Wednesday, December 18, 2019

TV: The end of MARVEL on TV

Friday, HULU dumped season three of RUNAWAYS -- all ten episodes. The third season is the final season and only one series is left from MARVEL TV: MARVEL AGENTS OF SHIELD.


That show has aired on ABC and the seventh season debuts next year, the seventh and final season.  MARVEL TV has often been a mess and it has often been glorious.  All of that could be found in AGENTS OF SHIELD.

The show revolved around Clark Gregg and that was its biggest mistake.  Playing a woman's stunted, ex-husband on a sitcom?  Gregg can handle that.  The lead in an action series?  No.  His character Phil Coulson did appear in various IRON MAN and Avengers related films, yes.  But he was usually comic relief.  Making him the lead in the ABC series was like casting Kevin James in the role.

It never worked.

When something did work, it got cast off the show.  Brett Dalton was the earliest example.  Popular as Ward (and later as Hive), they wrote him off the show when they should have pulled mincing Clark Gregg.  Dalton was perfect for an action show while Gregg always seemed to be on the verge of hurling confetti in the air

Nick Blood, Adrianne Palicki and Luke Mitchell were all perfect for leads on an action show.  Naturally, they were all let go after season three.   Mitchell had already played the lead in an action show (THE TOMORROW PEOPLE) and would go on to act in another (BLINDSPOT).  Blood and Palicki were supposed to be spun-off into their own ABC show.  ABC took a pass on that but somehow there was no effort to restore Blood and Palicki to AGENTS OF SHIELD (though Blood would be brought back for a guest spot).  Dichen Lachman would join the show.  The actress known for her work on THE DOLLHOUSE, BEING HUMAN, LAST RESORT, THE 100, THE LAST SHIP, SUPERGIRL, ALTERED CARBON and ANIMAL KINGDOM would only last nine episodes on MARVEL AGENTS OF SHIELD.

 Still Clark Gregg remained mincing around in a lead role episode after episode.  It was as though the 24 reboot had decided to replace Kiefer Sutherland with Tony Randall.  Fussbudget Felix is all Gregg has offered and will ever offer.

Yet while one strong performer after another was let go from the show and others who remained were underutilized, Clark Gregg remained the lead.  Stop wondering why the show never took off in the ratings and why it lost viewers with each passing season.  How bad has it gotten?

Season six that aired this year resulted in MARVEL AGENTS OF SHIELD being the 158th most watched show on broadcast TV -- on prime time broadcast TV.   Only three shows had fewer viewers: PARADISE HOTEL, RANSOM and THE ALEC BALDWIN SHOW.  Grasp what a failure the show has been.  Grasp also that the only thing more ridiculous than Clark Gregg playing the team lead on an action show would be his also playing, as he did in season six, a character named "Sarge."  Only in Key West, only in Key West.

Time and again, the talents of Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, Natalia Cordova-Buckley and Jeff Ward were wasted so that Clark Gregg could again try to prove that he could play a man of action. He couldn't.  He didn't.  He should have been fired in season one instead of kept around destroy the show season after season.

After that, NETFLIX could only be an improvement -- and it was.  Charlie Cox was the right actor to lead the show DAREDEVIL and that series was followed by JESSICA JONES, LUKE CAGE, IRON FIST and the teaming of all four in THE DEFENDERS.  DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES ran for three seasons each, LUKE CAGE and IRON FIST for two and THE DEFENDERS for one.  That's eleven seasons in all.  An argument can be made that all but IRON FIST had their strongest work in season one (IRON FIST got stronger in season two).  But even in later seasons, an episode of JESSICA JONES or DAREDEVIL provided more kick and excitement than any full season of MARVEL AGENTS OF SHIELD ever managed.

The shows got the axe and it was said -- a lie -- that NETFLIX had to cancel them because ABC-DISNEY-FOX-MARVEL-DC had created DC+ and they did not want their shows airing on NETFLIX anymore.  We called that a lie in real time and it was a lie.  NETFLIX had the rights to the show.  Even now, DISNEY+ can't do the shows -- not as they were done on NETFLIX.  Though they own the rights to the characters, they don't have the rights to those portrayals that were created for NETFLIX.

