News Column

Philadelphia Daily News Ellen Gray column

September 24, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 24----MARVEL'S AGENTS OF SHIELD. 8 tonight, 6ABC.

--THE GOLDBERGS. 9 tonight, 6ABC.

--TROPHY WIFE. 9:30 tonight, 6ABC.

--LUCKY 7. 10 tonight, 6ABC.

THERE'S probably more chance that gods and superheroes walk among us than that a network will successfully launch an entire night of new shows at once.

That's not stopping ABC, which tonight kicks off an all-new Tuesday lineup with "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" -- whose premise is that gods and superheroes do occasionally walk among us -- and ends with "Lucky 7," in which mortals win the lottery.

In the middle: "The Goldbergs," a sitcom from Jenkintown native Adam F. Goldberg, about his '80s childhood; and "Trophy Wife," about a woman (Malin Akerman) whose new husband (Bradley Whitford) has two ex-wives.

In the DVR age, time slots may matter less, but it still takes nerve to pit your highest-profile new show against CBS' "NCIS" and NBC's "The Voice" and expect viewers not only to show up but to stick around two more hours.

I'm not sure that "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" is marvelous enough for that, but the pilot does a deft job of managing expectations for a world we're used to seeing splashed on a larger screen.

Written by Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "The Avengers") with showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, the pilot ties "SHIELD" to Marvel's movie franchise through Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who's back from the dead in a way even he may not understand.

No worries if you didn't know Coulson had died: You don't need to be a fanboy/girl to watch "SHIELD" (whose punctuation I'm skipping altogether).

Sure, if you think of the Battle of New York as something that happened in 1776, not in "The Avengers," you're probably not the target audience. But the Whedonverse is a welcoming place, and even its geekiest citizens can laugh at themselves.

It's humor, I hope, that will continue to separate it from shows like "Heroes" and "Touch," which nearly collapsed under the weight of their own mythologies.

Humor's the main objective, obviously, for "The Goldbergs" and "Trophy Wife," two shows that might have fit easily into Wednesdays, when "Modern Family" draws a crowd. But expectations there might have been higher.

I named "Trophy Wife" one of the fall's 10 best based on a pilot that was better than it sounded on paper (though I'm not sure there isn't more funny chemistry between Marcia Gay Harden -- who plays Wife No. 1 -- and Akerman than there is between Whitford and Akerman).

"The Goldbergs" didn't make my early Top 10.

The adult cast is superb -- Jeff Garlin ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") plays a version of the creator's father, Wendy McClendon-Covey ("Reno 911!) his mother and George Segal his grandfather -- but it feels as if the young actor playing Adam (Sean Giambrone) might have been kidnapped from a more conventional TV family.

It doesn't help that Patton Oswalt is the "Wonder Years"-style narrator. There's no way I believe that kid -- who's not bad, just maybe miscast -- is going to grow into Patton Oswalt.

Yet, there's one scene in a car between Garlin and Troy Gentile, who plays Adam's older brother, that I simply loved. So, like ABC, I'm inclined to be hopeful.

Hopeful, too, are the working-class characters of "Lucky 7," whose winning lottery ticket opens up a Pandora's box of problems that can't necessarily be solved by money. Based on a British series, it's going to need all the luck it can get against CBS' "Person of Interest," which moves from Thursdays. Also at 10: NBC's "Chicago Fire," moving from Wednesdays.

What the readers said

This year's Everybody's a Critic panel -- a dozen Daily News readers selected to watch pilots with me in return for homemade cookies and not very valuable TV-related prizes -- awarded "The Goldbergs" a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Individual scores ranged all the way from a 1 (from Dolores Bianco, of Feasterville, who thought that Segal's character shouldn't be discussing women's breasts with his grandson) to a pair of 8s.

"The beginning 10-second montage of the '80s was enough to hook me, especially considering that's the decade I grew up in," wrote Mike Mannato, of Norristown. "Very cool that it was created by a local writer."

"I actually liked this show, but I am an oldies buff," wrote Gwendolyn Blackshear, of South Philadelphia.

"It definitely looks like an ABC show in picture quality and pacing," wrote Adrian Hickman, of Havertown. "As much as it worked in this episode, I am hoping that it tones down the loudness just a bit."

'Back in the Game'

So, which new show got the spot between "The Middle" and "Modern Family" when ABC moved "The Neighbors" to Fridays?

"Back in the Game."

"Trouble with the Curve" meets "Bad News Bears" (8:30 p.m. tomorrow, 6ABC) in this so-far-not very-funny show starring Maggie Lawson as a divorced ex-softball star who returns home to live with her estranged ex-jock father (James Caan) and ends up coaching her son's baseball team, a collection of misfits.

Prepare to duck.

Phone: 215-854-5950

Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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