Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a bad influence

Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb…

Merrill Barr, writing for Forbes, observes how a new Terminator TV series is an attempt at using the same model of production as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to gain a larger audience:

Following the ratings success of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we knew it was only a matter of time before another entity decided to try their hand at a transmedia property, we just didn’t think it was going to be Annapurna Pictures…

While the news does sound crazy and perhaps like nothing more than a cash grab, consider the possibility this new series could lend some much needed credibility to the idea of multi-platform storytelling. As it stands now, there’s only one other show in addition to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that’s even trying to attempt this method of world building: SyFy’s Defiance, a series that covers the building of its universe in both a television series and a video game.”

Read the full article here.

The definitive success of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the criteria we are expected to judge this against. Barr argues that the cross-format access to cinematic universes is nothing new, and may change the way films are made in the future.

But Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is bad television – despite the “success” it has achieved (though ratings have continued to slide south since the pilot). I had every intention of watching it until the end, but I’ve stalled at the seventh episode. There is awkward racial politics of an exclusively white team (albeit with one Asian ‘Kung-Fu’ expert). This team are against villains who are rarely white. Mike Petersen in the pilot, an African-American terrorist; Camilla Reyes in episode two is a Peruvian ex-agent who turns on Coulson; African-American Akela, in episode four who, though controlled by an unknown enemy, is promised a “fair trial” for the crimes she committed; episode five whereby a Hong Kong street magician is conned into joining a villainous group led partially by non-white “girl in flower dress” Raina – both are villains by the end of the episode. The list goes on.

Combine these mixed messages (less mixed, more overtly – if you are a foreigner, you are a threat to world-protectors, the USA) and we also have the dull blue-and-grey S.H.I.E.L.D. plane that provides the backdrop for 80% of the series. Spoilt lead Skye (Chloe Bennett) is a hard-done “hacker” but after betraying the group, we are expected to pity her as a bracelet is forced upon her. She’s lucky she wasn’t thrown off the plane or given a “fair trial” as the villains-who-are-good-but-betrayed-S.H.I.E.L.D. were given in previous episodes. It’s a little unfair Skye is still involved at all.

I assume it is making money. But connected to a solid franchise established prior to the series is the reason why. Audiences are waiting for it to improve and, when watching Thor: The Dark World or Iron-Man 3, it gives a little hope that maybe Robert Downey Jr. will make an appearance. When Samuel L. Jackson appeared briefly, though a welcome cameo, it did highlight how bad the regular actors were in comparison.

Unfortunately, The Terminator has not been rebooted yet. The interest is tough to gauge. But I would never base an investment on Marvel’s TV series. There are many reasons it is deemed a ‘success’ – but it isn’t because of the quality of the series and if it doesn’t improve, it is only a matter of time before it stops completely. The Terminator TV series can’t coast off the success of a current film, so how on earth can it confidently hold its own? The Sarah Connor Chronicles couldn’t…

Simon Columb

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