When I hear a new superhero TV series is announced, I think, “Oh cool! I really hope this focuses on the hero’s tender feelings, explores his romantic relationships deeper than the comics, and spends hours angsting over whether he can be with his girlfriend.”
My reaction is more like:
Arrow. Flash. Agent Carter. Agents of Shield. And now Daredevil.
It’s like producers don’t realize people watch superhero shows for superheroes.
The above shows have varying degrees of weaknesses, all due to one thing: They don’t know what their audiences want.
Arrow, Flash, and Agents of SHIELD
I don’t watch Flash, but I know people who’ve stopped watching it because it’s so full of drama. I do watch (and like) Arrow, but I roll my eyes through a lot of it, and my brother quit watching after the first season. Why? I watch Arrow because I love archery, I love superheroes, and I love that this vigilante has such a huge support system. I would like the show better if the main cast didn’t spend so much time dating, angsting about dating, and hating themselves.
I have the same problems with Agents of SHIELD. I love the characters, but the drama is unnecessary and irritating. Lincoln was a completely worthless character, the whole romance between Coulson and Rosalind Price was confusing, and all the angst between Simmons and Fitz was boring.
It’s not that I don’t like drama, or even romance (Titanic, Downton Abbey, any and all Jane Austen, etc.). It’s just when I want drama, I go to Austen. When I want superheroes, I go to Arrow and Agents.
This one’s different, because, in my opinion, what the producers and writers did was fine (for the most part). I liked that show. My brother and dad, though, didn’t, and neither did enough people to keep it from being canceled.
I enjoyed Agent Carter. I loved the emphasis on 1940s style (Peggy’s outfits were the BEST), the hints at the Black Widow program were awesome, and I appreciated the sexism themes. These overshadowed the dragging romance (like the Jason Wilkes angsting).
My brother and dad, however, felt differently. They, and the majority of viewers, I’m assuming, didn’t care enough about Peggy’s clothes to forgive the lags. A big problem was that Agent Carter was sold to the wrong audience.
As of season 2, episode 7, this show is draaaaggggiiiing. Unlike the previous categories, I like all the drama plots in it. Karen and Matt as a couple is fine, Elektra and Matt as a past couple works, narrative-wise, and Frank Castle’s pain over his family is great.
What’s not great is the amount of time spent on this drama. We don’t need a six minute monologue about Frank’s family. Cut it to a three, maybe four, minute monologue and I’m listening. Karen and Matt can kiss. But to sit on some steps and kiss repeatedly, whisper cliche lines to each other, then kiss some more, is boring. Show Matt dating, in the past and present, but don’t take up a full episode with it.
Audiences expect genres to spend a certain amount of time on scenes. When the balance is messed with, they’ll get annoyed, like with Daredevil.
Because no lasting damage has been done (no pointless subplots were added, as of yet), I fully expect Daredevil to get better. But these past four episodes have wrecked its perfect track record of complete awesomeness.
Know Your Audience
Arrow, Flash, and Agents of Shield didn’t know that their audiences wanted a superhero show, not a superhero/drama show.
Agent Carter didn’t know its audience consisted of superhero nerds who don’t care about 1940s styles.
Daredevil didn’t know its audience expect a certain genre, with that genre’s pacing.
The audience reactions are based on my personal observations and opinions, so they might not hold true across the board. Still, these examples should indicate the importance of knowing your audience. Don’t advertise a book as sci-fi when it’s going to switch to romance halfway through. Don’t claim your book is a dystopian thriller when it’s a dystopian drama with some action scenes. Don’t go wildly outside your genre’s pacing.
I love most of these shows, but I still see their flaws. I hope, in the future, the heroes spend less time flirting and more time fighting.