NETFLIX had a pissy fit over ABC's plans to create DISNEY+ and axed the shows.  They insisted that this was the new model, that three seasons were the standard and blah blah blah.  No, that's not going to be the new standard.  Especially not when a 'season' lasts ten episodes.  Ten years from now, are people really going to be paying money to stream these short-run shows?

NETFLIX made a huge mistake in cancelling those shows.  As long as they were in production, NETFLIX had the characters tied up and unavailable for DISNEY+.  The shows provided the streaming service with serious cred.  Now they offer laughable shows that make THE TICK appear riveting -- and these superhero shows (like THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY) aren't supposed to be funny.

CLOAK AND DAGGER, LEGION and THE GIFTED were three other MARVEL TV productions.  THE GIFTED aired on FOX and struggled from the beginning but lost half its audience in season two.  The struggle was only surprising if you thought the comic world needed a show anchored by parents, not super heroes. It was also a show that spent way too much time focused on the fey teen boy and repeatedly undercut the strength of the teenage female.  FX's LEGION was far more successful.  It was possibly even stronger than the NETFLIX shows.  It certainly had the best visuals.  Three seasons, however, found the ratings sinking with each season.  CLOAK AND DAGGER aired on ABC's FREEFORM and, in terms of ratings, suffered the least erosion in viewers of the three.

The two lead characters, Tyrone (Aubrey Joseph) and Tandy (Olivia Holt), show up on the third and final season of RUNAWAYS and that's good because the show comes dangerously close to being THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS on an action tear in its third season.

The powerless Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) is back as is the active (but also powerless) Chase (Gregg Sulkin).  The other members of the superhero team are Nico (Lyrica Okano), Karolina (Virginia Gardner), Gert (Ariela Barer) and Molly (Allegra Acosta).  All four women have super powers but, again, the men have none.  And season's three is also when Alex begins living up to his comic book outcome (he's a villain).  Tyrone is sorely needed.  (Especially since Alex has been the show's only African-American male lead.)  Olivia and Tyrone are sorely needed for characterizations as well.  Outside of Nico, does anyone mature in the three seasons of this show?  Molly's still as embarrassing as she was in season one.

Embarrassing also describes season three.  With a strong start and a new villain (Elizabeth Hurley as Morgan le Fay), the show seems on track.  But just when everything comes together, the ride comes to a screeching halt and, while the viewer suffers from whiplash, suddenly we're time traveling.  And then?  And then we're time traveling to the past.

Supposedly, we get a happy ending.  If you'll leave out the fact that Alex is now going down the path of evil -- as Tyrone and Tandy observed, supposedly the show gave everyone a happy ending.

But it really didn't and you have to be stupid to think that it did.  The show runners are stupid, they're talking about the happy ending to the press.  They also knew there was a good chance this would be the show's last season but failed to tie up loose ends.

Right before the show gives viewers whiplash, Gert dies.  Evil Alex goes back in time to kill everyone.  Future Chase takes everyone else -- present RUNAWAYS -- back in time to that moment.  Future Chase knocks out past Chase to take his place.  He manages to do what Gert did that got her killed.  He also gets killed and dies in Gert's arms.  Then past Chase walks down the stairs completely unaware of what happened.

So past Gert and past Chase are together again.  But if future Chase died then, by the laws of entertainment time travel, that means he dies at some point in the future. Or the past.  Since he went back to the past and died.  He dies somewhere and there's about a three year period that all this takes place in so, no, there's no real happy ending for Gert and Chase.

December 10th, DEADLINE reported that MARVEL TV was being shut down.  Maybe if the NETFLIX shows were still in production, it would seem like more of a loss.  Instead, even with -- or maybe especially with -- the final season of RUNAWAYS, it seems as though the closing was always preordained.

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