Premiering this Thursday on NBC, Powerless is an aptly named show full of cringe-worthy humor that is well intended but ultimately falls flat.
The show takes place in Charm City which, according to Bruce Wayne’s cousin Van (Alan Tudyk) is a “Taint” in comparison to Gotham City. Mayhem and destruction are so commonplace that the citizenry rarely looks up from their phones as half of their city is torn to shreds. Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) plays the new head of Wayne Security’s lackluster research and development department. Wayne Security’s mission is to create products that help Charm City and their citizens escape from the perils of living in a world full of superheroes and villains.
Van Wayne challenges his new employee, Emily Locke to create the next great product so he can impress his cousin Bruce (which will lead to his promotion to the Gotham office). Locke sets off to create a brand new product that will blow people away with the help of her new employees, Teddy (Danny Pudi) and Ron (Ron Funches).
What I liked:
The premise of the show is compelling. The idea of there being an R&D team whose mission is to create products to help ordinary citizens survive in a world of superheroes and villains is certainly original. Christina Kirk plays Van Wayne’s assistant Jackie, and her blunt dialogue provides most of the laughs during the 30-minute pilot. However, it seems her time on the show will be short, which makes me both sad and worried about the longevity of the show.
Powerless also had some compelling moments where Locke was interacting with people living in Charm City who were clearly indifferent to the chaos that ravages their world. The biggest laugh out loud moment for me was when Emily was on the train to work and asked her fellow passengers “Isn’t this amazing” (while their train was plunging off the track) to which a man replied, “What’s amazing is that this is the third meeting that I have to reschedule this week.” Of course, they are saved by a Superhero but the citizens act as if this happens routinely.
What I didn’t like:
Vanessa Hudgens is grossly miscast as the lead in this series. In the pilot, she wavers between playing Emily as this “humble” character to one that wants to be a “leader.” Neither adds much and only highlights how little Locke adds to the show. She would have been better-suited cast as a member of Wayne’s R&D department than the female lead.
Justin Halpern (The guy who wrote S&*t My Dad Says) wrote the pilot and placed the focus entirely too much on cringe-worthy punchlines and gags rather than the superhero universe this show is trying to create. No one is tuning into Powerless to hear crafty one-liners; they are hoping to see a fun superhero themed show that’s written well. Do I need to here Alan Tudyk take a tiny swipe at Batman V Superman at the expense of establishing a strong narrative? They needed to focus on world building in the pilot but alas they did not.
Powerless is a feeble attempt by NBC to join the likes of Netflix, CW, and ABC in making superhero television content. This show intends on eliciting laughter but is so poorly written that it will leave audiences dumbfounded. What’s aggravating is the premise for the show is a strong one. How ordinary citizens adapt to living in a world of superheroes is a show that most people would tune in for. However, that isn’t this show. Perhaps, the show would have been better suited on another network and in the hands of more experienced writers. Can you imagine if this show was in the hands of Greg Berlanti? As this point, Powerless won’t last long unless massive changes occur which I don’t envision happening.