Fantastic Television

“Legend of Korra” is back and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” debuts tonight; will you watch?
on Sep 24, 2013 · No comments

thelegendofkorra_aangslegacyIt was at a “Mod Moot,” a gathering of forum moderators from, that I first beheld this sight: grown adults, one younger, one older, twitching around in the backyard. One was manipulating water, the other earth, and both claimed they were “bending.” Like in the Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, they excitedly endorsed.

Some months later I had made it through all three seasons, knew exactly what they were talking about, and was an established fan also. Reluctantly I suggested my wife also see the first episodes — hey, it was still an animated program — and she also joined the fandom.

Avatar wrapped in 2008 with a spectacular four-part conclusion. But four years and one dismal M. Night Shyamalan-directed film franchise dead-starter later, the series creators returned. Their series could be titled Avatar: The Next Generation, but instead they called it The Legend of Korra, following the adventures of the next “avatar” in an Eastern-flavored fantasy world. Aang, the preteen hero of The Last Airbender had to master all four elements (regular folks can “bend” only one element apiece) to save the world dominated by the Fire Nation; his successor Korra has far more time and more-peaceful lands, but still problems.

Korra’s second “book” or season began last week, and I’m glad to say the series appears to be continuing its success of weaving great people, efficient plotting, and beautiful visuals with in-depth themes of technology vs. spirituality, and family conflicts and forgiveness. Yes, the Avatarverse is definitely Eastern culture- and religion-flavored, with one titular mediation office-by-reincarnation and plenty of spirits, plus a natural-law magic system. Yet the worldview is of good versus evil, growth, and sin, repentance, and forgiveness.

The Legend of Korra airs Fridays at 7 p.m. Eastern (natch) on Nickelodeon. Episodes are also available on Amazon. But even better for folks without cable, Nick makes the most recent five Korra episodes available for free as soon as the following Saturday mornings.

Faith of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Guess which one of these super-spies “died” in The Avengers (2012).

Guess which one of these super-spies “died” in The Avengers (2012).

I’m not sure if episodes will be similarly free for the upcoming Whedon Bros.-produced program Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.1 Fortunately, Amazon does list a subscription page. And despite the rather annoying nature of most new TV shows, particularly the ones geared for younger audiences — yes, I know I’m ranting — I’m currently gung-ho about Agents for several good reasons:

  1. The Whedons. I’m not a raving Joss-is-boss fanboy, but the man and his showbiz family members can write. They understand not only archetypes but human nature. They do well subverting tropes, not just to be cute or ironic, but for deeper stories.
  2. The program promises to share, overtly yet not dependently, the same universe as the Marvel Avengers films and future tie-ins (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, etc.).
  3. Agent Phil Coulson.
  4. The trailers are fun. They even look surprisingly wholesome. Can kids watch this?
  5. And you know that if there was any chance of seeing anyone in his but more likely her skivvies on the program even for an instant, they would show it in the trailers.
  6. Producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen say they have great ideas in store.
  7. Even grumpy TV critics are voicing their enjoyment of ABC’s soaring franchise pilot.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. launches said pilot tonight, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 8 p.m. Eastern.

Which television programs do you enjoy and why? Do you lean toward newer or older? Fantasy/sci-fi or other genres? Still loving cable/satellite, and or Amazon/Hulu/Netflix?

  1. Note to self: add the all-caps-with-periods spelling to Autocorrect.
E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.
  1. Galadriel says:

    I’ve watched both A:TLA and LoK, but I think the former has better worldbuilding and characters. As for Agents of Shield, I have Awana tonight, but plan to watch it one way or another…
    Other shows: There’s Once Upon a Time and Once Upon a Time: Wonderland coming soon, and I’m keeping my eyes on CBBC’s (BBC Children’s network) Wizards vs Aliens, a replacement for Sarah Jane Adventures. The first season was a bit shaky, but I’m hoping season two will improve.
    Also hoping to watch Orphan Black, Dresden Files, and Warehouse 13. Actually have the DVD of the latter….kind of cool so far, plus it has episodes and events in the Midwest. Nice to know we exist.

  2. dmdutcher says:

    I’ll probably check out Agents of SHIELD, but I never cared one bit about Agent Coulson, and I’d be watching it for any cameos of actual superheroes. I don’t get why him, personally over one of the many superhero teams that would make for good TV, but I guess he’s big.

    I think you have to grow up on Avatar. It would be like me trying to introduce you to the G1 transformers; it’s a little harder to get if you never grew up on it.

    • My wife just read your comment. Quote, while sniffing in mock rage:

      “No heart! Who are you? You’re a heretic. Go away.”

      • dmdutcher says:

        eh, I still don’t care about him. He just took space in the avengers movie that hank and janet pym could have filled, and I admit I’m baffled at how much the internets likes the guy. Then again, I was hoping for West Coast Avengers over SHIELD anyways.

  3. bainespal says:

    I watched the first commercial segment.

  4. The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra both stand proudly among the greatest awesomenesses ever to grace the small screen, but in distinctly different ways. Some like to compare the latter unfavorably to the former, rightly pointing out that Korra contains less of that quirky lightheartedness which melted so many hearts the first time around. But that’s an unfair criticism. While Airbender had three entire seasons to gradually — at times almost leisurely — unfold its narrative, Korra had only one (the successive seasons weren’t planned from the outset), and it was forced to relentlessly redeem its time. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine a more tightly-plotted children’s show: there’s no filler, no downtime, no standalone episodes, no breathing room. And as a straight-up action thriller with occasional notes of humor (as opposed to Airbender‘s epic-fantasy-cum-sitcom), it works brilliantly, achieving a deeply cathartic unexpected-yet-inevitable resolution.

    P.S. — For those of you who loved the idea of a fantasy world that actually progresses though more than one historical era, allow me to once again shamelessly plug Brandon Sanderson, my favorite contemporary author, who’s planning to do this with his Mistborn saga (it’ll eventually encompass the medieval period he’s already explored in a trilogy, some standalone novels in that world’s turn-of-the-century-ish steampunk period [such as The Alloy of Law], a forthcoming urban fantasy Mistborn trilogy, and a third and final Mistborn trilogy in a period of far-future sci-fi). Writers like Sanderson and Avatar‘s DiMartino and Konietzko are demonstrating how self-limiting has been fantasy’s fifty-year confinement to the middle ages.

What do you think?