coulson being very not dead, does anybody think May came back for no reason, does anybody think Skye is there just to annoy the audience? Does anybody think the team of characters on The Boat was put together randomly and without reason?

Ultimately the show isn't going to be for everyone. It's made by Disney, and it's scaled for children and teenagers to watch. So there's that. I think a portion of the reaction is to people expecting a different show.
@Dana: of course networks don't buy shows for the sake of art, but they buy shows following a marketing strategy, not following opinions on what good storytelling is.
Which is not what I said, ragondux. They put shows on on TV for one reason only, to make money.
the ninja report: I'm going to add another shade of gray to your post. :)

Hannibal actually wasn't just or foremost renewed because it's popular among fans/critics and the network itself likes it. Hannibal is an international co-production, which helps to divide the costs between several companies that are involved in its production. Thus, NBS is getting the show for only a fraction of the money that is being spent on it. The rest is being paid by worldwide broadcasting license fees, various VOD services, DVD sales etc.

Here's a relevant quote from THR:

Gaumont is producing Hannibal in association with SPT Networks. Under its deal with SPT, Hannibal will go out on SPT's AXN networks on 63 countries worldwide. The series will have a near day-and-date release tied to NBC's mid-season launch.

And here's another one from Deadline:

The ProSiebenSat.1 Group has acquired the exclusive free-TV rights to Gaumont International Television’s upcoming 13-episode series Hannibal for its German-speaking and Scandinavian TV stations in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark for a 2013 launch.


I guess that Mad Men is also making enough money somehow and not surviving all these years purely on the positive press and various awards that it brings with itself. ;)

[ edited by Anuris on 2013-10-30 15:59 ]
gossi, I definitely agree that the Whedon approach is all about the long game and I see where you're coming from with regards to the points you're making. My issue is that, at this point, I don't care why Melinda May came back or why Skye has joined SHIELD. I have some interest in the Coulson mystery, but I feel like a lot of that is residual feeling from the character work that was done in the film series, rather than any compelling writing on the show.

The long game is a valid approach to storytelling, but not an excuse for lazy writing. In my opinion, the lead up to any kind of payoff should still be compelling and interesting. And obviously, for some people, it is. So yay for them! I'm glad to hear it. I just wish I could buy more into this show.
I think the show is fine. It's early days still.
AoS isn't an entity unto itself. It's the product of the people who run it. Maybe the most businesslike thing to do is replace Jed and Mo with a showrunner who has more experience in working with corporate giants like Disney and ABC. Does anything on their resumes come anywhere near that?
@Simon: Just to show the herd-of-cats nature of fans, I am going to disagree and say how much I liked season 1 of Angel.


Maybe we need to link to some article on "What MAoS is Doing Right (even if you think the series needs more work)".
I don't think we can judge their capability as showrunners before they get to actually run it for a whole season.
In my opinion, what AoS is doing right:
- Being part of the MCU. Having Fury mention FitzSimmons in episode two was a smart move. I'm sure they made him come just for that.
- Coulson's humanity, and his reluctancy to have anyone killed, is endearing. So much that I'm now worried about what they did to him and how he will react. I was not worried before.
- Given the episodic nature of the show, they spend too little time on character development, but when they do, they do it well.

What they're probably doing right, but we can't see it yet:
- Planting seeds for later
OneTeV, that's a good idea. I can point to many, many things I really like about SHIELD alongside the ones I don't like. For instance, it seems that I'm in a small but vocal group that really like FitzSimmons. I'd like for them to get some back story, but I really like their wit. I would love for Fran Kranz to guest star and the three of them talk science for an episode.
Things that work, two off the top of my head...

1) Ward's first fight in the pilot. It was rough and tumble, and had two interesting moments: bashing the guy with the blender glass, then mashing the guy with the kitchen drawer (followed by punching the guy through the drawer). That gave the fight a lot of unusual character.

I wish that more of Ward's fights had that Jackie-Chan-improv quality to it. In "The Asset", Ward had a short, normal fight next to the palace pool. I was hoping Ward would use a lifeguard rescue tube, because that would fulfill a major requirement of the show: it would be hilarious and bad-ass at the same time. (I just remembered the scene from Serenity, where the Operative draws his sword, and Mal holds out his... screwdriver. Followed by him going to town with it.)

2) The truth serum. Coulson gives an ominous monologue, and then the cliche is undercut with comedy. (Especially the small self-aware moment where Skye takes off her jacket after Ward admits he finds her beautiful.) Even better, the idea of the truth serum is brought back and used differently in another episode. (I think the best comedy has a set-up, a pay-off, and then the unexpected additional pay-offs.)

[ edited by OneTeV on 2013-10-30 17:55 ]
I don't think we can judge their capability as showrunners before they get to actually run it for a whole season.

