Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes strong US TV debut

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. promotional image The show stars Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson (centre) - even though his character died in the Avengers movie

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New TV series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. achieved the highest ratings for a US drama debut in nearly four years, according to ABC.

The comic book spin-off attracted 12.2 million viewers on Tuesday night, despite going up against the American version of The Voice and NCIS.

The series launches in the UK on Channel 4 on Friday 27 September.

It stars Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, a hit character from Marvel movies Avengers Assemble and Iron Man.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of the autumn's most eagerly anticipated new series, with producers hoping to translate the success of the film franchise to the small screen.

The action-packed US drama follows the adventures of a skilled team of agents from a global law-enforcement organisation.

They are tasked with investigating super-human individuals and unusual events.

S.H.I.E.L.D. ranked first in its time slot among viewers aged between 18 to 49 but NCIS was the most-watched show overall with 20 million viewers, according to figures from Nielsen.

So far the critics have been largely positive, with the Huffington Post highly impressed by episode one.

"ABC nailed it with this new series," wrote Jason Hughes. "Everything about this premiere worked."

Avengers screenwriter and director Joss Whedon, who also created long-running series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, returned to his TV roots to help steer the pilot.

Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in The Avengers The first Avengers film took more than a billion dollars at the box office last year

He developed the show with his brother Jed Whedon and sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen. The Huffington Post's Hughes added: "Whedon's signature snappy dialogue and light-hearted charm can be seen throughout."

However James Hunt of Den of Geek was not entirely convinced.

"It's certainly not a bad piece of TV - the plot mostly makes sense, the cast is mostly good, and there's an undeniable thrill in seeing the likes of Coulson and Hill (actress Cobie Smulders) on screen outside the movies," wrote Hunt.

"But it's also not as good as it should have been: it looks a little economical, the pace is meandering, and it doesn't seem to know what story it's actually trying to tell."

Marvel's big screen interests continue throughout the next two years with Thor: The Dark World due in cinemas next month starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier will be released in 2014 and The Avengers: Age of Ultron is scheduled to start filming in 2014.

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