Roll over Captain America and tell Incredible Hulk the news: "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is in ratings trouble.
Joss Whedon's comic-book caper about investigators in the superhero world premiered earlier this fall hoping to leap tall buildings, but it's been on a ratings descent ever since, according to Nielsen.
Tuesday's episode sank to its lowest rating yet, with just 7.4 million tuning in. More important, "S.H.I.E.L.D." was beaten for the second straight week in the crucial adults ages 18 to 49 demographic by .... wait for it .... "NCIS."
If you're ABC, this is not a desirable result. "NCIS" is the No. 1 entertainment series on TV, but its audience is older than many network executives would like. A cool show with a lot of fanboy buzz like "S.H.I.E.L.D." should be pounding "NCIS." The fact that it's not spells trouble for ABC. Wait any longer, and the only audience left will be Whedon die-hards.
So what can be done? Fans seem to think the show is just too ho-hum. With plots that rest on investigators -- rather than the superhuman caped crusaders themselves -- "S.H.I.E.L.D." has become just another procedural. And not a particularly distinguished one at that.
Over at Atlantic Wire, Esther Zuckerman suggests that what the show really needs is one overpowering villain who can drive plots forward. That may be true, but it's not the only problem. Some fans have even tweeted that the sets look cheap -- no doubt a hazard for a weekly TV show that's inevitably compared to "Iron Man" and other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What do you think of "S.H.I.E.L.D."? What can be done to fix the ratings erosion?