The shows so far
Since I started up two new series this year I figured I would give my first impressions based upon the reaching of what is for me a tried and true benchmark. When I start a new series, I give it five episodes before I decide whether to continue or not. The reasons for this have a lot to do with how a series are made. Generally, a series begins life as a pilot episode that is shot as a sort of proof of concept for whatever network or channel is interested in it. Recently, as of about 2007, there have been some series picked up without doing a pilot episode but these series are still the exception rather than the rule, though. The pilot gives the group buying the show a chance to decide whether to pick up the series or not and, if so, to make any changes they may want. Depending upon how extensive any of these changes are, the actual pilot may never be aired. The classic example here is Star Trek’s pilot The Cage but I know the pilot for The Dead Zone tv series was also never aired. Given this process a pilot tends to be very much a work in progress. After this comes the first episode of the first season. Remember those changes I mentioned that the buyer might want made? Well, the first episode of the series is where they will get ironed out and, depending upon how extreme some of the changes made are, this can result in the first season’s first episode effectively become a second pilot. So even with the second episode, a series is still largely in a state of flux. This is what led to my system that I call “Nick’s rule of new series” which is that I give any new series I am interested in five full episodes before I pass final judgment on continued viewing. British readers will probably be laughing at this rule given that some of their series only last six episodes but, that basically doesn’t happen here in the US, at least not intentionally.
Why five episodes? I don’t have an answer other than life experience. If I wanted to sound cooler I could just call it an engineering solution but, basically, in my experience a new show usually hits its mark around the fifth episode. Of course, this is no guarantee that the show won’t go off the rails later in the season. I accidentally got sucked into The Event a few years ago. Yes, I was aware that it was a network show but, what can I say, the advertising was effective. In any case, I did stick with this show as the fifth episode sort of locked it in as a keeper for me. Unfortunately, GIANT SPOILER ALERT HERE, when it was revealed the detainees at Inostranka turned out to be aliens instead of from the future the show lost it for me in that they were pretty much human genetically. Yes, I know I like classic Trek but that was then and this is now. I have also since learned that there was some further stuff mentioned in the episodes I chose not to watch that may have explained this but, I was irritated enough at the time to decide I was done. And I’m sure my disdain for network television had absolutely nothing to do with that decision. So, anyway, five episodes it is and, to be honest, I’m a light enough touch when it comes to genre television that most series get considerably more than this like The Event did.
Now that I have explained how I roll, on to the point of this article. Agents of SHIELD, actually I guess the full name is technically Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, was the one series I had actually planned to try out. While I like it I do have a friend who gave up on it one episode ago and I can’t completely fault him for the decision as the series is something that I can definitely see not working for everyone. This is especially the case if you are looking for a tv version of the current spate of Marvel movies as Agents is definitely a different animal. I would also agree with Girl on Game that the group chemistry isn’t quite there yet. As I’ve stated before I’m a fan of SHIELD from back when it stood for Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division and so far they have nailed that vibe pretty solidly for me. I loved the pilot and was most impressed with the episode from last week Eye Spy which had a brilliant ending that caught me off guard. I’m guessing we will learn that the high tech cybernetic eye that Amadour was saddled with was built by an organization known as Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM). Think of them as Hydra’s R&D division although they later became less picky about which particular terrorist organizations they would sell their high-tech equipment to. After the pilot I thought that Coulson might turn out to be an LMD (Life Model Decoy, Nick Fury had a zillion of them in the comic books) but, I’m starting to drift away from that theory now. In any case, I am enjoying Agents of SHIELD and was even happier to learn will get a full season run.
The other series I picked up, more by accident than design, was Sleepy Hollow. Due to the vagaries of American Football scheduling I have only seen the first four episodes of this series but, can safely say that I will be continuing with it, regardless. The premise for the show is that Ichabod Crane was a soldier during the American war of independence who was also a spy for General Washington who focused on dealing with magical threats to the war effort. It turns out that he creates the headless horseman by decapitating a Hessian who clearly has some sort of magic surrounding him. He is injured in the process and saved by his wife who uses her magical talents to put him into some sort of suspended animation from which he awakens in the present. Crane ends up getting paired with a young police lieutenant named Abby Mills. They make an odd but effective pair which is ultimately what keeps Crane out of a mental institution and Abby’s captain off her back about the supernatural aspect of the cases she is working on. The main story line seems to be tied into the apocalypse so, it is covering largely the same ground as seasons five and six of Supernatural but, it does it in a different enough fashio to be its own story. There are two things that really carry the show for me. The first is Crane himself as he is an interesting character that the actor is clearly having fun throwing himself into. The other is the setting of Sleepy Hollow itself which I probably get more out of than most people given that I spent the first 22 years of my life living in upstate New York. It’s a cool show that I hope doesn’t go off the rails.