Saturday, 14 December 2013

Agents of Shield; Whedon gets it wrong

Somehow, I've made the time to watch all of the episodes that have aired of Agents of Shield. That's about eight hours I could presumably have done something else with, though I'll admit that I did do something else with most of it, even if it was only eating my breakfast and surfing the internet, because Agents of Shield struggles to hold my full attention even when I'm only half awake.

The whole thing seems to have come about because Joss Whedon made absurd amounts of money for Marvel with Avengers Assemble and so they told him he could make a TV show about the world if he really wanted to. Since most of Joss' working life has consisted of being given not enough money and time to try to make a follow up to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he doesn't seem to have known quite what to do when Marvel gave him all the money in the world and a full season to waste it on, and here we are with ten lacklustre episodes of whatever the hell it is that he's trying to do in Agents of Shield.

I'm not here to talk about that, because that would be boring - more boring even than the show is turning out to be. I'm here to talk about the show which they should have made instead. 

The whole Marvel superhero thing has given us an uneven torrent of movies in which teenage wish fulfilment made manifest somehow saves the world from certain destruction. Over, and over again. Because Hollywood, I think. Everything's turned up to 11 these days, as though the only way to make us interested is to overload our systems to the point where they shut down in self defence. Presumably at that point our critical faculties cut out as well, and we start thinking that we're seeing something good. 

Well, you can't do that on TV. There isn't the money, and there isn't the time, and it would be absurd to almost destroy the world every week in 40 minutes or less. It's absurd enough that any given franchise seems to do it once a year or so in a couple of hours of frenetic jump cutting. TV is - these days - for slower-burning, more meditative fare. There was a moment in the trailer for the TV show which had me hoping that Whedon was going to be clever; Agent Huge Block of Wood was asked if he knew what S.H.I.E.L.D stood for, and correctly spelled it out. Then he got asked if he knew what that meant, and said "That somebody really wanted the initials to spell "shield"". For that brief moment, I thought "found my next guilty pleasure."

Instead it's been "monster of the week, meet the wood muppets", when it should have been the greatest workplace comedy ever. The movies are the big deal; all huge stars and superheroes running around "saving the world" by demolishing half of it in CGI extravaganzas. The TV show should have been about the grumbling janitors who get to run along after the circus parade with brooms and dustpans, cleaning up the trail of destruction and wondering why they never get any respect. It would have been the perfect place for endless Whedon-esque pop culture jokes and self aware sarcasm. And instead of showing us almost heroes and almost adventures, we'd cut in each week as the team get the phone call to tidy up after the latest big budget movie. They'd be sitting there round the break table, arguing over whose turn it was to fill the percolator, and a battered phone would ring under a dartboard with a picture of Nick Fury's face in the middle. "Ah, not this again." "You know how it is; S.H.I.E.L.D Someone Hasta Inspect Every Little Disaster". And of they'd go, picking up after all the important people we go to the cinema to see properly. 

Probably get cancelled after a month, but that would just be Whedon, being true to himself.

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