Agents Of SHIELD Returns In The US This Week… But Not The UK

agents-of-shield-posterUntil the midseason break in December, new episodes of Agents of SHIELD were screened in the US on Tuesday nights, and then in the UK on the following Friday, just three days later.

One side effect of this was that a few of those Friday nights had to be given over to another show, something to fill a gap created by the foibles of US scheduling.

In the US, spreading the run of a 20-some episode series over 30-some weeks is typical; in the UK, we’d almost always run a show over consecutive weeks. Tuning in on a Friday and finding SHIELD was on a skip-week would have been unexpected for some viewers, I think. Especially if it was being replaced by something less “substantial” than the World Cup or Olympics.

Tonight, the Agents of SHIELD returns to ABC with a key episode and viewers will finally find out how Coulson came back from the dead (or not). It’s kind of a big deal in SHIELD terms.

Of course, the show’s UK viewers will have been anticipating this important reveal as much as anybody else… but unfortunately, we won’t be seeing the reveal on our screens this Friday night. Or the Friday night afterwards.

Or, I believe, the week after that. In fact, there is no confirmed transmission time and date for the episode in the UK at all. I’ve heard February 7th on the grapevine, but Channel 4 won’t be finally locking that week’s schedule for a little while yet, and there was even one source worryingly telling me that it might be March 7th, though I prefer to think they had the wrong end of the stick.

Ratings for SHIELD have been crumbling, both in the US and UK. I’m not on board with all of the criticisms of the show, but I will say that only one subsequent episode – the sixth one, F.Z.Z.T – has come close to the promise inherent in the pilot. This series desperately needs some fixing. And then a fresh start, even – something as radical as an all-new line-up of characters and a new “first” episode, to tell the viewers to give it another go.

Maybe if SHIELD‘s UK viewership hadn’t dropped from 4.5 million for the pilot to around 2 million for the latest episode, Channel 4 would have kept its quick turnaround screening plans in place.

As it is, they may be doing the right thing for the typical British audience, if not for the show itself. Perhaps an unbroken, dependably-weekly run for the remaining episodes will be a good thing for the casual viewer looking to Channel 4 for this show.

It’s not right, and I’m quite against it, but we do know that a lot of the keenest fans will be watching the show illegally far closer to the Tuesday US premiere than any Friday night UK screening. This group is bound to grow significantly in the face of the new scheduling gap.

Maybe giving the young ‘uns that watch E4 a chance to catch will also help Channel 4′s ratings on the show. The repeats start this Sunday.

I have wondered if Channel 4mmight actually bust the whole show down a rank and relegate it to E4 entirely? Or at least premiere the episodes on E4 with Channel 4 screenings to come later, as per Brooklyn Nine Nine. They may be prohibited from doing this, but if they aren’t…? It might be a way to close the gap for some, schedule unbroken weeks of TX for others.

Pure speculation and wild hypothesis. All we know for a fact, I’m afraid, is that SHIELD won’t be back on UK screens this week, or next…