NBC’s Powerless is a cute, energetic vision of the DC Comics universe, an idea that would’ve been inconceivable just a few years ago. Instead of being restricted to using off-brand characters like Kick-Ass or The Tick, it’s a genre savvy superhero sitcom that exists in the same world as A-listers like Batman and the Joker.
Vanessa Hudgens stars as Emily Locke, a naive out-of-towner who just moved to Charm City, where superhero battles are a daily nuisance. As one character puts it, “The number one cause of workplaces accidents is Superman crashing through office windows mid-flight.”
Emily is determined to make an impact as the new head of Wayne Security’s research and development lab, but her new coworkers are less enthusiastic. After years of being told their supervillain-busting inventions are too expensive or unrealistic, they’ve been reduced to building knockoff versions of Lexcorp products.
It’s obviously hard to judge from just the pilot episode, but the Powerless cast already seems promising. Hudgens’ cartoonishly exaggerated facial expressions and can-do attitude set the tone for a simple and lighthearted comedy, which will appeal to fans of the short-lived cult series The Middleman. Her role in the pilot is mostly dedicated to scene-setting and introductions, but the supporting cast includes several comedic heavy-hitters.
The eternally charming Danny Pudi (Community) plays an NBC-friendly parody of tech industry cynicism, using buzzwords like “disrupt” and switching rapidly between fake enthusiasm and sarcastic quips. Meanwhile Alan Tudyk—who at this point has appeared in seemingly every geek franchise in Hollywood—plays the boss Van Wayne, a lazy, name-dropping airhead who spends most of his time shopping for katanas on Ebay and texting his cousin Bruce. (Bruce Wayne, needless to say, does not appear onscreen.)
Powerless is an undeniably traditional office sitcom, but traditional doesn’t necessarily mean dull. The ground-level comic book setting provides plenty of material, and while it may not reach the heights of NBC hits like 30 Rock and Parks & Rec, it boasts a strong cast and a fresh way of adapting a franchise that already has five live-action shows on the air.
Powerless premieres Thursday at at 8:30pm ET, 7:30pm CT.