Something interesting is going on over at "Agents of Shield."

I continue to be impressed with the massive turn around in quality on display lately in regards to Marvel's "Agents of Shield." What began as a plotless, unbalanced weekly commercial for Thor 2 and meandered around aimlessly for half a season has, suddenly become the show I most look forward to watching every week. Not because it's the best show on TV; it is very far from it, but because of the sudden feeling that, indeed, what is happening on the small screen is relevant to what happens, a few times a year, on the large one.

For those who care, THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD, both for Agents and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If you haven't seen all of the former thus far or the latter, then DO NOT READ FURTHER...

Still here? Okay.

CA:WS was good. It wasn't great, ending up a bit more nonsensical than anyone is willing to let on, but it was entertaining, and the actors were all in a groove, the writing was snappy, and the action was visceral and as real as you can get for a movie about an Encino Man style supersoldier from World War II. The big thing, the bold thing, was the central reveal: HYDRA, the villainous Nazi organization from the first Captain America, has been hiding inside SHIELD since the very beginning. It's an interesting step, as far as the franchise is concerned, changing the landscape in a big way. But the interesting parts were going on over at ABC, four days after Winter Soldier's release, when the film's ending was spoiled at the conclusion of that weeks episode of AOS. It's as if the movie was an episode of the show, essential viewing, dramatically changing the course of the series.

This is unprecedented. And, the effect is that now, every episode of AOS feels like a continuation of the movie. It feels like I don't have to wait for the sequel. I get to watch it every week. The immediate fallout of the film is being directly handled on television, literally the week it premiered. I think that's pretty cool.

It helps that it's also given the show all the form, character depth, and weight it was lacking before. The HYDRA reveal finally gives the show the big-bad antagonist it so desperately needed, albeit one that's a bit nebulous at the moment, made their least interesting character, Agent Ward, suddenly the most deserving of my attention. I even don't hate Skye anymore. As much. But, it also means something about the show's production.

This is why the show was terrible. They had to wait for the movie for the show, proper, to begin, and that was a dozen episodes in. They were spinning their wheels. Which makes the early parts of the season seem like even more of a cash grab, inflating their movies with a cheap, unnecessary show. Now it feels necessary, but I'm left wondering why they wasted everyone's time with everything that preceded this turn. Surely they could have made a better show, one not in danger of being cancelled (Although not really. Disney pays the bills over at ABC.), if they didn't have to write around a distinct product written and created by entirely different people.

This is a really cool experiment in multi-platform storytelling. If it goes on another year, it will be fascinating to see if they continue to blur the line between essential and non-essential viewing, further mimicking the world of Comics from which all these IP's spring. Remember, there are four limited run series coming to Netflix starting next year, featuring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, before having them all join up a-la the Avengers for a limited run team up called The Defenders. How long will it be before only us nerds can keep track? Are we already there?

Can't wait for Guardians of the Galaxy. Talking space raccoons and sentient alien trees. That's entertainment.

Fake Newscast Goodness

So, in the early nineties, the BBC performed a special "live" show on Halloween. A bunch of real reporters, people viewers would recognize like Michael Parkinson, participated in a news special investigation of a haunted house. The home was shared by a mother and her two little girls, and had been the location of a series of frightening occurrences, some of which were caught on film. So they set up cameras, perform seances, all while the camera is rolling. All good holiday fun, until the shiz hits the fan and people start getting hurt, and the studio gets call after call of strange things happening in their own homes, the ghostly activity being spread by the broadcast.

It's all great stuff. Slow, but convincing in the right context. And it would seem that many viewers agreed, because within the day the BBC had themselves a War of the World's level ordeal on their hands. Real, earnest viewers were convinced that the ghosts were real, a newsperson they knew and were familiar with had been killed, and another had been possessed by a demonic force, all while said force terrorized all of Britain.

Seriously. How awesome is that.

I love events like this, because they never do them anymore. You'd think the fake-news format would be exactly what networks are looking for, with how popular  found footage and mockumentary styles are getting, their costs so low and their payoffs so real. But the "event show" isn't a common thing anymore. And it's a shame.

You can find Ghost Watch online for free. It's on Vimeo, divided up into sections, the first of which can be viewed here, if you have some free time and are into this silly stuff like I am.

Even better is the U.S. production Special Bulletin, a much more realistic and, I think, chilling demonstration of the same gag, this one dealing with a nuclear threat, presented as a "breaking news" interruption to regular programming. It's free on youtube here.

And last but not least, the creepy-awesome asteroid disaster piece "Without Warning" is a lot of fun, and even features Jane Kaczmarek, the mom from Malcom in the Middle. Watch it! It's free!