I very honestly never expected my article to get to the FP, let alone have such active discussion. I also learned a lot from your comments. Every time I found a comment I wanted to share on the 'Deck, I found at least two more. Needless to say that still would've been spamming but I'll go ahead and post some of the best ones right here:
The big problem fans have with AoS is that they were hoping for a real, honest-to-Uatu weekly Marvel series, and what they got was an espionage show with sci-fi elements in which the characters occasionally interact with superhumans or alien technology. This is an acute disappointment, because the weekly TV serial format is ideal for comic book stories, much more so than movies because it's so much closer to a monthly comic series. You can develop characters and their worlds so much faster, and in greater detail, without having to wait two or three years for the next installment.
The downside of that is that TV, while much more sophisticated and deeper than it used to be, is still constrained by budgetary concerns, even with the backing of a giant conglomerate like Disney. You really can't do superpowered characters zooming around every week, and a giant Avengers-style battle is out of the question. Even a single shot of Iron Man flying over L.A. is probably more expensive than the average episode ofAoS. On the one hand, not being able to do huge fireworks every week is a major benefit to stuff like worldbuilding and characterization, which can be hard to squeeze into a two-hour movie. But not having access to that kind of spectacle means inevitably that the show will fall back on familiar plots and storytelling.
So far, AoS has had a handful of episodes with characters who could develop into full-fledged superheroes or villains. But for the most part it's relied on tried-and-true plots reminiscent of spy shows like Alias, or weird science/MoW series like X-Files, Torchwood, and Fringe. I suspect this was deliberate, because of budget restraints, but also because TV tends to be conservative, and often you have to soft-sell stuff before it can get good or interesting, lulling audiences into a false sense of calm. Lots of people who hadn't read George R.R. Martin assumed that Game of Thrones was going to be all about Ned Stark until the end of the first season. I don't expect anything quite as severe — though the events of Winter Soldierportend some pretty dark, heavy stuff for SHIELD and the MCU — but it seems to me that sometimes you have to go through periods of necessary boredom and experimentation before the writers figure out what really works, and then know which buttons to push. TNG is a good parallel. It started out as a beige shadow of the original program, but once the writers and performers had laid some basic groundwork (and there'd been some shuffling around on the creative level), it could start to get good.
Being an illustrator and a total Trek nut, I'm going to be 'that guy' and geek out over the production design of TNG...one of the most underappreciated aspects of the show.
"Really the whole thing looks like it was designed by Lexus. ...which really isn't the point of a starship. "
But that kind of "luxury" look was exactly the purpose of the design choices...and its what made TNG an evolution in Trek rather than just a reiteration.
The ship's comfortable design was a direct response to the "militarization" of Trek in the films. Gene didn't like that at all. Though it has some military-like aspects, Starfleet is not a military organization. The Enterprise D was supposed to reflect the exploration and community aspect of Starfleet, which is why it looks more like a cruise ship than a battleship. And that was a genius move.
Frankly, the visual direction of Trek since Gene died has gone to hell. He would loathe the Enterprise E (from First Contact), and would probably think it looked too much like it was built for war.
I've always felt what made TNG great was the skill of the actors, especially Patrick Stewart, but really most of the entire cast, even Will Wheaton. In many cases it was great acting carrying mediocre or bad writing to greatness. Unfortunately great acting is not a strength of AOS. Clark Gregg's strength is playing the straight man in absurd situations. It worked great in the Sheild shorts and in his limited role in the movies, but it's not enough to carry the show on it's own, and the rest of the actors around him are bland blandingtons in a sea of bland.
I want to comment on this bit here: "You don't need a big budget to have slick-looking sets"
Using that to refer to TNG is extremely misleading. TNG's pilot had a pretty large set-building budget, and most of the sets were redresses of sets built for either the films (built on film budgets) or for the aborted Star Trek Phase II series that turned into the motion picture. For example, Engineering was just a redress of the engineering set used for the films, and even the famous "pool table" was from Star Trek IV.
