Despite pacing problems in the first half of the season and on-again-off-again scheduling that has frustrated some fans, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC has been picking up steam in recent weeks. Its most recent episode, set during the events of Marvel Studios' Captain America: The Winter Soldier, played well off of the events of the film and set up what will likely be the main conflicts in the remaining five episodes.
A few solid episodes and a movie tie-in don't necessarily make a hit show, however, and there is still some speculation as to whether the show will return for a second season. Does it make sense for ABC to bring the series back in the fall, or should it just be written off as a single-season extension of the Marvel cinematic universe?
By the numbers
Even though there has been a lot of praise for this past week's episode, "Turn, Turn, Turn," the show's ratings have never been worse. With only 5.37 million viewers (down from the 12.12 million that tuned in for the pilot and even the 5.71 million that had tuned in the week before), this represents an all-time low for the show despite the episode being a direct tie-in to the hottest movie at the box office. This is a continuation of a slow bleed of viewers that the show has experienced all season, and shows that even an improvement in pacing and a more focused storyline haven't been enough to turn things around.
It doesn't help that the show is scheduled opposite "NCIS" on CBS (NYSE:CBS). While "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." was drawing in its lowest viewership numbers to date, "NCIS" enjoyed over three times as large of a live-viewing audience with 17.39 million viewers. "NCIS" serves as a more natural lead-in to the shows that follows it as well; "NCIS: Los Angeles" enjoyed 14.56 million viewers and "Person of Interest" enjoyed 7.89 million, while "Agents" was followed by sitcoms "The Goldbergs" (4.45 million) and "Trophy Wife" (2.82 million), as well as a re-airing of the fantasy drama series "Resurrection," which only saw 2.17 million viewers. While the Tuesday night lineup on CBS sets viewers up for genre viewing, ABC's lineup is scattered.
Is there hope for 'Agents'?
The real effect of "Turn, Turn, Turn" won't really be seen until next week. If word of mouth brings about a renewed interest in the show, a ratings bump could occur as former viewers tune in to see what they've been missing. It wouldn't be the first time that this happened; after the secret of Agent Coulson's resurrection was revealed in "T.A.H.I.T.I.," the show saw viewership rise from that episode's 5.46 million viewers to the next week's 5.99 million.
Guest stars from the Marvel films can also be a major draw, which is likely why the show has a few more planned before the season is up. Cobie Smulders (who plays Agent Maria Hill in the Marvel films) is set to return in episode 20, while Samuel L. Jackson (who plays Commander Nick Fury) recently confirmed that he was involved in the season finale. These cameos and word-of-mouth advertising resulting from recent plot twists might help boost viewership as the season winds to a close.
Will there be a season 2?
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, executive producers Jeph Loeb and Jeff Bell made it clear that they're hopeful for a second season. Loeb stated that "the fun of being able to tell a story is that for this season, it's 22, and let's hope that we get to tell 100 more," while Bell said, "We can't wait for next season. Here's the thing: Hydra is now loose. A lot of things that we couldn't talk about in the first 2/3 of the season are now our in our world." The interview shows just how much of the first season was building up to the upcoming finale, and makes it clear that there is a plan in place for a second season. Will it ever see the light of day, though?
Most likely, yes. While its viewership has been slipping all season, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is still the strongest show that ABC has on Tuesday nights. Its 5.37 million viewers also isn't that far down from the network's overall average for the week of 6.39 million. It also performed relatively close to other hit shows such as "Modern Family" (which only had 4.79 million viewers) and "Once Upon a Time" (which had 6.68 million viewers last Sunday).
When you add in the cross-promotion possibilities with Marvel films and the fact that the next "Avengers" film is slated to come out when season 2 would be working up to a finale, it's highly unlikely that ABC will cancel "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." this year.