I can’t believe I’m saying this, but...I kind of love this show.
As NBC’s incessant advertising has explained, Powerless is a new comedy about a group of Wayne Security employees who develop gadgets designed to help people live normal lives in a superhero universe. Because life in a major city — with a major superhero and supervillains — kind of sucks, because of said superhero and supervillains super battles causing collateral damage.
It’s kind of amazing how a show like that can either be good or bad depending on the characters and the writing. Thankfully, the characters are good (even if they are at the moment a bag of quirks instead of three dimensional) and the writing is amazing. When I joked that Powerless was set in a pre-Crisis world, I didn’t know how accurate I was or how it actually was going to be: because Powerless isn’t just Silver Age — it’s Silver-Age-going-on-Dark-Age. At one point, Van says, “Gone are the days of a man in a bandit mask stealing a ruby from a museum. Now there it’s all just supervillains trying to destroy the Earth, and superheroes fighting each other for vaguely defined reasons.” (A knock against Batman v Superman or Civil War or both?) It has one character — Ron Funches’ character who is imaginatively named “Ron” — comment that, “We all know that the number one cause of workplace accidents is Superman crashing through office windows mid-fight, that’s a simple fact.”
Of course, all these jokes wouldn’t work without a good POV character and Vanessa Hudgens as “Emily Locke” is a great one. She is chipper and cheerful to a fault and also carries around Bruce Wayne’s book Wayne or Lose in which she has apparently annotated (“A star is better than a circle but is worse than a heart.”). Also, apparently Bruce Wayne can only write in terrible aphorisms.
The cast is rounded out by Ron Funches, Danny Pudi (playing “Teddy,” who is basically Abed 2.0), Christina Kirk as Jackie, the cynical secretary who used to be like Emily, and, of course, Alan Tudyk as Vanderveer “Van” Wayne, who is simply the best because Alan Tudyk is simply the best and I love his delivery so much. When Emily confronts him about not telling her that he fired the previous four people in her position, he says, “Technically, one of them was killed by falling debris, so that’s kind of like God firing them.”
Powerless is what would happen if you took Damage Control and then made it more like Better Off Ted. It’s a show that really shouldn’t work and yet it does. And it does it by being bright and colorful and saying “Yes, we know that superhero movies can be dark and cynical, but we’re just trying to have some fun.”
The AVClub has a good list of Easter Eggs, including:
- A billboard for Blackhawk Airways.
- The President-Elect is apparently Lex Luthor, who will “Make Metropolis Super Again.”
- The newscaster’s name was Marv Wolfman.
In any case: I totally recommend this show.