Powerless on NBC feels a bit like “reality” mixing uneasily with the comic book verse of Batman, Superman and all those caped heroes who frequent Gotham City, Metropolis and so on. “Wayne or Lose” follows Emily on her first job at an insurance company run by Bruce Wayne’s cousin Van.
Centering primarily on a world where “normal” people are in constant danger of being hurt when super heroes and super villains engage, Powerless and its female protagonist feels like an extension of the audience.
Emily is, in essence, us; she represents our “everyman” existence but she is in a world where super heroes are a fact of life. Where Ms. Locke comes from, super heroes are flyovers only and never stop in to battle evil. Now in her new job, they are common enough to be mundane.
Hudgens is the “hayseed” who travels to the big city to make a change. She wants to leave big footprints wherever she works and the insurance company gives her a chance.
Emily is the only one impressed by all the super activity going on in the big city. On the subway, when the Crimson Fox saves the train from crashing and killing numerous innocent citizens, only Ms. Locke finds the incident exciting.
Her new company’s think tank and developers are only copying other products and changing the name and colours of their versions. Emily comes in and tries to motivate the bunch but unfortunately they have seen it all before. Four times before in fact.
Locke confronts Wayne when she learns that there were four predecessors who all left. Although Emily is less upset when she finds that they left after being injured as bystanders to a super battle. It seems that her position at Wayne Security will be short-lived.
Van learns that his cousin has fired them all and he will be absorbed into the Gotham branch of the company, something Van has dreamed of. Emily pulls out all the stops and invents, with the help of her team, a product completely different from the competition’s.
At the end of the episode they learn that Batman has used a variation of their super villain warning system and they are all excited. Emily has been accepted, somewhat, and it looks like she will be staying on at the company.
Powerless, despite featuring the more than capable Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi and a grown up Vanessa Hudgens, is more cute than funny. NBC have opted for a humorous take on the comic book craze by poking gentle fun at the premise of super heroes and super villains endangering innocent civilians.
It may work, although the network have stated that they will not be entering the same DC verse as CW; with Supergirl, Arrow and The Flash. This series is focusing mainly on the Gotham/Batman verse and creator Ben Queen (Cars 2, Drive) is gently easing the audience into this new verse.
With a hero known as the Crimson Fox and a villain called Jack-O-Lantern this was not a promising start to an offshoot of the Wayne family caped crusader. There is a mention of the Joker and in teasers for the show it appears that Emily does date one of the Riddler’s henchmen but this feels like a pallid nod to the “real deal.”
With the blackly comic Gotham already poking fun at the genre with its prequel story of the legend of Batman, this feels like a G rated knock off, somewhat akin to the products that Van’s apathetic insurance company have blandly copied in the series.
Powerless may well turn out to be a barrel of laughs. However the pilot was not overtly funny. It relied instead upon unlikeable two dimensional characters and Hudgens’ “Pollyanna” performance for a few chuckles. Tudyk was pretty much wasted in the premiere and considering his penchant for comedy could have brought a lot more to the role.
NBC have brought us a cute-sy type comedy that needs to up its game if it wants to succeed against the competition. The vastly superior, and damned funny, Superstore may well lead a few viewers to this new show but unless things improve, they will not stick around.
Powerless airs Thursdays on NBC. Head on over and see what you think. Will this be a hit for Vanessa Hudgens and Alan Tudyk or a miss?