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December 02 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to fix 3 mistakes. Leo Sun at Daily Finance.com wrote, "Agents of SHIELD suffers from dated storytelling techniques that Whedon carries over from his previous shows".

I don't think the problem is that the writing is outdated. I think that it hasn't found its creative style yet.
SHIELD doesn't exactly need a Walter White or Jack Bauer. Maybe you can have May or Ward be a dash of those characters, making tough choices that have to be done. Heck, Coulson's already done that at least more than once. There's also Victoria Hand, and it would be great to have her back. Just let them fine tune some more, but if it includes a Big Bad that's badder than Walter White's enemies, so much the better.
I feel like a lot of these pieces are just a quiet pleading for Iron Man to appear in the show. It is true that nothing on the show is as cool as Iron Man. This is just the Law of Iron Man - nothing can be.
Due to these influences, Agents of SHIELD feels like a show trapped in the 1990s -- an age when shows like Buffy, Angel, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Hercules were passable forms of entertainment.


I laughed.
I think he is kind of right, however he is wrong about who is making those decisions. The tendency of the monster of the week formula & shying away from larger story arcs is the network looking at syndication. Where stand alone stories are key. This is not really an active choice of the story tellers, who would lean more towards chapters in a larger story.
Yet ABC's biggest hits are soapy serialised shows and recently Lost.
Point by point:

1. You can't compare shield, or any TV show, to movies. Breaking Bad is not a big 3 cable network, so they can get much gritter and darker with the stories. Agents of SHIELD is very mainstream, but the show could (and has IMO) gotten more layered and more adult.

2. I kind of agree here. They are downplaying the heroes a lot, and Marvel is all about big splashy heroes. There has to be a way of bringing that Marvel influence in more. Making more references to AIM or Hydra or other spy agencies would help.

3. His last point are pretty unfounded, as we are now getting that background and character arcs. I find it interesting that he (and the public in general) wants more serialized stories these days. I find that a nice change .
I agree that SHIELD seems to lack the season-long mystery and that without it, a purely procedural format will fall flat. I think SHIELD will get there, since it's starting to show more about Centipede and give character backstory. Unfortunately, it's taken this long to actually start.

I agree about the special effects. Sometimes they just look very cheaply done. But that's usually a minor quibble as long as the episode holds up overall - and when the episode doesn't hold up, it's usually because of the plot, not the dialogue being "dated."

But I vehemently disagree with him regarding Gotham, especially since he hasn't even seen it. It's odd to me that someone would suggest that because Batman isn't in Gotham, it won't be interesting. There was a heck of a lot more to Batman, the story, than just a billionaire who fought crime.
Ever since I discovered there's Agents of SHIELD shipping wars, I'm less concerned about how critics view the show.
The criticism this show gets is probably a good thing in the end. The fact that people care and argue about it, means a lot of interest is going around. That being sad, I am happy to get this show and I am happy to see it going away from what is mainstream Marvel and mainstream quality entertainment. I think that if it keeps doing it's own thing and is allowed to grow it will turn out very good. And there are critics for every succesful show. Not everybody thought Breaking Bad or Mad man was/is all that good. Not enjoying something is perfectly valid.

I am happy to have Coulson and his weird team on TV.
Personally, I think that lately the show has balanced the fact that they're a "separate yet connected" entity to The Avengers really well. It started off a bit choppy but I think they're incorporating elements at the right pace/ratio now. Everyone's just too used to the production value of the movies - they're obviously doing what they can with a much smaller television budget. I also love the "monster of the week" formula.

Regarding the story arcs, Skye's parents and the Centipede are huge ones - undoubtedly the writers most have others up their sleeves as well. It'll all come together, give it more time!
Im with simon, in both camps. The guy says Buffy and Angel is passable enterteinment and later calls Buffy one-dimensional. His opinion and all, but i dont know if his parameters of viewing SHIELD are very much in tune with most people here...

Also i dont agree with the whole procedural thing. This has far more continuity and character building than any procedural i know, and if there is one big problem for me right now with the show is how much building up there has been. Graviton, centipede, the eye explosive thingy and the alien language on the billboard, who Skyes parents are, whats up with Coulsons resurrection, the girl in the flower dress and who the seer is... There are too many open strands, too many misteries, too many "wait for later". Well... its time for the later to come and the building up to show some building.

Next episode seems to go into that direction. I hope.
What Darkness said -

I would have thought it'd have been simple enough to identify Hydra as the evil counterpart to Shield, that'd be true to the comics, and they were already introduced to movie audiences via the Captain America flick. You'd have your Big Bad, it's a simple concept, and you're off to the races. Instead we get a lot of convoluted plot lines that get shown and then dropped, and we still have no clear idea of what they're ultimately fighting

Enjoy the show - but to take it to the next level they'd do well to pick up the pace of discovery and provide a central adversary
I was this show's biggest cheerleader before it premiered, but I'm finding it very difficult to care about any of these inept agents and their simple missions.
I dont think the missions are relevant at all. They are excuses. If they are doing the excused well or not, thats up to debate. I love the show, even when it felt far more whedony at the begining than it does right now. But i certainly dont love it for theire gripping missions.

