TV picks of the week: Not a cape in sight

Five shows that will keep couch potatoes glued to their TVs over the coming week.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begins on Sunday night.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begins on Sunday night.

Pick of the week: Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

It might be yet another television spin-off of a film franchise. In this case, a series about the folks of the "Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division" whose job it is to act as a sort of real-world-superhero interface. They're there to deal with emergencies before it's really necessary to call in the Avengers - Iron Man, Thor, Captain America et al - and that would necessitate yet another big-screen blockbuster creating quite a mess.

But Agents is also cleverly different from the usual film spin-offs, which are generally revivals after the movie or movies have done their dash.

Timing-wise, the spin-off is happening concurrently with the movies - it's set in the wake of the Battle of New York from The Avengers and the first season comes with crossovers to last year's Thor film and the next Captain America flick.

Which might make it sound all a little fanboy in its appeal, requiring one to have seen and enjoyed all those movies since the first Iron Man kicked things off back in 2008. But Agents still stands on its own with the sort of funny-fantasy blend executive producer Joss Whedon brought to his previous television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.

As Whedon told TimeOut last week: "The show has to work for people who won't watch the movies. And of course there will be linkage and crossovers between the TV show and the films, so we have to be careful for the fans who watch both."

They may not be wearing spandex, but Agents has its own colourful ensemble with the sort of character mix that will be familiar to fans of many acronym-bearing US primetime shows built around oddball teams.

The squad is captained by Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) who has somehow survived his death at the hand of Thor's brother Loki in The Avengers - his revival is to be explained apparently - to become the droll man in charge.

In the first episode Coulson is on a recruitment drive putting his team of specialists together which initially include tough guy Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), black-belt pilot Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and the British boffin duo of Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge).

As he investigates a mystery guy who had the powers to punch his way into a building and rescue the woman inside, Coulson encounters Skye (Chloe Bennet), a hacktivist who thinks S.H.I.E.L.D. is part of an elaborate cover-up. Which, of course, it is.

Yes, it's a superhero show without a lot of superheroes. But it does have a really cool flying car. And if you're needing a fanboy fix of good ol' biff-kapow there's always the new season of another Marvel by-product, Arrow, starting tonight (TV2, 8.30pm).

When: Sunday 8.30pm
Where: TV2
What: Team Marvel's mortal branch

Sci-fi pick: The Tomorrow People

The original The Tomorrow People was an imaginative 70s British sci-fi kids show - which also screened in New Zealand - about a group of teenagers with psychic abilities banding together with the help of friendly aliens and a semi-biological computer called "Tim" who helped them teleport from their underground base on their pacifist adventures.

There was apparently a connection between the "Homo Superior" line from David Bowie's song Oh You Pretty Things of the era and the show. While the new glossy American version might not be any superior, it sure is prettier - as might be expected being a production of The CW, the American network that spawned the likes of Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries. This one is centred on 16-year-old New Yorker Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) whose habit of teleporting in his sleep is just the first puzzle he must solve about his special powers.

When: Sunday, 9.30pm
Where: TV2
What: An evolution in adolescence

Music pick: The Night That Changed America

Many of those gathered in Los Angeles last month for the Grammys stayed on to perform this show commemorating the beginning of Beatlemania in America 50 years ago this week with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The special comes with performances by the Eurythmics (pictured), Alicia Keys, John Legend, Maroon 5, John Mayer, Katy Perry, Dave Grohl, Pharrell Williams, Keith Urban, Gary Clark jnr, Joe Walsh, and Stevie Wonder, all playing their favourite Beatles songs. As well, there are appearances from Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr - both solo and together - in a show in which the all-in sing-along extended finale of Hey Jude apparently took longer than the entire Grammy ceremony. Just kidding.

When: Saturday, 9.40pm
Where: TV One
What: Beatles tribute show

Crime pick: The Tunnel

The acclaimed original Scandinavian series Bron (The Bridge) had its murder scene on the Oresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden. There's already been an American remake (yet to screen here) set on another bridge on the Tex-Mex border. This further remake has at least one major point of difference - the first body in this serial killer thriller is found straddling the line between British and French territory in a service duct on the Channel Tunnel.

The corpse is that of a French politician but there's a British connection. That means a joint investigation by the mismatched pair of English detective Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane) and French colleague Elise Wassermann (Clemence Poesy). Apparently the storylines diverge from Bron, though Chunnel setting aside, the first episode follows the blueprint of the original.

When: Sunday, 8.30pm
Where: SoHo
What: Stuck in the middle avec vous

Nature pick: Richard Hammond's Miracles of Nature

It's yet another extramural project for the Top Gear presenter with the nature-friendly nickname of "Hamster". This one has him wandering the globe pondering how animals inspired some very smart inventions. In the first episode of the three-part series, the BBC star is off paragliding with Cape vultures in South Africa - something to do with them helping invent a flying submarine. Among other topics covered: how the physiology of a giraffe's neck inspired flying suits for fighter pilots; how scientists are adapting the impact-resistance of woodpecker skulls to good use; and how a certain South American butterfly might hold the key to solving one of the First World's greatest problems - making mobile phones waterproof.

When: Wednesday, 7.30pm
Where: TV3
What: No, not a show about roadkill

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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