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January 14 2015

ABC boss Paul Lee on SHIELD and 'Agent Carter' ratings. He addresses how the shows are faring in the ratings departments and talks a bit about the network's involvement with Marvel.

I really hope Agent Carter comes back for a second season - I'm enjoying it much more than I thought I would. More Peggy Carter please, ABC! Also, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D knocked it out of the park this past season. Very impressed with how the show has improved.
She's a fantastic character and they're doing great work with her. I too want to see a S2.
I'm okay letting Marvel Studios decide if there are other interesting stories to tell in that era, with those characters. But I'm also okay with Marvel and ABC filling SHIELD's time slot during extended breaks with all manner of different and interesting side tales set in the MCU.
The better the show the more people want to DVR it. Catch-22 redux.
Being the MCU fanatic that I am, I'm going to watch every episode of Agent Carter and enjoy them very much.

THAT SAID . . . I would imagine part of the low numbers for this limited series might have something to do with the old Superboy effect.

"In this month's issue of Superboy (The adventures of Superman when he was a boy!): Oh no! Superboy's supposedly reformed criminal best friend young Lex Luthor has invited Superboy over for a picnic! But when Superboy arrived, he discovered that the lead-lined basket was actually full of Kryptonite! Now he's at young Lex Luthor's mercy! Will he survive??" Well, let me just pop over to my local comic store and check out the latest issue of Superman-Oh! There he is, alive and well. Guess he survived, huh?

I will admit, even only three episodes in, I've felt a certain degree of viewer fatigue with the show for the simple reason that the ending is a foregone conclusion: the entire series precedes the "Agent Carter" Marvel One-Shot short film. From that brief clip, we already know the answers to three major central conflicts of the mini-series:

(And lest it isn't clear, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS)

1) Over the course of this series, Carter's life is never actually in danger. She's going to live to start SHIELD.
2) By the end of this series, Howard Stark's name is going to be cleared. He's going to start SHIELD with Carter.
3) Over the course of this series, Carter is never going to earn the respect of her SSR colleagues. Not even to her final day working there.

With those three facts absolutely assured, the show - while still fun, and one can certainly enjoy watching to learn HOW it all plays out, I'm NOT saying it's a bad series at all, I like it, honest - nevertheless suffers from a lack of tension or urgency. We know that everything is going to be wrapped up in eight episodes, and we know it's all going to be wrapped up neatly and with very little change to the state of things in the MCU.

And while an alternate source of tension and concern could be built by playing on the audience's worries about which secondary characters are going to survive, almost all of the secondary cast are so unlikeable that I really find I don't care who bites it: the chief is an @$$hole, her fellow agents are almost all chauvinist prigs, her "friend" from the diner is nosy, pushy, and annoying, and the landlady of the women's house is a self-righteous prude. Only the crippled agent and Jarvis himself have any redeeming qualities, and the obvious implication that Jarvis lives long enough to directly inspire Tony Stark's house AI means that he is also most likely clad in plot armor. Seriously, that agent got killed tonight, and I had zero feeling about it at all.

As stated, I do like the show. And obviously, those who haven't seen the "Agent Carter" Marvel One-Shot won't be as spoiled to the ending, and will likely derive more concern and investment in the fate of the main character and her mission. But I can't help thinking that, had they chosen instead to tell her story of her creation of SHIELD and the challenges they faced in the '50s, it would have been a much more engaging series. In any case, if they do decide to do a second series (and I genuinely hope they do), I hope that's the direction they take. Flesh out SHIELD's history and find out what happened to the Howling Commandos, etc. THAT would be an "Agent Carter" series I could get really excited about.
Interesting take Batman1016 - and I'd typically agree that all things being equal I'm not a fan of "prequels"

That said I think the "will they die/succeed" argument, in reference to ratings, is a bit weak - ANY of these MCU movies, or any franchise in general, suffer from the fact that James Bond/Iron Man/Superman is NOT going to die. Not permanently. Agent Carter is no different in this regard - of course she's going to "win" - it's how she gets there, and what will be the cost along the way that's interesting to me.