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-12-02 23:39 ]
Anyone who sees Buffy as one-dimensional and lacking in story arcs is not going to have my confidence when criticising any other show.
I guess I'm a little baffled as to why an investment website would publish a review of a TV show, written by someone who isn't an entertainment reviewer/writer. http://www.fool.com/author/2154/index.aspx
I put even less stock in this one person's opinion after scanning the list of articles he has written than I did after reading this article. (pun fully intended) Just because the show lacks what he wants, doesn't make them mistakes.

My opinion, The series as its playing out so far works. The team doesn't know each other very well yet, much less that there is a "big bad". They and we the viewers, are still getting individual pieces of a puzzle. As the season continues we'll learn with team Coulson who or what is really behind centipede, exploding eye, alien language on whiteboard, Raina, etc. I have a feeling even Tahiti may figure into it. As well as learn more about the main characters, their back stories and what drives them. It may be building slowly, but to me that makes it feel more realistic.
To start AOS should be flattered to be compared with the greatness that is Buffy, they have much to do to get up to that level of storytelling.

Finding the right balance between case of the week and serialized must be difficult and I do believe that critics and internet commenters have a built in preference for serialized stories, possibly causing some of the negative reactions.
But I like heavily serialized myself so ...

If there is some 'searching for what works' in the early eps before the show dives into a longer story arc then so be it but the price for a slow start seems to be quite high.
The only thing I really agree with is that it needs more Marvel in it. When the show was announced, many of us started making up our lists of characters we'd like to see in the show. Mine were the Runaways and Moon Knight. I don't even read Moon Knight comics, I just think he'd be a good fit.

They've avoided those kinds of connections. I understand that. They want to do their own thing and not promise the audience a superhero-a-week format. However, I think a *little* more superhero action would be fun. Marvel has low level heroes and street level characters that could reconnect us with the ideas behind the Marvel movies without breaking the budget. At this point I wonder if Marvel is saving all those character for its Netflix shoes.

This might be something they're slowly changing. They've talked about The List a couple of times and introduced The Welcome Wagon concept this last time. Maybe they're setting that up to be a recurring element in the show. I just hope that next time we get an actual super-character instead of a ghost. Oh, and it would be good if that super-character lasted longer than Scorch did.
The is just a smidgen of verisimilitude here but only a little.

Keeping the episodes largely self-contained seems an off-shoot of this being designed* as an international show, presold to somewhere north of a 100 counties iirc. The comment about the lack of pizazz seems silly since he acknowledges these are not feasible for a TV show and on his third item the story arc needed to wait a little bit on character development and is coming along OK although I think they should have spent a little more time on extremis.

*This is not a common way of doing business ime. Many foreign outlets, especially those that are non english speaking will wait a long time before ordering. Sometimes even to the extent of seeing if the show is renewed or not. Therefore they were taking a bit of a risk and this may have influenced Marvel to be a little conservative at the start.
I think AoS needs work, but this guy has not watched the same show I have, since he say there is only one arc, that of Coulson and Tahiti. This forgets all the back story arcs in play.
I don't think any of that is entirely unfair. Even the parts about the Buffyverse -- I don't think those episodes could come out today fresh and be an even CW hit. And I love that series more than I love most forms of live-action entertainment and always will, but it is *very* dated in the post-"Lost", post-"Walking Dead", post-"Game of Thrones", post-"Breaking Bad", post-"Shield", post-"The Wire", etc, televised storytelling.
Other than visually, i dont find Angel and Buffy dated at all. On the contrary; its now when we can see how incredibly ahead of its time it really was.

But you cant take anything from the past as it was and put it in today an make comparisons. Everything, eventually, feels dated, everything is of its time. Things chagnge, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and sometimes just into a diferent place. That doesnt make the Twiligth zone less dated, nor less eternal and magnificent. And its not like Joss has stayed oblivious to his surroundings. Joss has learned, evolved and mooved with the times too.

The idea that Joss concept of tv is old fashioned, to me, doesnt make any sense. AoS problems might lay somewhere, but its somewhere else. Nice try tough.
See, looking back all of it feels so... I dunno, "safe". You might get one earthshaking genuine, no takebacks surprise or gamechange per season, maybe two. Of course, some of the credit for how far shows take permanence and suddenness today has to go to "Buffy", though. You can see "Buffy" fingerprints all over lots of shows, but the mothership does feel a little tame and formulaic by comparison, in hindsight.
He lost credibility immediately when he said being like Buffy is a problem. To me the main problem with the show is that it's not enough like Buffy.


Also, I don't think he's really speaking as a critic. He seems like his intended audience is Disney shareholders, rather than AoS TV watchers. And even from a business perspective, the advice seems kind of facile.
Jaymii, how often were/are Lost episodes re-ran?

