DC’s new TV venture is Powerless, an office comedy set in the DC Universe about a team of creative tech people whose job it is to come up with new products that the public can use to stay safe during risky superhero battles.
There’s something refreshing, even exciting about Powerless’ clever premise as shifting the focus from flashy supermen and women to the bystanders in danger could open up a lot of different avenues, many of which perfect for television series, comedy or otherwise.
How about following a crew tasked with cleaning up Metropolis after the carnage caused by Superman in Man Of Steel? Or a goofy sitcom about the neurotic staff members who work in Arkham Asylum and have to deal with the craziest Batman villains every day? Or maybe low-level office workers at LexCorp who start to worry that maybe they’re working for a supervillain?
The possibilities were endless.
Powerless follows Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens), the driven new Director Of Research & Development at Wayne Security, as she meets her new team and tries to collaborate with them on new ideas. Her boss is Bruce Wayne’s clueless cousin Van Wayne, played by the ever-entertaining Alan Tudyk who effortlessly steals the show here. The Pilot episode makes a legitimate attempt to appeal to DC fans with numerous mentions of Batman and Superman, cameos from the likes of Adam West (as the narrator) and Marc McClure along with a very cool opening title sequence and a brief appearance by superheroine Crimson Fox.
That said, the DC Universe is quickly sidelined as most of the show is centered around Emily’s minor work struggles. Believe it or not, the entire second episode is literally about everyone in the office losing their internet connection and making an umbrella.
What next? The quest for a working stapler?
The Pilot episode opens with one solid minute of superhero action but the remaining 22 minutes are spent following a group of sarcastic, barely defined characters as they reluctantly put together a new wristwatch that can somehow smell supervillains. Powerless’ most unfortunate aspect is that it has no story. It has the first draft of a concept, granted, but no story. What we’re left with is sort of like the condescending Disney Channel version of Ally McBeal for 15 year-olds (or under) peppered with corny jokes and one-liners.
Vanessa Hudgens has done a good job over the years making us almost forget that she was in High School Musical and its sequels by starring and giving decent performances in various films. Here, she is saddled with such an obnoxious character that even Meryl Streep would have a hard time trying to make Emily Locke likable. She is driven and optimistic, which is fine, but she is so annoyingly upbeat that she comes off as just another passive-aggressive boss you would no doubt hate with a passion if you were working for her. Not that her co-workers are any better: these guys are rude, lazy, irritating and, in the real world, they would have been deservedly fired in a heartbeat. Emily and the others are given nothing other than quirky put-downs to say and none of them are funny or clever.
This is a show that only wants to be cute and cash-in on a certain demographic without actually offering them anything new or interesting. There are many good office-set comedies out there: this is not one of them. The characters are one-dimensional, the writing is weak, the story doesn’t exist and the DC Universe setting is irrelevant. It’s a shame that this is the best that DC could come up with when the promising concept could have given us something genuinely cool. Name-dropping superheroes was never going to be enough to keep DC fans interested so unless the show regroups to tell a worthwhile story or starts to include more cameos or action scenes, it’s doubtful that it’ll make it through an entire season without getting the boot.
Considering how many great television shows are out there, superhero-themed or not, there’s really no reason to check out Powerless as it does nothing particularly interesting despite its initially appealing off-beat concept.
If you are curious, however, you can check out Powerless on NBC.