Before the networks unveiled their fall line-up, we kept hearing that one of the best new shows of the season was ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
One, it was co-created and co-produced by Joss Whedon, the creator behind fan favorites like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly,” “Dollhouse,” and 2012’s mega-hit “The Avengers.” Two, this was an off-shoot of “The Avengers” starring Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, who was supposedly murdered by Thor’s evil brother Loki. And three, it couldn’t miss.
So it debuted to big ratings with a 4.7 in the 18-49 demographic. But then it fell to 3.1 and this week, to a 2.8. Why? Uh, maybe because none of Whedon’s television series has ever been a real ratings hit and this really isn’t that good?
I can’t be the only one disappointed by the show. The plots are boring, two of the tech people — Fitz and Simmons — are Brits, and I literally can’t understand a word coming out of the latter’s mouth. That’s quite a fatal flaw if anything she says can’t contribute to a viewer’s understanding of what’s going on.
In the comic book of the ’60s, the top-secret organization was run by Nick Fury and other middle-aged men he fought alongside in World War II like “Dum Dun” Dugan and Gabe Jones. Here, besides Coulson, the only non-20-something agent is Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen). It makes no sense that such a professional organization would be populated by so many young people… except that ABC, like all the networks, wants viewers between the age of 18-49 to watch their series.
May is supposed to be a legendary pilot and combat vet, yet when she gets into fights, her scenes are edited so quickly, we know it’s a stunt double doing all the work, and we don’t get the sense of how tough she really is.
Skye, a hacker who is brought on board to become a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., is the only reason to watch this show. Let’s face it. The woman who plays her, Chloe Bennet, is hot. I can’t take my eyes off of her.
Tuesday night, as I was gazing into her eyes (uh, for research purposes! Ahem!) I tried to figure out her ethnicity. She has a dark, sorta Italian look, which could also pass for Latino. Well, imagine my shock that night when someone on Facebook posted a Chicago Sun Times article that revealed the real name of 21-year-old Bennet (a Chicago native) is Chloe Wang — her Dad’s Chinese American!
Wang even spent her two of her teenage years in China becoming a successful singer. To see one of her videos of her performing in Mandarin, click here: http://voices.suntimes.com/arts-entertainment/the-daily-sizzle/chicago-native-goes-from-chinese-pop-star-to-co-star-on-marvels-agents-of-s-h-i-e-l-d-video/
It makes sense because when I received ABC’s annual report on what Asian actors have been cast in their new season, a “Chloe Wang” was listed for “S.H.I.E.L.D.” So I searched high and low for her but couldn’t find her. So now I know she changed her name. Why?
We have a growing dilemma with Hapa actors. If they can pass for white, that’s often what their characters are. Yet the networks count them as Asian. As I’ve told them before, while that benefits their company to show how “diverse” they are, it doesn’t benefit the community if no one knows they’re part Asian.
One of the regulars of another new ABC show, “Back in the Game,” is Griffin Gluck. You wouldn’t know he’s part Asian from looking at him. In fact, in the show, he plays the son of blonde actress Maggie Lawson, and his grandfather is played by James Caan. We haven’t seen Gluck’s estranged father, but unless he shows up someday and is Asian, the audience will never know Gluck’s part Asian.
As I explained to NBC when the Olympics were going on in 2010, when people watch Apolo Anton Ohno getting ready to take on his competition and see his Japanese father in the stands, they’re reminded he’s half Japanese. People love Ohno and would love to be his friend. Making anti-Japanese or anti-Asian jokes wouldn’t bring them closer to that possibility, so they’d be mindful of what they felt and said about Japanese and Asian people.
The same would be true of fans of Chloe Bennet, er, Wang.
Channel Surfing Department: So I checked out NBC’s remake of “Ironside” starring Blair Underwood in the classic Raymond Burr role. I won’t be checking it out in the future. Underwood plays an “I’m bad-ass!” cop who snipes at colleagues for merely offering theories about why someone was killed “Hey! Who’s running this case?!”
Kenneth Choi (“Red Dawn,” “Captain America”), is miscast in this, playing Ironside’s by-the-book boss Captain Ed Rollins. I think Choi would be better used as a wise-ass rebel himself (though not here).
The critics don’t like it, and it debuted last week to a not-very-good 1.4 rating in the 18-49 demo. I don’t expect it’ll last very long.
On the other hand, “Unforgettable,” the CBS show starring Poppy Montgomery as a detective who remembers every detail of every day of her life, was brought back as a summer series and did well enough to be renewed for next summer. The network went with a different supporting cast this time around and included James Hiroyuki Liao as a tech guy, so it’s nice to know he’ll be back as well.
But so will ABC’s trashy “Mistresses” featuring “Lost’s” Yunjin Kim, which I couldn’t stomach watching for very long.
Still Not Too Late to See It Department: I continue to urge you to see Christine Yoo’s “Wedding Palace.” I’m not a broad humor/sitcom kinda guy, so I admit some of the over-the-top scenes of the Korean mothers fretting and screeching are not my cup of tea, but there’s enough in the romance between Brian Tee and his Korean love interest to recommend this. They’re adorable together.
Another one of the aspects lost about this film is its cool soundtrack. The scenes of nightlife in Korea are particularly well shot, and the romantic music playing in the background (especially “Starlight”) is hypnotic and haunting. It stayed with me after leaving the theater.
“Wedding Palace” is playing in Pasadena (last day is Thursday, today!), Irvine and Oahu and continues to expand across the country into Washington, D.C., Chicago, Queens, New York, and New Jersey.
The filmmaker tells me more than 50 percent of the audience has been white, black, and Latino, so tell your friends about this. They’ll probably enjoy it. Go here for showtimes in your area: www.weddingpalacemovie.com/
Yoo has stuck her neck out by taking five years to make a movie with an all-Korean American cast (no obligatory white guy stuck in for the white audience to “relate to”) and we need to support her and to prove there’s an Asian American market for films. Otherwise, Asian American-themed movies won’t be green-lit nor promoted by the studios.
’Til next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
Guy Aoki, co-founder of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.