Is ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Getting Better as Ratings Fall?

Published 1 year ago by , Updated November 16th, 2013 at 2:01 pm,

Agents of SHIELD Cast1 Is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Getting Better as Ratings Fall?

When it was first announced that Marvel intended to extend their shared cinematic universe beyond feature films (and companion one-shot shorts) to a network TV series centered on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., expectations were understandably high. Coming off enormous success of The Avengers (to the tune of $1.5 billion in global ticket revenue), fans were eager to see the studio leave behind origin stories and shared universe world-building to play in the much-hyped Phase 2 sandbox.

However, despite $1.2 billion in box office sales, Iron Man 3 became one of the most divisive superhero movies in recent memory – only to be followed months later by lackluster responses to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot. A problematic feature film can be yesterday’s news but a network TV series has the opportunity to evolve overtime, learning from mistakes, and adjusting to the interests of its audience. To that point, is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. getting better with each episode – even as ratings continue to drop?

This week’s chapter “The Hub” (Season 1, Episode 7) marked the lowest viewership (6.63 million) and ratings (2.2 in the 18-49 demographic) in the series’ admittedly brief history – meaning that while many TV watchers are still happily tuning in for the show (which has managed to cull 22 million pilot views), an ever-increasing number are choosing to opt-out. Interestingly, the ratings drop-off has continued in spite of recent improvements to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. format – as the writers made it past the initial introduction and began executing on story lines with actual emotional impact.

agents of shield episode 3 asset coulson Is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Getting Better as Ratings Fall?

Last week’s episode in particular, “F.Z.Z.T.” (read our review), pulled triple-duty by telling an engaging character story, tying in shared universe material, and evolving the core dynamics at the heart of this particular S.H.I.E.L.D. team. Many viewers saw the episode as a potential turning point for the show – or, at the very least, a moment of redemption for their continued commitment to the series. Furthermore, the Coulson character has begun to lock back into a more stern, yet charming, profile – ditching some of the more over-the-top and cheeky comedy moments in favor of a more agreeable (as well as subtle) balance between humorous and badass moments.

Yet, despite the episode’s overall quality, and growing interest in the team of characters, the series lost another 400,000 viewers (7.03 to 6.63 million) before airing “The Hub.” To put those numbers in perspective, ABC’s prior (and cancelled after one season) superhero ensemble show, No Ordinary Family had 6.9 million viewers in its seventh episode (300,000 more than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). If the best episode of the series not only fails to retain, much less improve viewership, it’s hard to know what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can do to win-back skeptical TV watchers. So where is the disconnect?

Too Much Hype

Given that the series debuted to exceptionally high ratings, and is still one of Tuesday night’s most-viewed series, the problem could be (at least in part) a matter of perspective – and a few unrealistic expectations. ABC and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show runners are certainly culpable for a number of problems that have prevented Marvel enthusiasts (and casual TV lovers) from embracing the series – especially the campy take on fan-favorite Agent Coulson as well as the clumsy (and downright goofy) demeanor of this “hand-picked” operative team – but few television shows have ever faced this type of hype directly out the gate.

agents of shield coulson 2 570x294 Is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Getting Better as Ratings Fall?

Unlike films, most TV pilots are built around entirely unknown characters (using genre archetypes) with no connection to anything outside of isolated week to week drama. Consequently, viewers will either respond to characters and the central premise – or not. If enough people choose to tune in, the show will go on. Although, in the case of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., viewers already had an idea of what they wanted to see from the series – and how it should, subjectively, tie-into the larger shared universe.


Page 2: Why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Might Be Losing Viewers


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  1. i haven’t watched the show and most likely never will because i know how it is designed.
    it’s just a MIB tv show with no connection to the marvel verse other than the name AGENTS OF SHIELD.

    if they were more careful in their creation and blended it with the movies. You know like previewing the future threat of ULTRON with carefully constructed crime investigations that are very meticulous in nature than i would watch this show. but it’s obvious to me that the creators of the television show don’t have faith in it because they make it so that it doesn’t interfere with their cash cow. that is problematic.

    they may say they have full faith in their product but they way they treat it shows that even they don’t. It’s just a hollow publicity stunt. and they need to treat carefully or they risk ruining their other stuff the same way sarah conner chronicles made terminator 4 look dumb before it was even hatched. cause it wasn’t the movie’s quality that killed T-4 no one went opening weekend.

    think about it.