The show is losing its audience. With every episode the ratings are lower than the week before. Yes it's only been five weeks, but that's five weeks of descending dividends.
The show has lost a lot of its audience after the first two episodes, but it seems stable now. And stable with very decent ratings apparently.
I am mostly starting to feel as if the powers that be have mistaken likeable actors for compelling characters (except for Simmons, because I still think Henstridge is easily doing the most interesting character work on the show, doing a lot with little to work with), or at least have been trying to ride on the likeable actors while building the show. As I've said, I enjoy it in a forgettable popcorn fashion, and I admit that my own personal expectations were a hope for more than forgettable popcorn. I'm not going anywhere, certainly, because I do want to see if this really is it, or if they're going to pull it up another level as the season progresses. I'm okay with television as distraction; I'm just hoping they want to do more than merely distract.

ETA: I can enjoy likeable actors in meh plot mechanics if there are compelling characters. Latter is what I’m still waiting for SHIELD to bring.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2013-10-30 18:23 ]
One thing I'd like to throw into the pile is that, in my personal experience, my favorite shows are ones that started out rocky and had to spend quite some time finding themselves and got a certain "a-ha!" moment later on.

I kept watching Fringe because I liked the actors and the weird sci-fi stuff was interesting. But it certainly wasn't very engaging to me in its early days when everything was incredibly case-of-the-weekish standard procedural stuff. Same goes for Person of Interest which I'm oh so very much in love with ever since they introduced Amy Acker's and now Sarah Shahi's characters to the show. Before that it was just a very techy Batman-in-a-suit with good guest stars. Supernatural was also very "hey, new town, new standard creepy demony things happening" for a major part of it's early life. Then it went way beyond that. Dollhouse obviously gets a mention here too. Buffy was just a cheesy little thing for the most part until the middle of season 2 with little glimmers of genius shining through in the lead up to that. Hell, even Revolution seems to have turned into something really cool now that I've almost caught up with its early second season. I never would've thought that would happen after some very very crappy early episodes and terribly annoying characters.

My point is that I find all these judgments way too premature. Is SHIELD a great show without flaws? Hell no. It is, however, planting a lot of seeds and most certainly has the creative team capable of delivering amazing stuff there. I see little value in making a big fuss about plot points or character stuff not making sense (unless those plot points are contained within the episode itself only and have no ties to longer arcs). We can only make useful assessments about that stuff in retrospect. Because nobody knows where any of it goes. For all we know, Ward could turn into post throat-cut Wesley. That's not to say we can't criticize anything, just that treating it like it will never evolve past what it is right now seems incredibly short-sighted.

Many shows need to establish a "norm" before they can diverge from it. (Re)-establish tropes to later on subvert them. Buffy was one of those examples where the whole point of the show was subverting tropes, stereotypes and archetypes. So naturally, things went a little differently there. SHIELD is not about that. That doesn't mean it can't or won't have it later on. But for now, they seem to be establishing the world, small-scale reality outside of the EPIC-ness of the movies while not trying to scare away the casual viewers not too familiar with the brainy TV stuff (like Dollhouse or that show with the horses on spaceships).

It's understandable, though, that many are disappointed or mad when a show from people they like/love isn't immediately clicking with them. In these days and times when we're drowning in entertainment choices and everything asks for our attention at all times, it's tough to expect patience from an audience. I see this happening elsewhere too (thinking of video games specifically, an area I also spend a lot of time thinking/talking about).

Aww poop, now I wrote another baby-essay nobody's gonna read again. :D sorry whedonesque
D-e-f- keep writing the mini essays please.
@Sunfire By your command.

:P (I'm expecting next week's episode to produce another one of those then)
D-e-f- I did read it. Good points!
I read it, D-e-f-! Great points. Thanks for sharing.
Ha. Are people actually arguing that the shows ratings indicate its quality? Have I gone mad?
@Grack21 Are they? I haven't read all posts here but those that I did read said nothing of the sort.
D-e-f I so very much agree with you about Person of Interest, and also about Supernatural, although I never learned to love that show the way many people do. I gave up on Fringe and Revolution, but I've heard LOTS of people say that they get much better later. (They're on my "watch next summer" list. :-)) Another example is Parks and Rec, which so many people told me had an uninteresting first season that I started with Season 2. And now it's pretty much my favorite thing on TV.

Sometimes patience really pays off.
Rm w/ a Vu was better than anything on SHIELD so far, Simon.
Too Professional.

The shield agents are professional. Like all professionals, they keep their emotions & personalities for the most part in check and act like a team or at least shield agents.

People aren't warming up to them, because we don't know them yet. The only characters we kinda know are Skye & Coulson. For me their interaction has been the most interesting part. Even Coulson, the ultimate professional, is getting lost in a sea of professionalism. My favorite single bit of the show so far has been the brief Coulson - Fury interaction. This is because we know & like them; although admittedly I think that any movie / TV show could be improved by simply having Sam Jackson show up and yell at the main characters. My point is we've seen hints of personalities and interactions between them. But not enough to draw us in.

By and large the ensembles of Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Avengers showed some more personality earlier in their runs. We knew them and it was their interactions that kept us wanting more.

We need to see them act like people, not professionals. I'd like possibly a bottle episode, in which they really put their guard down and get into some real conflict with each other.

Some right now is good popcorn entertainment and I do remember I liked the popcorn, though.

[ edited by garyyager on 2013-11-04 20:56 ]

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