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 really like this show and feel we’re expecting too much from it. Give it a chance. It isn’t Avengers – it’s a TV show.

    • I agree. It is a fun show, in prime time, for families.

      My only complaint…most of the characters seem a little too young, inexperienced, and unprofessional for my taste. I would prefer more people of Coulson’s quality.

    • This is just a test. I have a comment awaiting moderation, no idea why, and my email alerting ScreenRant to the problem won’t go through…?

    • Couldn’t agree more. High expectation only leads to Disappoinment… so let’s not expect too much at first.

    • Veiws shouldn’t be why a show is taken of the air.

      After all, a great amount of people who have stopped watching the show probably just recorded it to watch later.

  2. Maybe no one else is enjoying this series, but I am. I did not have unrealistic expectations for it: I knew it was not going to be a tentpole exraveganza, but just support for the bigger super-powered character movies like Cap, Thor, and IM. It is about what I thought it would be. Fun, but yes there is room for improvement. I was thinking use it to save the ratings to introduce heroes Foir Hire and maybe touch bases with daredevil, but since those characters are getting their own series, perhaps they could touch bases with Black Panther or Moon Knight? It could only help the ratings.

    • I think it rocks. I’ve enjoyed every episode I’ve seen.

  3. I feel that this show is a slow-burner, it takes time to get really hot and it’s not a strange thing to ever happened to a TV series.

    I recently met my family from a different country, and they confessed that they dropped shows like Arrow, and Once Upon a Time after watching only several episodes (they said it was 4-5 episodes) because they said the series was boring to watch. We all know that both title I mentioned, didn’t get interesting until after like episode 10 or so. And that’s how I personally feel about SHIELD as well. I’m still watching the show and I can definitely say it’s getting much better and better in its new one. Plus, you’re starting to care more and more of the cast, as they themselves are starting to become like a ‘family’ as each episodes goes by.

    So yeah, I think people are dropping this show too fast, and was expecting too much in an ‘instant’ manner at first. Well, all I know, I’m sticking with the show till the end… so at least it won’t be losing one viewer for a while haha

  4. I liked how the most recent episode “the Hub” featured SHIELD as an actual organization, and even caught a Triskelion reference in there (building seen in Cap 2 trailer) We should have seen more of SHIELD in the pilot, and it seems like they were compensating for that by having A LOT of random people walking around the hallways of the Hub. I think we may have expected too much from the series, but I’m not giving up on it, I’ll keep on watching and hoping it builds towards something more than it is currently.

  5. Honest question… I watched the promo for next week’s episode. I saw no frost beast.

    Am I missing something?

    • “…and when the latest TV spot aired, it wasn’t at all surprising to find out that the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. team would NOT be hunting down a giant CGI Frost Beast.”

  6. I can’t speak for everyone else’s expectations, but I don’t think mind are ridiculously high. Many people who don’t like AoS are well aware that it is a TV show and the budget is limited.

    I expected the action to be a little more action-y. It doesn’t have to be all blood and guts, but the from the fight scenes I’ve seen (I gave up watching the show about 25% through the 3rd episode)were bad. Some of the main characters are highly trained individuals fighting highly trained baddies, but none of that shows in the often cheesy fight scenes. And I don’t mind a little humor, but the thing is that most of AoS humor isn’t really funny to me. The cheesy dialogue also sets the show back a few steps in the wrong direction for me.

    • +1

      It honestly bores and frustrates me when people throw around the accusation that those who don’t enjoy the show were expecting too much.

      I didn’t expect anything other than a mildly budgeted TV show featuring a small team of people recruited for a specific reason (why else would we follow these particular characters?) that links to the movies in the same way that the One-Shots did on the DVD releases.

      What I got instead was a show where the only likable characters were Fitz and Simmons, the main character is a token “hot chick outsider” and even Coulson seems to have been tamed.

      That’s not to mention the cheesy fight scenes, clunky dialogue, plots that don’t seem to go anywhere….there’s just so much wrong with it and I can’t enjoy it.

      People say “it’s a slow-burner, keep tuning in, it’ll improve”. Thing is, I have this weird “gift” for being able to make a split second judgment (whether it’s a person, a piece of fiction etc) and be proven correct every time.