I'd also disagree that the rest of the cast is unlikeable. While certainly sexist I think her boss is fine and ultimately competent. Actually I see no reason that they WON'T ultimately respect Agent Carter as she takes the reins - I think that'd be a terrific topic for a Season Two if we get one. I don't think the actor her plays her diner buddy is a particularly great actress, but I don't find her annoying at all, and I'm pretty sure the landlady is there for comedic/thorn in the side effect

Ultimately I've enjoyed this show as much as anything I've seen in a while - partially I'm sure because I enjoy the setting, partially because I enjoy the MCU ties, and finally because I think Agent Carter is a real star making vehicle for Hayley, who really shines here

The moderate ratings likely reflect the "oldies" era it's set in and the relatively minor (non-superhero) character. Looking forward to the next 5 episodes and if we ever get more - that's just gravy .. all of the above IMO of course
The ratings have almost nothing to do with the quality of the show. It'll do fine on L+7 and make plenty of money for both the network and the studio. This is the new reality. It is almost impossible for a show to breakthrough with what was considered barely passable overnight ratings just a couple years ago. Lee can see the whole picture and no one just looking at ratings can. Especially worthless overnight ratings. It's really a conversation intelligent people should stop having.
They sort of debunked one theory some of us had:
My money's still on Dottie for the assassin.

I mean, I do find the series heavy-handed and the lack of subtlety in certain parts is a little exhausting.

Generally, I find even the unlikeable characters bearable. Mostly because the relationships they have are kind of interesting. Watching Krzeminski systematically crush all of Daniel's self-esteem and self-worth, the kind of odd dynamic I'm getting between Thompson and Daniel, Angie (as annoying as I find her sometimes) seems to be building toward something so I'm willing to stick with her.

I doubt I'd be interested past Daniel, but then plays into Batman1016's take on it above. I have no idea what happens to Daniel. I could guess what happens to him--popular theory is that he is the Mr. Peggy Carter in The Winter Soldier--but then I'm invested mostly because I don't know. I don't know if he lives long enough to see the SSR absorbed into SHIELD, I don't know if he stays with the SSR or moves into one of SHIELD's departments. So, yeah, I see where you're coming from.
From what I saw, the show has a good chance. I'm holding judgement at this point.

Well, I did say PART of the reason might be the prequel-icious nature of the whole endeavor, and I stand by that. Not the only reason, I'm sure, probably not even the primary one. But it's something I've had a few friends note, so I imagine there are plenty of people out there who view it as a factor.

The idea that "none of the MCU characters are going to die, so that doesn't affect the tension" is kind of a poor argument, for three reasons.

First, the movies happen "in a vacuum" so to speak, with no immediate indication of what is going to happen next. It's not just death, it's tragedy, it's world change, it's the future that we have concerns about for our favorite characters. We didn't know going into Iron Man 3 that he was going to fix his heart and destroy all his armors. We didn't know going into Winter Soldier that Hydra was going to tear down SHIELD and Cap was going to get left out in the cold. We didn't know going into The Dark World that Loki was going to dethrone Odin. But we DO know, going into Agent Carter, that her life is not going to drastically change in any way between now and the Marvel One-Shot clip. Crappy job, no respect, still filing and getting coffee, still getting yelled at just for trying to be an agent. From what is shown in the series so far and the endgame of the One-Shot, there IS no cost, or at least no cost that has a real effect on her life. It does take some of the urgency and investment out of the whole thing.

Two, we don't ACTUALLY know the MCU movie writers "won't do it." Yes, we assume Cap and Tony and Thor are going to live to see the next flick. And yet . . . maybe? There's still uncertainty. There's still that tiny sliver of doubt. Even if it's minimal, we realize that good writers and show runners realize that an honest main-character death will hit us HARD and turn the world on its ear and make us love the universe all the more. And we just so happen to have a major player (Mr Whedon of course) who has a track record of doing just that, and an upcoming story (Civil War) that, in the comics, ultimately ends with a major character's death . . . no, I don't think it IS fair to say that we only assume that all the MCU characters are safe. However miniscule, we still worry, "would they pull the trigger?" And Agent Carter simply doesn't have that, in the short term OR in the long.

