The Remote: ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ almost as silly as its name

Ryan Pait

Quick litmus test: try saying “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” out loud. Even better — try typing it.

It’s an ungainly, unwieldy title that’s so long it’s silly.

Despite the title, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is one of the most-anticipated shows this season.

It premiered to huge ratings. says that its first episode drew in 12.1 million viewers and scored a 4.7 in the prized 18-49 demographic.

In a television market that’s becoming increasingly fragmented by niche offerings, that’s huge.

The series serves as a branch off of Marvel’s cinematic universe, which includes films like “The Avengers,” “Iron Man” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

It’s helmed by Joss Whedon, director of “The Avengers” and also the brain behind cult favorite TV shows “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly.”

The series picks up after the cataclysmic events of “The Avengers,”  and focuses on S.H.I.E.L.D., the government agency that handles the events caused by superheroes and their enemies.

It’s an inherently silly premise, but if anyone could lend gravity to it, Joss Whedon is the man.

Whedon made “The Avengers” feel both entertaining and consequential.

There’s a reason why it’s the world’s third-highest-grossing film.

But that winning formula is disappointingly absent from “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

There are some quick nods to the members of the Avengers in the show, but it’s quite clear from the beginning that they’re not the focus. This is a show about the agents that help the superheroes, not the superheroes.

The series is led by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), who has made appearances in most of the Marvel films over the past few years. Coulson apparently died in “The Avengers,” but mysteriously returns for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Gregg is likable and funny, but the show’s opener didn’t leave me very confident in his abilities to headline a show.

The cast is rounded out by the other agents, played by the likes of Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennett, Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge.

While none of them really popped for me, I will give credit where credit is due: in a show that could easily be dominated by men, Whedon has made ample room for women.

Even better is the fact that they’re portrayed in a way that shows them to be as competent or even superior to their male cohorts.

In a world where shows like “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” degrade women for laughs, it’s an attitude that’s refreshing.

But that attitude doesn’t entirely solve the show’s problems.

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is excessively fluffy, and feels like an hour of watching a child play with action figures. It’s not near as amusing as it sounds.

The show also feels constrained by its budget.

Series like “Game of Thrones” have proved that TV can be epic and look amazing, but “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” feels like it can never get that high.

You can tell it’s expensive, but none of it looks that great.

The premiere ends with Coulson flying away in a car, à la “Grease.” It’s campy as hell, but not in a fun way. The show constantly feels like it’s winking at you.

Agent Coulson may have returned from the dead for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but I won’t be returning to it any time soon.