“Powerless” Lacks More than Super Strength

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This review contains spoilers for tonight’s episode. – AR

How do you protect yourself when you live in a city of Superheroes and are essentially powerless? You turn to Wayne Securities – making the products keeping citizens safe.

NBC debuts its new half-hour office comedy series Powerless, set in the DC Universe, on Thursday February 2nd.  Vanessa Hudgens stars as Emily Locke, the newly hired Director of Research & Development of Charm City’s branch of Wayne Securities.  She is bright eyed, optimistic, and spends a good portion of her dialogue quoting inspirational messages.  Her goal is simple – motivate the R&D team to develop a new product that will keep the company going – and save their jobs when Bruce Wayne decides that the company has become obsolete.

She’s got a rough road ahead of her since she is the fifth director in a year.  Her boss, Van Wayne (Alan Tudyk), is more concerned with getting a comfy office in Gotham than in the success of his own company.  Her team; Ron (Ron Funches), Teddy (Danny Pudi), and Susan (Claire Titelman), don’t want to get their hopes up since their ideas get shot down from corporate, so now they spend their time on color choices and copying LexCorp ideas.

POWERLESS — “Wayne or Lose” Episode 102 — Pictured: (l-r) Josh Breeding as Steve, Ron Funches as Ron — (Photo by: Evans Vestal Ward/NBC)

In order to save her job, Emily fights through their negativity and helps guide them to create a new product to save the day – and starting to earn their trust.

For me, I was really excited about Powerless back when it wasn’t tied to the DC Universe.  I’m a fan of Alan Tudyk and will follow him pretty much anywhere.  However, between Gotham, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow – not to mention Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D with Marvel – prime time TV is already full of the superhero genre.  Add in the Marvel lineup on Netflix and you pretty much are in over your head with established superhero character stories.

Powerless had the potential to be in the genre without affiliation, which would have let it be a show embraceable by anyone who likes superheroes no matter the color of their tights. It could also direct its jokes at both Marvel and DC, as well as other franchises like Disney, Dark Horse, and IDW. Now, you have to know the basics of both the Batman and Superman franchises to be able to understand the details in tonight’s episode.

The comedy factor isn’t as high as I would expect in a show with so much material it can draw from.  It feels like the writers are trying too hard to be too smart and funny, sliding in DC themed jokes that only fans would get and even then still aren’t really executed well.  The characters have no real uniqueness to them, sliding into the typical nerd, naive optimist, and underappreciated employee stereotypes.  One of the tech team – Susan – is downright crude and mean, coming off like a clone of Rebel Wilson but without the attitude needed to carry that kind of character properly.

I wish I could see how different the script was for Powerless before the network attached it to the DC Universe.  I have a feeling that the good stuff that got the series picked up in the first place was cut out to make room for the DC references.  Plus don’t get me started on Bruce Wayne suddenly having a cousin in another town.  Why didn’t Van’s parents adopt their little nephew Bruce after his parents died?  Yeah, not sure how Batman fans are going to take to that.

POWERLESS — “Wayne or Lose” Episode 102 — Pictured: Alan Tudyk as Van — (Photo by: Evans Vestal Ward/NBC)

If you’re a fan of the DC Universe, you may want to give the show a chance just to have a change of pace from the rest of the universe’s shows on the CW and FOX.  Otherwise, stick with Big Bang Theory for your nerdy comedies, or pick up Keith DeCandido’s Super City Police Department book series if you want an unaligned superhero series from the point of view of the cops who have to deal with the super villains after they are defeated.

My vote on PowerlessNO GO.

Care to discuss your opinions on Powerless with me?  Hit me up on Twitter @aliskyrichards or @ThreeIfBySpace after you watch Powerless’ debut on NBC Thursday, February 2nd at 8:30pm/7:30pm. Also make sure you subscribe to our site to keep up with what shows to watch and which to pass over each season!

Alison Sky Richards