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Marvel's Agents of SHIELD analysis: Fandom, ratings, and longevity


No doubt it'll be shielded from cancellation for a long time yet...

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. analysis: Fandom, ratings, and longevity

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD premiered on ABC last night, and got great ratings, to the delight of Whedonites everywhere, followed by a kind of bemused disbelief and a lurking suspicion of sudden, stabby cancellation. Numfar! Do the Dance of Joy! Followed by the Dance of Confusion, and then the Dance of Apprehension!

EW reports that the show received:

"11.9 million viewers and a 4.6 adults 18-49 rating. That makes S.H.I.E.L.D. TV's highest-rated drama debut in nearly four years (since ABC's V premiere in November, 2009)."

And also:

"...trouncing the return of NCIS in the demo (3.4), though obviously losing among total viewers (19.4 million)."

Or, in other words, 'Yo, ABC's MAoS got 11.9 mil and trounced NCIS with a 4.6 versus 3.4 in the demo!' (Is that a language you're speaking?)

But it seems the daydream's real. After his last three (of four) TV series were cancelled despite being awesome, Joss Whedon has now written and directed the third-highest grossing film of all time (not inflation-adjusted) with The Avengers, and has just launched a TV show that's a massive hit.

Though most Whedon fans have, by this point, been imprinted to expect that happiness for something they love will swiftly and inevitably be followed by tragedy, it doesn't always have to be the case. Joss Whedon himself is getting tired of the 'Joss Whedon kills characters' meme, so maybe it's time to retire it, except perhaps in a clearly nuanced and self-deprecatingly ironic way.

Similarly, while cancellation jokes can be funny, we're reaching a point in the Joss Whedon's career where Homer Simpson's maxim, “It's funny 'cause it's true” may no longer apply. By all means, keep making jokes that are funny, but as a fandom, let's not get caught up in bitterness and despair. It's time for Whedonites to learn to be able to simply celebrate good news wholeheartedly.

The show hasn't hit the UK yet, but it will no doubt prove to be one of the best pilots in the history of ever, along with Serenity, Echo, Wash, and possibly Melinda May. (Disclaimer: This is technically speculation based simply on the calibre of talent involved, and the concept of the show, and the trailers and posters and suchlike, and the fact that it looks awesomely awesome; an opinion which may be subject to, informed Whedonite assessment.)

Of course, Joss Whedon's take on ratings success, as he's said to EW, is that he's happy for the show and everyone involved, but it's not ultimately about the numbers. As any Whedonite knows, any Joss Whedon project is all about the characters, and making people care about them.

Joss Whedon has said that he'd rather have a show that 100 people need to watch than one that 1000 people want to watch. In other words, 'love' is much better than 'like'. So the question is, the viewers may enjoy the show, but do they marvel at it?

(Perhaps there's another way of measuring a show's success, taking into account its creative merits and connection with the audience. 'I'm reading ten Squees on the Whedon scale!', for instance.)

At any rate, as Joss has alluded to when talking to EW, good ratings mean a good show is more likely to continue. Yay! Yay for longevity! (Especially in terms of the terrifically nuanced and affecting character arcs allowed for; one of Joss Whedon's specialities.)

To paraphrase Anton Ego from Pixar's Ratatouille, 'A toast to its non-cancellation'...

(Toast, with shawarma?)


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