And third, and I'll admit this one is totally personal opinion, but the rest of the MCU properties do have much more likeable secondary characters. Everyone loves Phil. Everyone loved Trip. He's had minimal development for all of ten episodes, but everyone was terrified for Mac. And we liked Frigga. And so on. I'm not saying the characters in Agent Carter are completely devoid of pathos. But they really haven't grabbed me in any way or displayed any real traits that scream to me "I'd be sad to see that one go." Admittedly, it's only been three episodes, but seeing as the series is only eight long, I have a hard time imagining they'll fit enough characterization in to make me care. But again, this one's all my personal view, and I acknowledge that.

All in all, I do look forward to more. I just wish it grabbed me the way SHIELD does. Even in the first season, as much as many people were bored, I always felt more invested in the characters' futures than I do with this show. It's a testament to the quality of the MCU as a whole that, even with that malaise towards this series, I still enjoy it and want to watch to the end. Even some of my old favorites that I faithfully watched since the beginning (House, SVU, Burn Notice) had trouble keeping me after my character disinterest set in. But Agent Carter has no chance of pushing me away. Guess I just like the overall story and the hero more than I care about the flaws. Which, again, is a tip of the hat to the showrunners and the world they've built.
Two, we don't ACTUALLY know the MCU movie writers "won't do it." Yes, we assume Cap and Tony and Thor are going to live to see the next flick. And yet . . . maybe? There's still uncertainty.

True, but I think you overestimate how significant that is. After all, for most of the history of TV it really was unthinkable that the hero of a weekly adventure/action show would die. No one doubted for a second, unless they were watching the series finale, that the hero wouldn't be back in next week's episode. But that didn't mean genuine excitement, fear and tension weren't possible. It didn't mean OMG-how-will-he-get-out-of-this-predicament scenarios weren't nail-bitingly effective.

I think that in the age of the internet we've kinda fetishized the "spoiler-free viewing" precisely because spoilers are so much harder to avoid, but I also think that it's an obsession that premised on a deep misunderstanding of what makes stories effective. Studies have been done that show that people report no less enjoyment of stories when the ending is given away at the beginning than they do if it's not. And, indeed, we all have the experience of re-watching movies and re-reading books with just as much excitement and edge-of-the-seat suspense as we felt the first time through.

Narrative really is much more about the journey than about the destination.
I'm invested in Sousa. I'm invested in the character at the diner (I'm pretty terrible with names, only remember Sousa because I'm a former band geek). I'm invested in Jarvis. Questions I have that I don't think can be answered yet:

When will Sousa find out about Peggy's connection to Howard Stark? What will the fallout from THAT be?

Do the villains have any connection to modern day goings ons?

There's much that's answered about who dies, who doesn't, etc. But there's enough left unanswered to keep me watching.

Will we get hints at who Tony Stark's mother is?

For that matter, will we meet Peggy's future husband?

What are Howard and Jarvis hiding?

Any chance we get to see Skye's mom, or the original Koenig?

What's with Jarvis's wife? Is there a reason she's not been on camera so far? Admittedly, I'm reading into this a bit.
I have to side with Batman1016 on this one. I find the show surprisingly unappealing, and I attribute that mainly to the lack of sympathetic supporting characters. The thing that makes Whedonesque shows generally so wonderful is the ensemble, the group dynamics. Even when characters don't like each other, the banter is good. Think of anything between Cordelia and the Scoobies, or Lance and everyone who hates him on Shield. Here there's Peggy and Jarvis, the waitress is a bore, and the men in her office, other than Enver are indeed not only revolting, chauvinist creeps but so indistinguishable I literally can't tell one from the other, and so unsympathtic that as characters I would be relieved to have all of them killed off and removed from the screen. Enver does come off more sympathetically than the rest, but so far that amounts to him making the occasional ineffectual protest about the sexism directed at Peggy and then being humiliated, not exactly what I enjoy watching.

