I know you are all DYING to know what The Beat thought of the first episodes of Agents of Shield and Fangasm! Because of non-appointment TV I couldn’t watch them until Wednesday night, but then I did and I watched the new episode of THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER too, so…BONUS!
AGENTS OF SHIELD: This was a perfectly fine pilot for an action based SF TV show. It was not as good as the pilot of Burn Notice, though. As you all know, this was a “getting the gang all together” episode that showed Agent Coulson returning from the dead to recruit some field agents past and present to go around searching for super powered folks to bring them in from the cold, so to speak.
The first target was an out of work factory worker played by J. August Richards who has super strength. He’s video’d in a heroic act by a cute hacker who lives in a van, Skye (Chloe Bennet), who is soon accosted by Coulson and Co. to find “Hooded Man” and figure out what he’s up to.
Along the way we are introduced to the rest of the team which includes a tall, handsome white guy who is the top spy in the crew and will obviously figure in futre fight and love scenes; a cheeky Brit girl who likes to collect DNA swabs; a cheeky Brit fella who likes to invent gadgets; and a seen-it-all veteran (Ming Na Wen) who got too old for this shit but Coulson calls her back into duty. By the end of the episode, maybe the Shield group will have acquired a cheeky hacker girl! What do you think?
Everyone was very attractive and pert but not all that interesting this time out. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be back next week and for many weeks after because, I am, after all, a professional comics writer and a Marvel fan. I did have one big reservation on the whole premise and it may get me kicked out of nerd club but…Clark Gregg is not really a great frontman for a TV show. He’s a fine character actor but he isn’t as interesting to watch as, say, Michael Emerson on Person of Interest, or Mark Harmon or LL Cool J or any of those NCIS dudes. Or even, dare I say it, Bruce Campbell. Hopefully he’ll grow in the role.
Agents of Shield has been thrown into a brutal time slot, but I imagine ABC will give it a lot of rope. I’m not that worried about the lack of costumed superheroes because it is really hard to do them well o a TV budget, whereas doing a group of dogged crime solvers in suits is what TV does best.
BONUS: This interview with the producers reveals as much as Marvel’s scary NDAs wil allow.
BONUS BONUS: Jim Steranko, creator of the most beautiful Nick Fury comics ever, reviewed the episode for The Hollywood Reporter and didn’t much like it for some of the reasons I was tepid above, including lack of a charismatic star. He also bafflingly called the addition of a black character from LA “P.C.”. Whoops, there goes @iamsteranko worship.
FANGASM: Brought to you by the makers of Jersey Shore, seven disparate nerdy individuals are thrown together into a nice house to…hang out and fumble with a gas grill. Yes it’s the geek reality show, at long long last. The cast includes three spunky nerd women, who are all cute and smart and nice, and four nerd guys who seem to fall more into stereotypes: there’s Paul who is a little chubby and lives at home; Sal, who was already on another Geek tv show (Geek Love) and is just kind of a dude from the NYC burbs who shows up at New York Comic Con to go to a GTA panel; Mike, who likes to cosplay but also likes to hang around with cute girls; and Andrew who looks like everyone’s stereotype of a nerd with an overbite, glasses and a lanky frame. Andrew has all the best lines and comes off as quite smart and by the end of the episode he seems very likable. Actually, by the end of the episode, I thought the entire cast was really nice and smart and exactly the kind of people I end up hanging out with 13 weekends of the year.
I wanted to hate Fangasm, because I find the very idea of “nerds/geeks” being some kind of “cultural group” like hoarders or housewives of Orange County stupid and phony. As on all reality TV shows, all of the situations on the program are contrived and phony, but the cast members are so genuine and real that I couldn’t hate the show. When Molly talked about cosplay helping her with her self-esteem issues, it was totally real; when Andrew talked about how important Star Trek was to him, I got that. The emotions were credible even if the entire concept isn’t.
Of course, as an “insider” to “Geek world” I couldn’t help but find some of this very very UNauthentic. The set-up is that the seven have come to LA to intern for Stan Lee’s Comikaze, the LA based convention held November 1-3. While they try to make a big deal out of Comickaze, I doubt that any comic con has an office with seven cubicles for interns…but heck, it’s great PR for the con.