      Shows like Arrow, The Following, Hannibal, I was hooked either from episode 1 or episode 2 and knew I was watching something great. They can have episodes that feel a little off or less exciting (Monday’s episode of Arrow for example with the League Of Assassins hunting Sarah wasn’t as good as last week’s episode) but they’re still immensely enjoyable.

      Agents Of SHIELD? From the first commercial break, I had the feeling it wouldn’t get any better and for the next handful of episodes (I quit watching after episode 5), it didn’t.

      I’d sit there for an hour and by the end of the episode, I wouldn’t feel any wiser as to what had actually been furthered as far as plot and character development. It’s almost like sitting in a lecture and when it finally ends, you still haven’t learned anything because it was just pre-amble for the entire length with zero substance.

      Another comment I’ve seen thrown around is “Don’t expect it to be The Avengers”. Personally, I wouldn’t anyway because I found that movie to be full of air and a complete misnomer compared to the solo movies that came before it.

      If this show really does go on to another season then it’ll prove my point about great shows like Vegas being cancelled long before their time while crap like AOS continues on regardless when it didn’t deserve to.

      • +1000 about Vegas! However, AoS is getting better. Definitely needs to introduce more villains and hero’s to keep people into it. I thought we were going to get a “new Monster/villain of the week” type show. This last episode was good but it was missing a main antagonist.

      • You bailed too early. Give it one more chance and watch episode 6. It wasn’t just the best episode, it was just great T.V measured objectively against other shows.

        • It shouldn’t take 6 episodes to get good. I find myself playing candy crush through whole episodes and not caring because I know I’ve missed nothing.

          • Maybe you should just watch an episode and maybe you will see the easter eggs no one else sees! Why doesn’t any one see them!?!??!

    • My expectations weren’t high but I expected a show that has direction. Right now there is no real clear direction. The differences with Arrow in episode 7 was that each episode did show some improvement. With AOS, the only improvement I’ve seen so far has been in toning down the humor. There is still no real direction to the show. We get these “Easter egg” clues but they have done nothing to really act on them. The action is below average. This is a NCIS show with a Marvel brand. If they had a recurring villain role or a small lesser known superhero or something that will have direction then things might improve. Right now, it’s just “another show”

  7. To answer your question, yes it is. The last two episodes especially. I’ve recently started watching Arrow and I’m six episodes in. I get that everybody loves Arrow now, but the first few episodes are FULL of cheesy dialogue and bad acting. I’m sure it’s gotten better over time, but for my money the first few episodes of AoS beat the first few episodes of Arrow, hands down. Give Marvel some time and I’m sure AoS will get even better as well.

    • As far as Arrow goes, I’m with you. The show bad, like bad bad. Good premise just like AOS, but it was just bad. Due to the buzz its getting, I’m gonna catch up on Netflix.

      • *The show was bad

      • But arrow wasn’t as bad as aos is in respected timetables.

    • I’m not gonna say it was bad, but the only reason I stuck with it was because it was Green Arrow. But it improved the second half of the season, and the second season has just been downright awesome.

  8. Ohhh no, that’s terrible, I was so afraid this was going to happen. It’s a tv show, you can’t expect it to be every thing you want from the start. And the show isn’t going to answer things fast, you have to watch the full season. It’s getting so good like I knew it would, and I want many seasons to come.

  9. The show is getting better. I don’t like all of this “lower your expectations” talk though. It’s AoS’ job to rise to the expectations of being a good quality show, something it definitely wasn’t for at least the first 4-5 episodes.

    Lets not make excuses, I’m sure they are aware of what is working and what isn’t and will make changes accordingly.

    It started weak and lost some viewers, and with the quality of those episodes, I think they deserved to. Now the have to keep the momentum they’ve built in the last two going. There is still a LONG way to go yet.

  10. Look at this sh*t. NOW everybody’s saying ‘Give this show a chance’ whereas I’ve seen people bitching and complaining for the past near-10 weeks of this show’s existence. Constantly I’ve seen people saying that it’s garbage and sh*t when they only saw a couple episodes. I don’t even know what Screenrant is doing seeing as how they were in on that, too. ‘OH LOOK. AOS’ RATINGS ARE FALLING. WE TOTALLY SAW THAT COMING THE WHOLE TIME. LOOK AT US.’

