‘Game-Changer’ Episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fizzles

Captain America: The Winter Soldier crossover hits a series low

Although Tuesday night’s installment of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was heavily promoted as a tie-in to the newly released theatrical hit Captain America: The Winter Soldier, relatively few viewers were on hand to see the ensuing plot twist play out.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, ABC’s lone surviving new fall drama delivered a series-low 5.37 million viewers and a 1.9 rating among adults 18-49. That represents a 5 percent decline from last week’s 2.0 and a 60 percent drop from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s red-hot debut (4.7).

As noted previously, one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s biggest stumbling blocks is the scarcity of fresh episodes that ABC has scheduled of late. In the last 12 weeks, only five new episodes have aired, as ABC has run four repeats and slated three preemptions. Then again, given how the series’ creators basically had to time the progression of the season to align with the release of the Captain America film, the hinky scheduling is understandable.

Titled “Turn, Turn, Turn,” the 17th episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. effectively picked up where the new Captain America movie left off. (Warning for those who haven’t seen either or both: spoilers galore after this point.) Because it is revealed in the film that HYDRA has flooded S.H.I.E.L.D. with sleeper agents, the showrunners effectively have shaken up the series’ Etch A Sketch. In Agent Coulson’s words, the new mandate of S.H.I.E.L.D. is to simply “survive.” (Note that the HYDRA logo already has replaced that of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the closing credits. S.H.I.E.L.D., for all intents and purposes, no longer exists.) 

Season to date, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is averaging 7.21 million viewers and a 2.5 in the dollar demo, making it the No. 5 new series of 2014-15. It trails only NBC’s The Blacklist (2.9), ABC’s Resurrection (2.8), CBS’ The Millers (2.7) and Fox’s Sleepy Hollow (2.6).

ABC is almost certain to renew the show. It was designed as a promotional vehicle for the Marvel Comics Universe, and Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t due to open in theaters until May 2015. If S.H.I.E.L.D. is to continue to serve as a companion piece to the MCU movies, it will have to survive at least through next spring.

Besides, ABC has to renew something, having already deep-sixed a half-dozen new dramas (Lucky 7, The Assets, Killer Women, Betrayal, Mind Games and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland). That said, despite losing ground in the last few weeks, Resurrection looks like a shoe-in for a renewal.

ABC’s final new series launch of 2013-14, Black Box, bows Thursday, April 24, in the time slot regularly reserved for Scandal. (The Season 3 finale of Shonda Rhimes’ Beltway drama airs April 17.)

While ABC couldn’t capitalize on Captain America’s $108.2 million in box office receipts, things were tough all over on broadcast Tuesday night. NBC’s The Voice dipped to a cycle-low 2.9 in the dollar demo, dragging About a Boy (off 15 percent to a series-low 1.7) and Growing Up Fisher (off one-tenth of a ratings point to a 1.5) down with it. At 10 p.m., Chicago Fire tied a series low with a 1.8 rating. 

Fox’s further attempts to resuscitate the moribund Mindy Project with back-to-back episodes was of little use, as the 9 p.m. installment drew a 1.0 in the demo, while the follow-up did a 1.1. Lead-in Glee was up a tick to a 1.0.

Only CBS showed signs of life, as NCIS grew 6 percent to an evening high 3.7 in the adults 25-54 demo, although NCIS: Los Angeles slipped a tenth to a 3.3 in the net’s target demo. Person of Interest was a repeat.