    • “i haven’t watched the show and most likely never will because i know how it is designed.
      it’s just a MIB tv show with no connection to the marvel verse other than the name AGENTS OF SHIELD.”
      You couldn’t be more wrong

  2. Haven’t watched and probably won’t from what i heard. The lame excuse i hear the most “Unlike films, most TV pilots are built around entirely unknown characters (using genre archetypes) with no connection to anything outside of isolated week to week drama.”
    Watched Breaking Bad’s Pilot.. hook in an instance. All the characters are unknown in this show and thus you have no connection. Yet majority love the show after the 1st viewing.
    Pilots are usually make it or breaking it.. and from the looks of it AOS is breaking it.. not in a good way.

  3. Great Lakes Avengers Movie


    Mr. Immortal: Justin Timberlake
    Dinah Soar: Zoe Saldana
    Big Bertha: Beth Behrs
    Flatman: Justin Bartha
    Doorman: Donald Glover
    Squirrel Girl: Ellen Page

    Leather Boy: Christopher Mintz-Plasse
    The Abomination: Tim Roth

    Directed by Todd Phillips

    • But Zoe Saldana is already playing another Marvel character.

  4. SHIELD is a very intelligent show. Its special effects and action sequences are first-rate. The exhibition is extremely clever and subtle, so it doesn’t take the viewers for idiots, a problem I had with Heroes, for example. So why aren’t people watching it? It’s just not that interesting. Its too safe.
    SHIELD is like a Toyota: solidly built, high quality, but boring.

    • I forgot to mention that continuing plot lines resolve way too long with very little reward. Did it really need 5 episodes to find out what Skye’s extremely underwhelming ulterior motive was? Rewards for watching this show are too small. There hasn’t been any “can’t miss” episodes.

      • Kind of like Smallville’s Doomsday season? That may have done a lot to lower our expectations on what a show will deliver…

      • I do agree with AOS not having any “can’t miss” episodes yet but I rather do like the whole recurring plots although I don’t like how they are handling it. I think it should have only taken 2 episodes to find out what Skye’s ulterior motive was. Also, we get that SHIELD was part of the Avengers movie. They don’t need to reference that every episode. They also don’t need a big budget to pull off this show. They just need better writing and a sense of direction. Where is this all heading? How long will it take to get there? Who is going to be our villain? If we are going to delay the “big reveal” until the end of the season, how can we keep the show interesting without giving too much away?

  5. This show is just an all-out assault on our intelligence. It has a sense that only a 5-year old can appreciate. I’ve watched every episode so far and each time it’s an hour of my life lost.

    Cliché action scenes. Characters that make no sense at all. Lets give a rogue Skye access to classified files, even after she was caught leaking them and hacking systems multiple times… Jemma who assaults a superior official receives no punishment at all… Really??? The light of my life, Ming Na is only in each episode for like 60 seconds?

    A lot of things went wrong to make this show this bad. Somebody should be fired. Multiple people should be fired.

    • I totally agree that it is an assault to our intelligence. I don’t think anyone really expects to see a tv series run with like a big budget movie blockbuster, but we did expect SHIELD to be somewhat like it was portrayed in several films and numerous animated series. This has been established and is not that difficult to pull off. These guys are a joke! I’ve seen only a couple of episodes and with the quality of the trailers the others haven’t drawn my attention. Maybe if it was on at another time…
      I would really love for this show to succeed, but doubt that it’ll happen. I would rather be watching NCIS, even without Ziva.

  6. The Hub was a terrible episode that added nothing that wasn’t already hinted upon earlier in the series. The big reveal about the documents was one of the most cliched things I have ever seen (the way it was handled). I still have hope that this show can be good but with the exception of Coulson (of course) and maybe May the rest of the cast is cookie cutter and just plain boring and annoying. Kill them off and start over.

  7. I’d say Agents of Shield is getting better, the plan I’d say was to be a Marvel show without requiring the special effects of a Marvel movie and those four shows that Netflix picked up I’d be willing to bet are using certain characters for the same reasons,

    Daredevil, Jewel (Jessica Jones), Iron Fist and Power Man have powers that are not that hard to show on TV. I’d say the problem with The Sarah Conner Chronicles and AOS is that both shows are/were being compared to the respected movies they were running alongside and it’s hard to make a show when half your audience is expecting movie-levels of quality in every episode.

    The thing is I don’t like AOS but I’m still watching the show since to me it’s not like I have to pay for the show (well let’s fact it you’re paying for the channel anyway) and I know the show has a lot of potential even if it should have been a lot sooner.

    Basically I’m not saying we have to watch it but would anyone agree that had it been this good at episode 1, you might not have been turned off the show?

    (NOTE – Before replying bare in mind that obviously this means IF you’re not a fan of the show, I don’t want to see any AOS Fans going “But Jaaaames not all of us hate Agents of Shield!”)