Good science fiction is about people, not technology. About what it means to be and think like humans, sometimes by contrast, sometimes putting something that couldn't possible think as human, thinking as human.
Stopped following AoS, but if they forget that, they are doomed.
I think basically one of the issues here though is... Patrick Stewart is clearly acting his ass off in early TNG. Go back and check an episode like "The Battle." Is it good? Nope. But is Patrick Stewart making us believe the trauma Picard's going through? Absolutely.
Im currently watching TNG on Netflix straight through (Only ever caught re-runs before out of order). Im at season 3, and while there is a noticable up-tick in quality, i didnt think seasons 1 and 2 were that bad. Honestly, Id take seasons 1 and 2 of TNG over season 3 of TOS any day.
It is important to note that even Buffy wasn't perfect in it's first season. Some episodes were downright dreadful in S1 and you could see the major budget problems the show had in that season in some cartoonishly bad SFX in some episodes. Buffy didn't come into it's own until the second season - I know that might be heresy to some, but it's the truth.
Plenty of television shows take time to come into their own - it is admirable that ABC/Disney seems to be willing to give SHIELD some time. "Heroes" had a lot of problems later and in the beginning...but it wasn't until about midway through S1 that it figured out what it was. S1 of "Fringe" had a lot of problems. And I would argue TNG never got past certain other problems that would stick with it for it's entire run (it never knew what to do with Dr. Crusher...or Troi...or Geordi; it had a terminal problem with continuity...bringing up major life-changing things, then with only a very few examples, ignoring them completely after the episode was over; an over-reliance on the holodeck to fill out a season; etc.). Let's not look at TNG with rose colored glasses.
Brannon Braga was in college when TNG started, and came on after a summer internship in 1990. The person you're thinking of who took the reins and made the show infinitely better in season 3 is the late Michael Piller.
Nice mention of "Yesterday's Enterprise!"
My sister who is not too much of a scifi fan, but kind of a ST: TNG random watcher, watched it with me when we were channel surfing and at the end of it said to me "that was better than the movie!" referring to 'Star Trek: Generations.'
You want the same uptick in quality for AoS than in TNG? Hire Ronald D. Moore.
Hindsight is a great thing, isn't it? I don't think any of this helps. Here's why.
TNG was of its time. It had way more money than AoS or any show on right now. Even with VFX being easier to do (and screw up) they're still costly as they're done in North America where the manpower is top dollar. So don't expect to see the Avengers show up any time soon with the pew pew and 'splosions. Also, TNG had an ethos behind it. It could tell stories about the human condition. So could Buffy, Firefly and BSG(V2). AoG is a marketing vehicle for the movies. It just doesn't have that framework. I think they believe that it'd be a marketing vehicle between the movies but it just doesn't work as there's no budget to throw at what an audience is going to expect from a Marvel TV series. Ever.
I still have no idea who AoS is about. Is it Coulson? After a dozen episodes we still don't know a pip more about him than we already did and he's such a waste because Clark Gregg is a fantastic actor, as good as Patrick Stewart with the right material. There's no big jeopardy. It's a (weak) monster of the week series (as has been pointed out).
This past post, in particular, I think offers a bit of food for thought:
I've said it before in previous TNG discussions and I'll repeat it here: Roddenberry for as much credit he gets for fathering the ST franchise, was chiefly responsible for the awfulness of TNGs first couple seasons with his narrow minded and inflexible criteria of storytelling. His need to make the 23rd century Federation a flawless utopia and humans incapable of evil without the influence of 'aliens' killed a lot of good storytelling and drama. As sad as his illness and death was, that forcing him to relinquish control and involvement in the shows production was the best thing to happen to the show. His non involvement in DS9 and it pretty much being in the hands of Behr and Moore attest to its quality.
However Voyager, i can offer no excuse. It had it's own boatload of problems.
Apologies in advance if I misspelled your name. There were other worthy discussions too. Thanks guys!