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Josh Reviews Agent Carter: Season One

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I had high hopes for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it launched last year.  The idea of a Marvel TV show was of course of interest to me, but what really excited me was that, as opposed to the various DC Comics superhero shows over the years, this new Marvel TV show would be set in continuity with the Marvel movie universe.  It seems like a total no-brainer of an idea, and yet, nothing like this had ever been done before.  I was super-excited.

And yet, right from the pilot, I was underwhelmed.  Despite the involvement of some great talent both in front of and behind the camera (particularly the show-runner husband-and-wife team of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, of whom I have been a far for years), the show seemed surprisingly lifeless.  The characters were dull, the writing was flat, and the episodic structure did not engage me.  Things picked up a little towards the end of the season, when the series’ story-lines took a major turn in connection with the revelations about S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra from Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  The first half of this second season has seen the show continue to improve, and I’ve enjoyed the way the show has utilized elements of the mythology of the Inhumans, a classic group of Marvel Comics characters.  But I still think the show is surprisingly mediocre, lacking either the fun or the edge-of-your-seat intensity I was hoping for.

I was excited to hear that Marvel would be launching a second TV series (a mini-series of sorts to fill the time-slot during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s mid-season hiatus) that would allow Hayley Atwell to reprise her role as Peggy Carter from Captain America: The First Avenger.  I loved everything about that idea.  Ms. Atwell was marvelous as Peggy — she was one of the best things about that first Cap film.  I felt there was still a lot of life left in that character, and I loved the notion of seeing what happened to her in the years following the loss of Cap.  I also loved the idea of a period-piece show; that seemed like a lot of fun, and something unusual for a superhero TV show.  And considering the revelations in Captain America: The Winter Soldier about the nature of S.H.I.E.L.D., suddenly a show about the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. seemed ripe with potential.  We’d seen that this premise had juice in the wonderful Peggy Carter one-shot short film attached to the DVD of Iron Man Three.  Frankly, the only thing that had me worried was the mediocre quality of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — would Agent Carter be of just as middling a level of quality?

Well, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1

It picked up a little bit in the final third, with the episodes set after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but nevertheless it’s hard to characterize the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as anything other than a colossal  disappointment.

When the show was first announced, I thought it was a brilliant idea.  Any type of TV show based on characters from Marvel Comics would pique my interest, but the notion of setting the show in the same continuity as the Marvel Studios films, and to actually have the show weave around the events of future films as they were released?  How cool was that idea!  It was such a clever combination of never-been-done-before gall and so-obvious-it-hurts common sense.  I wasn’t initially wild about the idea of resurrecting Agent Coulson (so memorably killed off in The Avengers), but I loved Clark Gregg’s performance in the role and was not unhappy to get to see more of him.  I’ve loved the work of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen before, so I was thrilled to see them in place as the show-runners, and with Joss Whedon directing the pilot, the series had a can’t-miss feel.

And yet, right away from the pilot (click here for my initial review) it was clear that something wasn’t altogether right with this show.  The writing didn’t have the spark I had expected, and the look of the show seemed surprisingly cheap.  Worst of all, the characters were flat as can be.  I suppose it’s not fair to compare to compare this show to one of the greatest television shows ever made, but compare this cast of characters to that of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, another fantasy-set motley-band-of-heroes-against-the-world show.  By the end of the pilot episode of Firefly, I loved those characters.  I wanted to know more about each and every one of them, and I was hooked in and ready to watch many, many more episodes with that crew.  (Sadly, that never happened.)  But even after 22 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., even in the final episodes of the season, when the plot was flying fast and furious, I really didn’t care one whit for any of these characters.   That’s the sin that most sinks the show for me, because if I don’t really care about the characters, the show doesn’t work.