    I mean it’s all well and good saying the show is good now but it might be a case of “too little, too late” for AOS. I’m getting tired of Whedon fans on this site trying to convince us we have to watch this show for when it gets good.

    Yes, the show is getting good now but can the guys behind the show recognise why it’s good now? I want to the creators to know why people think it’s improving on work on pushing those aspects forward and can we learn more about the characters? Things like why Agent Ward doesn’t like working with other people or what happened to Skye’s parents. I want AOS to show me why I should care for these people and their struggle,

    Don’t just tell me to care show me why I should care. For the record I have never wanted this show to fail and pointing out a show’s flaws isn’t either. As I’ve said in the past I know how quick networks are to act on bad ratings and I don’t want season 1 to be the only season and yes I am happy that Joss Whedon and the guys at ABC are proving me wrong.

    Now guys prove me wrong even further and make 10 22 episode seasons of this show.

    P.S – I don’t care how many times the American spellcheck tries to point it out, I AM BRITISH. I spell words like recognise with an S. NOT A Z.

  8. I hear a lot about budget issues resulting in poor cast/effects etc. But why can so many other shows like game of thrones, arrow, tomorrow people , falling sky, walking dead, etc pull off great stories, great effects and action? there something else wrong here and not sure it will be fixed unless Colsen wakes up only to realise everything was just a dream, no one was real .. and it was some tech way of getting information out of him .. killing off all those horrible characters and actors and introducing the real agents of shield.

    • *Reads username*
      GET OUT

    • I also hear that “people were expecting it to compare to the movies”. It’s not that at all. We expected better quality of writing. That has nothing to do with the budget or “it being the movies”. We expected that SHIELD that we all know, not this SHIELD in training cast. When you have about 81% of the comic readers saying the writing and direction of the show doesn’t meet the quality of a Marvel brand then something is seriously wrong. For all that was wrong with Iron Man 3, and there was a lot wrong, it was still a quality Marvel film and the overall results was that while people were split about the “villain” role, the writing was still good (73% approval rating). I mean, I understand it’s Marvel and we support all Marvel/DC but the fact is if this wasn’t in no way, shape, or form connected to Marvel then this show would have been destroyed with the amount of complaints of how bad the show is because every year there is a show that has the similar formula of this show and ends up cancelled or heavily criticized for being bad

  9. I can sum up the biggest problem with AOS in one sentence: Everyone thought Joss whedon was writing this.

  10. I think that the show has been put under harsh scrutiny, especially for it’s first season. No show , no matter how critically received will maintain it’s ratings throughout a whole season. You will get highs and lows.

    Like the article says though it’s perhaps a victim of the concept itself. Viewers were expecting to a degree the same scale of action as The Avengers and no tv show can produce that week to week.

    I will say that the dynamic of the team is too young. They’re meant o be exceptionally qualified government agents dealing with potentially global threats, yest most of them still look like they’ve just started their first year of college. It just takes away a degree of credibility from the show I think.

  11. I’m sure they’ll greenlight the second season with reduced production costs and come up with some technicality in marketing gibberish to justify it.

    Disney wants to get the most of its Marvel movie cash cow until it runs out of gas.

  12. I called this one many months ago before the shield show came out, josh whedon said its has to
    Stand on its own. I knew this was not going to happen and what the fans want is some tangible
    heroes and villians or introduce the punisher, the zodiac cartel, the serpent society. Use four
    Episodes to buildup to each movie rather then a ridiculous hub episode that amounted to
    nothing visible. Bring in real marvel material rather then made up characters.

  13. I never minded the special effects or anything along those lines. What drove me away was the characters. They were so unappealing. Maybe I expected a lot (or too much) from Joss Whedon, but I wished the team worked together as well as the Serenity crew.

  14. Best episode by far.

  15. I am really tired of articles that say the reason we are not happy with the show is because we expect it to match the movies in term of effects or budget. That is insulting and stupid. Anybody with even half a brain knew that was not going to happen. Nobody expected the Avengers to appear in anything more than tiny little cameos if even that.

    What we did expect was a show worthy of the name Marvel. This ain’t it.

    Where is the excitement? Where are the thrills? Why have we not seen one freaking person in a costume? This is not the Marvel Universe it is simply a rip-off of the it. As many have said without the Marvel name this show would have been DOA. The only reason fans keep watching is in the hopes it might turn into something worthwile.

    Its main audience are people who watch a lot of TV anyway. I keep being told that compared to most of the stuff on TV it is a pretty good show. That is not good enough for me. It is Marvel it should blow every other show out of the water except those on channels like HBO.

    This show is going to die. If it does not the only reason will be because Disney sees it as one big paid ad for the Marvel movies.