by Matt Sernaker, Managing Editor
Fear not citizens of Charm City, the employees of Wayne Security are hard at work creating new technology to save us from super villain attacks. Powerless, a new workplace sitcom set in the DC Comics Universe, premieres this week on NBC. While some may feel that television is inundated with comic-based shows, Powerless manages to take a different approach to the superhero genre.
Powerless is a mix between The Office and The IT Crowd, with a bit of DC Comics thrown in. While it is set in the DC Universe, the show instead focuses on the lives of people who are forced to deal with daily superhero/super villain battles. What was once extraordinary has become mundane. Villains threatening the city have gone from intimidating to inconvenient.
The pilot episode, “Wayne or Lose”, introduces viewers to Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens, High School Musical), who has been brought in by Van Wayne (Alan Tudyk, Con Man) to assist with the team development of the R&D staff. Just in case you were wondering, Van has a famous cousin named Bruce (WINK). With the jobs of the entire staff at stake, Emily must help the team to create the next “big idea” before it is too late. Meanwhile, the villainous Jack O’ Lantern is busy attacking the city, and Crimson Fox (the protector of Charm City) must save the day! How does this battle impact the staff of Wayne Security? Check out the pilot to learn more!
In addition to Hudgens and Tudyk, the series stars Danny Pudi (Community) as Teddy, Christina Kirk (A to Z) as Julie, Jennie Pierson (Black-ish) as Wendy, and Ron Funches (Undateable) as Ron. MVP for the pilot goes to Alan Tudyk, who has created a character who is the ultimate personification of the boss that you never want to have (he gives Michael Scott a run for his money). Pudi also receives strong jokes and moments in the pilot, and I think fans will relate to his character. Hudgens portrayal of Emily has a lot of potential, but her character felt a bit flat in the opening outing. I also wanted to mention that I enjoyed Christina Kirk’s portrayal of Julie, Van’s long suffering and loyal assistant. I think that she will end up being a great foil to Tudyk’s over the top Van Wayne.
For those of you who made it to the SDCC 2016 panel, you might be very confused by the summary above. Since the original pilot screening, the show has undergone a massive shift in format. The original story focused on “Retcon Insurance”, which dealt with the aftermath of super villain attacks. While the original pilot was well received, the creative team behind the series decided to start over and moved the setting to take place at a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises. This shift allows for more creative storytelling, a firm connection to the world of DC Comics (the name “Wayne” carries a lot of weight in this universe) and moves away from what could have been the “insurance claim of the week” approach.
One of the most memorable components of the series is the incredible opening title sequence. Not only is it rare to see full credits on a modern day show, but it is even more impressive to see how it was used to clearly establish the role of the cast in the DC Universe. Comic fans are sure to be impressed with the homage to the legacy of DC Comics.
While there are tons of comic related shows on television, the pilot of Powerless demonstrates that there are many other aspects of these comic universes that have yet to be explored. Having the superheroes in the background can work as a concept, as long as the focal characters are well developed and interesting. The opening has piqued my interest, and I will be adding this to my regular watch list.
ComicsOnline gives Powerless – “Wayne or Lose” (SERIES PREMIERE)– 4 out of 5 superhero jokes.
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