Tuesday, April 1, 2014

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Producers Address Criticisms

As some of you are all too aware, it's been a somewhat rocky first season for ABC's Marvel Cinematic Universe series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  The show debuted last September with an impressive viewership of over 12 million (a 4.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic) but has progressively lost half of its audience, with the most recent episode, "Yes Men," earning 5.99 million viewers (a 2.1 rating).  The erratic scheduling hasn't helped either, with only five new episodes airing so far since the beginning of 2014.

Regardless, the series still entertains and does well enough to continue on, so a second season seems more than likely at this point.  In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon address some of the issues critics have had while attempting to lower fan expectations.

On what they've learned so far fifteen episodes in, Tancharoen remarked, "We've learned what works and what doesn't and we're sticking with the stuff that works. It's an eight-day shoot and we knew from the outset that there were a lot of eyes on the show with very high expectations. People were expecting to see a Marvel movie every week. With the reality of our accelerated post schedule, we are living up to that standard as much as we possibly can. In the beginning, we may have tried to apply too much to an episode. Now we understand the right balance that we need of scale as well as story and quiet moments in between. That is what our show is about: real people living in this extraordinary world. We've found how to lean into that; to show the same great universe as you see in the movies, but through a different lens."

Concerning critics of the show, such as former S.H.I.E.L.D. artist Jim Steranko, Whedon commented, "Everything that everybody has seen that has come from Marvel has been a giant multimillion-dollar film and we can't do that. The expectation that they're going to see a Marvel movie each week -- that's a hard expectation to live up to. The only way we can live up to it is with story and long-term storytelling. That's the one advantage we have over the films: we can develop story arcs over this period of 22 episodes. Early on, we had to be careful with making sure we honored the Marvel universe they created. They spent millions and billions of dollars, time and energy and very cleverly created this awesome massive universe that we are playing in."

Added Tancharoen, "We didn't want to bombard our new audience -- an audience that includes people that aren't familiar with the Marvel universe -- we didn't to want to bombard them with a superhero week after week."

On the subject of bringing in big-name characters, such as Nick Fury or Sif, Tancharoen said, "It wasn't one of our main goals to have one of the big stars from the movies come in week to week. We knew that would be setting an expectation that just realistically we couldn't pursue. Our goal was to have a show that stands on its own, which I think we've done. It's Marvel's goal to show and respect that it is all connected and our show has a unique opportunity to participate in that so it's always a possibility to have someone coming."

The two ended up contradicting one another somewhat on the topic of making adjustments to the series based upon fan response.  "We think of it as a band playing a song," said Whedon.  "If everyone goes to the bar when we play a slow number, maybe we don't play as many slow numbers. We try to see what people are responding to and hit those notes harder and test the audience and make those notes interesting."

However, Tancharoen has a slightly different perception.  "There hasn't been a course correction of any kind," she replied.  "The way the season is laid out is how we originally planned it. We're excited for people to see these last seven and see how everything comes together."

On the pair's plans for Season 2, Tancharoen responded, "We have a board going right now. We just don't have a season two yet. But we are planning on it and at the end of season one, we are tying a lot of things up as well as teeing things up for a possible season two."

And lastly, will the Season 1 finale serve as a possible series finale if there's no renewal from ABC?  "No, you'd be so desperate to see another season and you'd be sad," said Whedon.  "It'll definitely be a satisfying season finale but we definitely are teeing up stuff to come."

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