  11. I think too many people were expecting big stuff to happen regularly, just because the movies make a lot of money doesn’t mean all that money goes towards the tv show.

  12. It was never going to be like “Next week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. the team goes to Milwaukee to confront a group of amateur superheroes infringing on The Avengers trademark.”

    • The SHIELD premise should be some episodes like 24, others like X-Files/Fringe, still others like the A-Team, but it isn’t. it’s more like all boring B-movies instead of engaging B-movies.

  13. I love Screen Rant but man, these ‘S.H.I.E.L.D’ articles have got to stop.. other than reviews of the weekly episodes.

    It’s annoying seeing “Does SHIELD survive after rating drops?” “SHIELD not serving the hype?” and now this.. come on.

    • I agree, there are definitely a lot of AoS articles. I think we would see articles like this for other highly anticipated shows that have divided fans at this magnitude. I think articles like this give Screen Rant more traffic and it invites some quality discussion among the people who are willing to avoid defensiveness.

    • It’s the Fall, when the summer movie season starts up again things will shift back to their normal programming. And since this show is tied in with the Marvel films it will still get articles written if and when the show gets cancelled. Or maybe it will end up like last years television heated debate topic Revolution, which has gotten a whopping one review post this season.

  14. I started watching, and enjoyed the first episode, was ambivalent to the second, couldn’t stand the third and gave up. I like Coulson, I like Fitzsimmons (occasionally) I like Melinda May. I can’t stand Skye, Ward is boring, and when they started teasing a romance between the two I upped sticks and left. I had expectations, as others have said above, a modestly budgeted series, with references to the movies, with some engaging plots, exploring the darker side of Shield, with some interesting characters. What I can’t stand is a cocky hacker who can breach the world’s security networks with a smartphone and a pushup bra, a supposed special agent who has all the personality of a door and convoluted scenarios designed to show Skye outwitting everyone else. In the opening episode, I cared about the guy with the Extremis virus because I wanted to see if he could overcome his dark side for the sake of his son. I couldn’t give a toss if Skye is getting boxing lessons. A friend of mine also raised the point that with a truckload of lower level Marvel people like Taskmaster, Moon Knight, Elektra, even guys like Bullseye, why they couldn’t introduce them as villains, before any possible appearances in the Netflix series? Why should we invest time in characters who are essentially not even good enough to deal with low level threat. My final point? This show is going to look even more modestly budgeted after we see the Shield hardware in The Winter Soldier…

  15. If you look at the process, they make a pilot to sell to the studios. They have five or six episodes in the can when the first episode airs. So it will take some time for public feedback to reach the writers and those adjustments that need to be made. What was it, the seventh or eighth episode last night?

  16. Well, if you all remember, Arrow sucked for the first 10 episodes or so. Now, it’s awesome! This show is gradually getting better. I understand the need for the show to gradually become better, because it would feel super forced if it just became good overnight, but maybe they could pick up the pace? They need to ditch the campiness and take themselves seriously. If this show was a mix of Criminal Minds and Arrow, (seriousness and fantasy), it would be awesome.

    • The differences is Arrow season 1 improved with every episode and they had a clear direction so that when it got to episode 8-12 the tie ins started developing. AOS started bad, then did 1 good episode that had potential only to follow it with another bad episode. Arrow at least constantly improved each episode

  17. If I may say, I love Agents of Shield. It ties in to the Marvel Universe just enough to keep us wondering what is happening. Yet I do believe it could do better. My favorite three episodes were the Graviton origin episode, FZZT, and The Hub. My favorite characters are of course Coulson and also May. I kinda like Simmons and Fitz more than Skye. Im glad that Skye has a potential back ground story though.

  18. I have missed the last few episodes, this pitiful show could only be saved, if Skye becomes a costumed character and began wearing a skin tight Ms.Marvel type suit on the show.

    • Umm no.

