Powerless is NBC and DC’s attempt to put a workplace comedy into the world of comic books. Based on the pilot we saw at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, it only kind of works. Here’s our spoiler-free first impression of the premiere!
The problem with Powerless is that it doesn’t meld its two worlds together nearly well enough, at least not yet. On the one hand, there are superheroes and suoervillians infesting Charm City. On the other, insurance claims adjuster Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) battles a stingy and dickish new boss (Alan Tudyk). The parallels between Emily and a traditional superhero are literally spelled out by her co-worker Teddy (Danny Pudi), which is about the laziest way to join these two ideas together.
The “it’s tough to love a city that supervillians keep destroying” jokes are very stale; not a one of them is original. In fact, I think several nerdy stand-up comedians have been telling them for years. To make the most of the world it’s set in, Powerless is going to have to find something more original than “my commute keeps getting borked by superpowered fights.”
The one joke that does seem to straddle both worlds, and well, is Emily’s co-worker, who may or may not be a hero. He has the stereotypical look and he disappears when there’s danger. And another coworker’s quest to prove he’s Green Lantern is honestly weird and funny.
Also working well is Alan Tudyk as the dickish new boss, who is also the son of the CEO. It’s probably not surprising that his physical comedy and rambling ad-libs (they seem like ad-libs, at least) are funny, but he certainly got the most laughs out of the audience.
Powerless isn’t bad, it’s just that it’s a cookie-cutter workplace comedy wasting the superhero concept that’s meant to distinguish it. When it airs this fall, there’ll certainly be room for improvement.