By all standards, the show's debut was a success.
Finally, after months of anticipation, ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. aired tonight. Now, as the dust settles and Tumblr quickly gets flooded with Episode 1 gifs and stills, it is about time for a headcount. The episode attrackted nearly 12 million viewers, according to Reuters – easily making it the biggest debut of the past four years. This according to Nielsen data from ABC. In addition, Agents became the most viewed in the 18-to-49 age group, which is typically the most attractive market segment to advertisers.
Nearly 12 million tuned in to watch Clark Gregg reprise his role as Phil Coulson.
Despite spawning gifs in the thousands, S.H.I.E.L.D. still didn’t manage to top the Tuesday ratings winner. Once again, NCIS dominated the air with 19.5 million tuning in, according to Nielsen data from CBS.
Meanwhile, in terms of reviews, the pilot is also doing quite well. The Hollywood Reporter’s Jim Steranko (also one of the people behind the Nick Fury character) praises creator Joss Whedon’s ability to juggle multiple storylines successfully (which we’ve all seen in a lot of his previous work and, to some extent, in Avengers.) However, according to Steranko, what the episode is sorely lacking is at least a brief cameo by Samuel L. Jackson as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s menacing commander.
The critics are in favor too... with some minor exceptions.
This has also been a fan complaint, along with the fact that Cobie Smulders (as Agent Maria Hill) is only listed as a special guest star and is, as of yet, not likely to become a recurring character on the show. Still, despite these minor fan disappointments, things are looking up for S.H.I.E.L.D.. If the show manages to keep steady ratings, close to the phenomenal success of the first episode, it will become one of ABC’s lead productions and justify the company’s substantial investment. Those are all questions for the coming weeks, however. As of right now, this staff writer is off to finally watch said first episode herself.