I'll keep watching it for the answers to PaperSpock's questions, and in the expectation that it will improve with more answers to those. I mean I get it that the '40s were a horrible sexist period for women, but it seems to me you could still set a show in that time period and make it more bearable to watch. Look at "His Girl Friday" or other great screwball comedies of the '40s where women characters dealt answered sexism with wit.
I've never been a comics fan. I know next to nothing about the MCU or the characters' backstories. Until Joss' Avengers movie a few years ago, the only comic movies I've ever seen were a couple of Superman, Spiderman and Ironman films. I liked the Avengers, the others were OK to meh. I appreciated the work that went into them but couldn't relate to the characters. After the Avengers I watched both Thor movies and Captain America. Liked them. Loved Winter Soldier because of the character work, not the special effects.

So I wasn't expecting to love Agent Carter, but I do! Love at first sight. I love the fact that she isn't a superhero. I can relate to her battle for respect in a sexist world. I love that she cries like a real human being.

I love Angie the waitress- she's a hill of fun and Lindsy Fonseca is an amazing actress. I can feel Daniel's decency and sympathize with his insecurity.

I love the pace of that era. I recognize little things in the show that my grandmother had. I love the writing, the music, the sets, the costumes and makeup. It's so lush!

I love that the fight choreographer isn't making all the characters do karate moves, which would be anachronistic for that time and place.

Because I'm not that immersed in the MCU, I'm simply enjoying this show on its own merits and I think it's terrific! It took me a long time to warm up to the characters in S.H.I.E.L.D. or care what happens next. I still don't care about them as much as I cared about Agent Carter in the first minutes of the first episode. She's the best TV heroine since Buffy!
I've pretty much said my piece on all this, but just to address a few of the subsequent points, and briefly for a change . . . . *chuckles*

@Yoink: Don't misunderstand me, I totally agree on all points about the whole "narrative is a journey," and "spoiler-free isn't necessary." You're absolutely correct. I'm just saying that WITHOUT the destination, it becomes paramount that the rest of the journey is VERY good. And as stated, I find all but three of the show's regular characters to be boring or unpleasant, which means the journey ISN'T very good. Good story, yes, but not good players. Thus, it becomes a bit of a drag. You have, in essence, made my point for me. Trust me, I'm still watching because I still like the story, but if I liked the story AND the secondary characters, we wouldn't be having this discussion, because the "spoiled ending" would indeed be irrelevant. It's the combination of the two issues that brings the show down a notch.

But of course, as I said, my beef with the characters is just that, mine, and subject to other perspectives for other people.

Regarding everyone else, yes, Sousa and Jarvis are the characters who actually do provide an investment in the show, and I'm eager to see what happens to them. And of course, Agent Carter herself is indeed an excellent character with depth, strength, and the embodiment of what women in TV should be. And I like that, as stated immediately above, she's drawing fans to them MCU that would be otherwise indifferent. I think that's fantastic.

I still enjoy the show, and if Sousa, Jarvis, and Carter remain the only likeable characters, then I'm confident they'll carry the show for the full run. I just wish they didn't HAVE to, I guess.
I agree 100% with Amrita on this. Agent Carter is a terrific show. I haven't enjoyed anything on TV so much in ages. Hayley Atwell is terrific, the supporting cast are wonderful, and the setting is so well done.

This show is far more like the MCU films than AoS. It has the big screen gloss that AoS totally lacks.
I'm pretty much in agreement with Amrita and deborahmm. I have no investment at all in the MCU. I've enjoyed a few of the Marvel movies on their merits as freestanding entertainments. I bailed out of AoS early in the first season. I found it unwatchable. The writing was bad, it had no visual style, and the content was cliched pulp sci-fi.

I like historical costume dramas, and will watch a mediocre period movie or TV show just for the fashions. Agent Carter is set in one of my favorite cultural periods, and it's visually a treat. I also like the light film noir and 40s cop movie references in it. I usually have to get my TV noir fix by watching late night reruns of B&W series from the late Fifties-early Sixties like Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky, which really aren't very good shows apart from the cinematography and the Henry Mancini scores.

Agent Carter is a much better series than those. The production values are superb, the writing and acting is decent, and it moves along. The emphasis on the sexism of the period is not subtle but I can put up with it. Some of this will get old over time. If TBTB want to bring it back for a second season, they will need to introduce a second major character with some complexity (either a hero or a villain, preferably not a romantic interest) as a foil for Peggy.

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