Much of the “drama” of Fangasm seems to revolve around the cast meeting Nerdlebrities, most of them associated with Comikaze, like George Takei in the opening episode, and later Elvira and Stan Lee and so on. (Other drama centered around someone dropping a set of keys—intense it is not. ) In the opening episode, Paul gets to have dinner with George Takei, which anyone would be excited by as he’s such a cool dude, but when Takei comes back to the cast house, Andrew, a lifelong trekker who used to watch the show with his GREAT-grandma, collapses into tears when he meets Mr. Sulu. I guess maybe I’m jaded, but nerdlebrities aren’t really that hard to meet. Yet I guess if one came to your crib you might be overwhelmed.
Anyway, I will be back for the next five episodes of this, just to watch my peeps Molly and Kristin, but also just be be a watchful watchdog over the whole nerd thing. While I’m rooting for the cast members, I’m not sure this will have the legs of Jersey Shore. The bronzed, buffed, decked out Staten Islanders of that show were really bigger than life warriors, who would stop at nothing to realize their dreams, as tawdry as those dreams might be. They were loud and had no qualms at acting stupid to get attention. The cast of Fangasm may not have the relish for acting stupid that reality TV stardom requires.
THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER: ROUSY VS TATE: For the first time ever, female fighters and coaches are on The Ultimate Fighter! And they are sharing the house with male fighters! Everyone thought this would be one big hook-up, Jersey Shore style, but UFC head Dana White is too smart to take the focus off exciting fights for too long. However, what he didn’t foresee is that the two couches, women’s champ Rhonda Rousey and Miesha Tate, would genuinely dislike each other and Rousey and her team of scowling coaches with vague Eastern European accents, would decide to act out some Astoria-style fronting. “We won’t be disrespected,” Rousey repeatedly growls, looking simultaneously tough and (it must be said) adorable with her hair done in two ear-like buns on top of her head. Not that Rousey, a bronze medalist in Judo at the Beijing Olympics, isn’t a badass but…this level of posturing would seem lame from any coach. At least the brilliant Chael Sonnen made it funny last season. Rousey just comes off like an extra from Mean Girls and even Dana tells her to cool it. It’s not clear right away whether she listened, but when the guy who runs your sport says to cool it…you should cool it.
Anyway, what I’m here to tell you is that I love the women fighters on this show! They are all athletic and devoted to fighting, and can give and take a punch. They are not silly phony posers but legit fighters, and it’s very exciting to watch. It doesn’t hurt that they are, like the male fighters of the very first season of TUF, the elite who have been at it for years. (Women have been fighting in the UFC for less than a year.) Thus some of the eight fighters, like Shayna Baszler and Roxanne Modafferi, have been fighting for ten years and are pioneers that the other fighters look up to. So when they lose their shots at finally making some money at what they’ve been doing only for love, it’s kind of heartbreaking.
This episode showcases the fight between Modafferi—an English teacher who lives in Japan while competing for a decade in MMA—with Jessica Rakoczy, a former women’s boxing champ. It’s a classic wrestler vs striker matchup, but also a great contest of characters. Modafferi is a total oddball—her nerd references and admission that she was inspired to fight by Dragon Ball Z let you know that there may be a tankoubon or two back at her home—with glasses and an unconventional look. She does not look like a fighter out of the ring at all, and yet as one of the male fighters put it in an earlier episode, “Roxanne is a samurai.” At 30, this is her last chance to make it to the UFC. Rakoczy has a heartbreaking life story—a abusive step father who abused her mother and possibly killed her, and a young son at home to provide for. She’s the oldest fighter in the house at 36 and this is her last shot, too.
You really don’t want anyone to lose this fight, and at the end there are a lot of very genuine tears.
This season of the Ultimate Fighter is the lowest rated ever, not necessarily because of the women, but because it’s the first on Fox Sports 1, a brand new network most people don’t even know how to find on their cable box. It’s a real shame, because anyone who wants to see female action heroes should see these real life scrappers. I’ve been watching The Ultimate Fighter on and off since it debuted, and seeing women put into this primally male clubhouse environment and holding their own as personalities and athletes is really inspiring and fresh. It’s not clear how much resistance to women in the house there it, but the way the show is edited anyway, after one particular jerk had to leave due to injury, there’s a lot of camaraderie and mutual respect on the teams.Kinda like Shield and Fangasm.
While Rousey is the first big female star in the UFC, Tate comes off so much better here. She’s articulate, talks a great game and just seems way more balanced and level headed. Will that prevail in the ring? Hard to say.
If you haven’t watched TUF yet this year, it’s definitely worth finding Fox Sports 1 wherever it is on your cable box and checking it out.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.