It’s a shame, because once we got to that final batch of episodes, set after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we got to see some very cool ideas that the writers had clearly had in mind from the very beginning of the show.  They knew that the events of The Winter Soldier were coming, and so the show … [continued]

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Josh’s Thoughts on the Pilot Episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Well, this past week the much-hyped premiere episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally arrived!  (That is a lengthy title, and I think for simplicity’s sake I will just be referring to the show as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from here on in.)  I am excited and intrigued by this show, both because of the never-been-done-before conceit of having the show set in the continuity of Marvel’s continuing series of movies, and also because of the pedigree of the men and women behind the show.  The pilot was written and directed by Joss Whedon (who wrote and directed The Avengers and will be doing the same for the sequel coming in 2015, not to mention having helmed several brilliant other TV shows you might have heard of), and though he won’t be the show-runner moving forward, that responsibility lies in the incredibly talented husband-and-wife hands of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.

So what did I think of the pilot?

In a nutshell, good not great.  I wasn’t exactly blown away, but the show was definitely good enough that I am along for the ride for now.

The pilot was a lot of fun, made so primarily by a lot of wonderful Joss Whedon-scripted snappy dialogue.  I was quite taken by the light, this-may-be-serious-business-but-we’re-gonna-have-fun-along-the-way tone.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Joss-free scripts for the next few episodes turn out.

I love how unabashedly the show is set in the Marvel movie universe, with lots of references to the battle of New York in last summer’s The Avengers (though it is weird that we don’t see any lingering devastation from the carnage of the alien invasion — one line about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s involvement in the clean-up wasn’t really enough for me) and to the Extremis virus from this past summer’s Iron Man 3.  There were also plenty of other little winks and nods to the wider Marvel comic-book universe, with mentions of Project Pegasus, a play on the classic Spider-Man “with great power…” line, and more.  If done right, this show could be an incredible way to explore many of the nooks and crannies of the Marvel universe that would never be able to make their way into the big movies.  I for one am hoping in particular to see a few of the famous S.H.I.E.L.D. agents from the comics (Contessa!  Clay Quartermain!) pop up in the show down the line.

It was great seeing Agent Coulson (the magnificent Clark Gregg) back, and I’m intrigued by the mystery of his resurrection.  However, while it’s great fun having Coulson back — and at the center of things, now! — there’s no question his resurrection dilutes the power of his death in The Avengers.[continued]

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This is an old clip (it’s from 2012), but I just saw it for the first time and loved it: a revival of “Who’s on First” with Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal, and Jerry Seinfeld!

This made me laugh a LOT.  Ladies and gentlemen:  Good Will Batman.

This is an interesting article on the production of season two of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, a show I find enjoyable though frustrating.  (I was fascinated to learn the reason that season two only ran nine episodes, rather than ten.)

Bill Hunt runs one of my very favorite web-sites out there, The Digital Bits.  He recently wrote a phenomenal editorial calling Paramount to task for their terrible treatment of the Star Trek films on DVD/blu-ray, specifically the disappointing blu-ray release of Into Darkness (in which Paramount created all sorts of special features for the movie but, instead of putting them all on the blu-ray, released individual featurettes to different vendors to be exclusive material just for them… making it impossible for Trek fans to get all of this material unless they wanted to go out and buy eight different copies of the blu-ray, each from a different vendor).  I agree 100% with everything Mr. Hunt wrote.  Well done.

Speaking of Star Trek Into Darkness, Devin Faraci at Badassdigest has written a brilliant evisceration of the film and a disturbing analysis of how co-screenwriter Bob Orci’s conspiracy “Truther” theories about 9/11 made it into the film’s story-line.  The idea that those sorts of nonsensical ideas about 9/11 made it into any big-budget blockbuster would be concerning, and the thought that these notions are a part of a Star Trek film — a series justly known for its progressive, liberal tackling of modern-day issues — is hugely upsetting to me.

This is a terrific interview with the show-runners of the new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.  This husband and wife pairing can be overshadowed by Jed’s more-famous brother Joss (who is executive-producing the show), but I have loved their work on Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (Maurissa KILLS on the musical commentary track!), and even some terrific Terminator comic books they wrote for Dark Horse comics a year or two ago.  I have a lot of faith in their talents.  I hope all the ingredients come together for this to be a great TV show.

Can this be true?  The blu-ray release of Paul Feig’s The Heat (click here for my review) features a commentary track by the original MST3K guys??  Well, I am definitely buying that blu-ray now!!

So… the new Robocop is a Cylon??

So…R.I.P. Futurama… again.  In honor of the show’s recent cancellation … [continued]