[ edited by eddy on 2013-12-03 05:07 ]
I'm unconvinced that the writer of the article has actually watched Buffy, Angel, or Dollhouse... Because none of those shows had ANY deep, flawed characters. Nosiree, Bob.
Buffy? Is that the vampire show with the sparkles?
The reporter obviously never watched Buffy and I can tell you, from the perspective of someone who watched BtVS after LOST that to me it felt fresh. Yes, the special effects and some references are dated, but the storytelling is amazing. I assure you that my opinion is that of an adult with zero nostalgia factor involved. Having watched that show changed my perspective on how I view storytelling now.
I think after the season is over, people are going to rewatch the whole season and go, "Oh, there really were a lot of threads that wove together over the season." I think this is a show where a lot of things will seem obvious once we've seen what they were leading to.
Sometimes I think it is difficult to view an older product through a lens that may not have existed at the time of the older product. By which I mean this: if you are young enough to not have watched Buffy when it first came on, and came to it new, now, it might seem in some ways dated, perhaps in terms of its filming or framing or beats or its product placement (such as cars, cell phones, etc.) and as well the fact that other newer shows have set newer and different standards. For example, last night I was rewatching Star Wars Revenge of the Jedi, and it was so horribly dated that it was painful- the special effects are no longer very special at all, the animatronic Yoda was goofy, though when it came out I loved it. So for someone who was not there, they may not see what we- who have studied the show to death- have seen. AoS is not Buffy; it is not a correct comparison and it exists only because both involve JW.
Anyone want to team up superhero-style to write a blog titled something like "The top 5 things anti-SHIELD bloggers need to get over"? Honestly, I'm not going to read the piece based on comments here, I'm pretty tired of these weekly whines from various corners of the internet.
the fights are choreographed in a similar manner

I don't think so. The fights on AoS are abysmal. Any fight on BtVS, no matter how obvious the stuntwoman/man was, was more exciting than any on AoS.

I am so disappointed in this aspect of the show considering its background. I watched the first few episodes of Doctor Who from 1963 and the fight between two cavemen was better choreographed than any so far on AoS: quick editing does not equal thrills.
MrArg, I'm with you on being tired of these blogs. The strange thing is that most of these 'fixes' aren't so much writing tweaks as asking the writers to tell a completely different story from what we're seeing onscreen.

Most of these bloggers pointing out mistakes mention how promising they thought it was. So maybe the huge marketing campaign created a sort of 'project your ideal show onto this new series!' expectations divide. Remember when the Cabin in the Woods got a CinemaScore of C? Maybe that also reflected the disgruntlement of viewers who were expecting something different. (Except the difference is, everyone on this site loved it.) I'm not saying AoS is of comparable quality (yet), only that it's still being judged for breaking promises it never made.
Guys, it is being judged by what standards the people doing the judging feel like using. All they are doing is offering their opinions, right? Some like it, some don't. Like everything. We just care more, because we like it.
I was reading this and wondering if this person ever actually watched Buffy, because they seem to be describing a completely different show from the one I watched (and have re-watched many times).

Yes, there was usually a "monster of the week". But there were also season long arcs, and there are threads that you can follow all through the series. The characters and relationships between characters were well developed, and they were affected by things that happened. And the characters & relationships are the things that are going to make me fall in love with a TV show.

I also don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with a story-of-the-week procedural drama, if it is done well.

Is AoS ground breaking television? No. But I don't think it's terrible either. I watch every week and enjoy. When it's over I move on. Will I be buying DVDs and re-watching episodes for the next 10 years? Probably not, unless something changes. But that's okay; they can't all be love affairs.
Bluelark: "Everyone"? *grin
eddy, varies. They did the pre-season/mid-season catch up shows a lot during the early years. As ABC figured out people wanted to watch the show without interruption in the later seasons, there were little to no reruns for it. So there were some and then there were none.
I stopped reading these articles a long time ago, because they tend to have a sky-is-falling tone: The show is getting respectable ratings and positive reviews, so it's clearly doomed.

However--and hear me out--I think the show would improve tremendously if Skye and Melinda hooked up. That's not because I need to see hot girl-on-girl action. It would make Melinda less icy and more sympathetic. (Her relationship with Grant feels very pragmatic.) It would create a bond between the two biggest loners on the team, which would make the group feel more cohesive--but it would also create dramatic tension. It would make Grant flustered, which would give him a chance to show more emotional range. And most important, it would make the show more unpredictable, which is something it badly needs, in spite of the respectable ratings and positive reviews.
The author of this piece seems to have confused "gritty" with "good" and "going dark" with "character development." I liked that Coulson had ulterior motives for recruiting both May and Skye for the team (and therefore, possibly ulterior motives for all of them). Coulson's right: Skye's warm, irreverent attitude will make for great first contacts. That's character development, folks; it need not involve doom and gloom.

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