TV: Agents bore, Sherlock score

Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson (above) is a highlight of Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The big question about Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. that is bigger than even the Giant Man comic book character is this:

Where are the superheroes? In the way you name-drop influential people in a job interview, there are references only to Thor, Captain America and Tony Stark (aka Iron Man).

This series is set after the big alien invasion in last year's The Avengers movie, in which Shield agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) appears to die after suffering what had to be a fatal zap.

Here, he is resurrected to front this new team - he was healed in Tahiti. "It's a magical place," he keeps repeating with trademark serenity as a running joke.

However, since Shield, as Iron Man once described, is a CIA-like agency that has secrets that have secrets, you can bet that there will be more to this matter in later episodes.

So what is wrong with this muchhyped show driven by The Avengers director Joss Whedon and his brother Jed? The plots are not imaginative and, except for Gregg's Agent Coulson and Ming-Na Wen's Nikita-like Melinda May, the good guys - a prettied-up hip squad of young faces - are so boring you would settle for anybody from the movies, even super-Jurassic Marvel creator Stan Lee himself, to pop up and take over.

The stock characters seem to have been taken right out of the scriptwriter's playbook: resident hunk/action man Agent Ward (Brett Dalton), two chatty Brit tech nerds Fitz and Simmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge), and right up there front and centre is genius computer hacker Skye (half-Chinese cutie Chloe Bennet).

Worst of all, the people with special powers here which Shield identifies and tracks are decidedly fifth-rate so far.

Five episodes in and the only supercharged villains I have seen look just like escapees from that defunct series, Heroes (2006-2010), with similar issues of misunderstood angst and oh-so-predictable problems of not knowing what to make of their strange abilities.

Bottom line - everything here has been done before.

Heck, the second episode, featuring something about retrieving a mysterious object in Peru, is so lame you would think it was a discarded episode of The Expendables (2010) because it does not contain any super-something.

My worst fears about this series seem to be confirmed - it is zeroing in on the least exciting component of The Avengers, namely these superpower-less human beings.

But it has the pedigree, it has the style and swagger and it has the very likeable Agent Coulson, the best closet comedian for any super occasion.

"We've been called in to investigate an O-84. We know what that means," Agent Ward reports grimly.

Coulson's reply: "Yes, we do. It means we don't know what that means."

Meanwhile, over at Elementary, only two people in perfect sync are needed to make this Sherlock Holmesin- modern-day-New York deal a really enjoyable series.

I have been waiting for this excellent, captivating show (it is now in its second season in the United States) to make its way here.

Now that it has arrived, it starts somewhere midpoint in its first season on mio TV's new RTL CBS Entertainment channel.

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr Joan Watson are such a brainy, comical and splendidly platonic double act that it makes you want to go to Boat Quay right now to find such an amazing interracial couple.

He is the eccentric Englishman unleashed.

Occasionally, he gives her strange tasks, pits her obtuse questions and throws balls at her just to keep her on her toes and remind her of his specialness.

"I'm smarter than everyone I meet, Watson. I know it's bad form to say that.

But in my case, it's a fact. Allowances have to be made," Holmes explains.

She is the smart, perceptive and empathic co-investigator, a partner who is not merely supporting but wholly supportive of his endeavours.

The show lets Miller run loose like an exhibitionist, but it wisely hands the under-playing, straight-talking Liu the leash to rein him in at just the right moment. She becomes his live-in friend and essential soulmate as the series develops.

The British series, Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman is terrific in its Brit-style meandering, cerebral way.

Elementary is different, but equally entertaining in its American manner of solving murder mysteries with pace, directness and very fun interaction among its cast (Aidan Quinn is great as a weary but effective police captain).

I love it that the writers have retained an inherent British essence - Miller is a real snooty-hoot musing gloriously about the basic nature of human beings - and conjured up inventive, differing plots worthy of a mischievous, curious mind. stlife@sph.com.sg

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