      • Female S.H.I.E.L.D agents really do wear ‘wet look’ cat suits with thigh holsters on the right thigh. Skye is excessively overdressed for an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

    • Or do her Iron Man Cosplay, right ?

  19. I can’t think of one great show that DIDN’T get better with age.

    • Dexter

    • They invented the term “jumped the shark” for a reason

    • Haven’t you heard of the show Heroes?

  20. I haven’t seen the past two episodes, even though they are recorded. I just lost my motivation to watch them. I may just have to go back and check them out.

  21. No the show sucks. The writing is as wakeful as I have ever seen. Cancel it

    • “Wakeful”? Damn you auto correct!

  22. If you look back and try to think of a show that started with solid ratings but then declined lower and lower I’d be pretty surprised if you found an example of ratings rebounding back even if the show got better.
    The simple fact is that once people stop watching a show there’s a slim chance of them going back no matter what. Of course there are examples of people here and there going back but not in the amount that can save a sinking ship.
    So IMO ABC has 1 or 2 options. Move the show to a night when lower numbers can be acceptable (Friday or Saturday) or let this season play play out and cancel it. Because 6-7 million viewers for such a high profile show is not going to cut it.

    • I agree. This show on a Friday might do wonders for its ratings but at the same time there needs to be some major improvements to win people back. Right now I record it and watch it when there is nothing else on. It’s a okay show but I don’t consider it even in the league as Arrow or for that matter, Arrow at episode 8

  23. This episode was better, again, but it’s still a show full of supporting characters and completely episodic. The story lines are so rushed. Agent Hand was pretty cold at the beginning of the episode but over the course of what was probably a couple hours, she seemed to have come around to Coulson’s team. It just doesn’t make any sense. The show is getting better for sure, but it still has a long way to go.

  24. I have enjoyed AoS. It’s been interesting watching the team gel and the references to the larger Marvel universe. I think too many people were expecting this to be more like the films instead of a family-oriented show. It also isn’t going to be edgy like Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead. I’m hoping that this doesn’t get canceled because I really enjoy it (which means it’s probably gone).

  25. So before the show even begins, rant on it like there’s no tomorrow and now come back with this article? LMAO. Nice.

  26. Tony Stark would substantially boost ratings in an instant.

  27. To accuse people of not liking the show because their expectations were too high is ridiculous. Yes we’re all aware it’s a TV show without a 150 million dollar budget, thanks. Nobody was expecting Robert Downey Junior or Mark Ruffalo to show up every second episode or the greatest special effects along with major plot connections with the movie universe. in fact, one of my biggest complaints was that there were far too many Marvel references in the earlier episodes,

    It’s not too much to ask for decent writing and a story from a show though is it. Maybe a cast that’s not made up of young annoying generic stereotypes either. This show kind of feels like a Saturday morning cartoon or something, seriously, it’s like James Bond Junior mixed with Captain Planet or Scooby Doo.

    I’ve given it 7 episodes now and that’s it for me, does anyone else really give a s**t who that pretty young hacker girls parents are?

    • I would care if there was a direction in which all of this is heading but as of right now there is none. It’s a case of the week show

      • A lot of shows have survived on a “case of the week” premise, but the cases have to at least be engaging.

        • Agreed. I also know some shows have survived on a “case of the week” type of show but if that’s what they are trying to do then why be associated with a Marvel product if there is no progression in the story. At least with shows like a NCIS there is a storyline that continues weekly with a “case of the week”. For a Marvel show, it’s just bad writing. Yes, it’s getting better but when it got a little bit better it took a step back also with this episode because of the plot holes.

  28. This was the first episode that I actually enjoyed from top to bottom. Plenty of action, intrigue and character development. Even Fitz and Simmons were not as annoying as they usually are. Still not perfect but definitely an enjoyable watch. Too bad the show didn’t start off on this foot. Still if they continue to improve the viewers will return. The Thor tie in can only help.

    • That’s the thing though. Tie ins can only take you so far. After a while they need to start delivering

  29. The problem with this show is that it sucks….except for the S.H.E.L.D name it has nothing to do with the Marvel Universe…..

    • So that’s what a blind eye sees…