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Fall TV First Impression: ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

The broadcast networks have almost 30 shows debuting this fall, including a futuristic tale from the Fringe team, new sitcoms from Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes, and a trip down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.

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THE SHOW | ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesdays at 8/7c; premieres Sept. 24)

THE COMPETITION | CBS’ NCIS, Fox’s Dads (new) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (new), The CW’s The Originals (new) and NBC’s The Biggest Loser

THE CAST | Clark Gregg (The Avengers), Ming-Na Wen (ER), Chloe Bennet (Nashville), Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln), Iain De Caestecker (BBC One’s Young James Herriot) and Elizabeth Henstridge (Channel 4′s Hollyoaks)

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THE SET-UP | Agent Coulson lives! In this smaller-screen follow-up to The Avengers/other Marvel movies, Gregg reprises his role as the commanding, quippy S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, who in the wake of “The Battle of New York” is fronting an initiative to monitor specially enabled beings while warding off a faction known as The Rising Tide. Dalton plays new recruit Grant Ward, Ming-Na is the mysterious Melinda May, Caestecker and Henstridge form the one-two, tech whiz-biochemist punch of “Fitz/Simmons,” and Bennet plays elite hacker Skye. Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) appears in the pilot, as The Avengers’ Maria Hill.
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THE FIRST IMPRESSION | If you are at the very least up to speed on Marvel’s most recent big-screen endeavors, S.H.I.E.L.D. is fun, fun, fun, nodding at (and even picking up on…) a storyline thread or two. The pilot’s production values are excellent, while the dialogue is as playful as the action is solid (though perhaps in a way that would better trigger LOLs from a Cineplex crowd). Gregg and Ming-Na expectedly stand out amid a comparatively green ensemble; among said newbies, Bennet seems destined to “pop” while Dalton’s role could afford to be a bit more colored. Smulders helps segue the Coulson character/plant the seed for a larger mystery, though one can’t help but sense CBS is monitoring her involvement with an egg timer.

This pilot is very good, though something — I can’t put my finger on what — kept it from being ZOMG! great. Since show boss/auteur Joss Whedon has made clear this will be neither a weekly superhero hunt nor “Easter egg farm,” there is the question of how compelling or entertaining any given episode will be. But at first blush it would seem that when S.H.I.E.L.D. is firing on all cylinders, it’ll be pretty damn super.

RELATED | More First Impressions: Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, CBS’ Mom, ABC’s Wonderland,  NBC’s The BlacklistThe CW’s ReignABC’s Trophy Wife, Fox’s Sleepy HollowCBS’ Hostages, NBC’s  IronsideABC’s Super Fun NightThe CW’s The Tomorrow PeopleFox’s Almost HumanCBS’ The Crazy Ones

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | S.H.I.E.L.D. will at least open big, even opposite the Season 11 premiere of TV’s most watched drama. But where it goes from there is the question. Will samplers arrive prepared to not quite get The Avengers: The Live-Action Series? Will NCIS in fact free up a few eyeballs when a longtime cast member exits? Can S.H.I.E.L.D. secure a foothold in the weeks before other competition premieres? ABC has much coin backing this venture, which leads off a night of all-new programming of varying quality — again, the pilot looks nifty, and Episode 2 is said to be even “bigger” — so the network will surely exhibit superhuman patience should the numbers ebb.

Watch a video preview for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., then vote in our poll below.

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