Culture

NBC's 'Powerless,' a DC Comics Vehicle, Flounders in Second Week

While Marvel is the comic book king of the silver screen, DC owns the living rooms of comic geeks throughout the nation. Shows like ArrowThe Flash, and Gotham have thrilled fans, even if the universes aren’t all intertwined (Arrow and The Flash take place in the “Arrowverse,” while Gotham does not). With that in mind, NBC sought to jump on the bandwagon with its comedy Powerless, which is about folks in the DC universe who aren’t superheroes.

Unfortunately, Powerless may refer to more than the characters — the sitcom lost almost 10 percent of its viewers from the previous week, and the numbers weren’t particularly strong during its premiere.

Despite a surprisingly perky performance from Vanessa Hudgens as Emily Locke, plus a solid Alan Tudyk as Wayne Industries executive and poster child for nepotism Van Wayne (cousin to Bruce Wayne), the show lacks what made other DC-based franchises work.

Namely, superheroes.

While Bruce Wayne’s name gets dropped often, particularly by his cousin Van, and other DC A-listers are mentioned plenty, the only hero that has shown up so far has been D-List heroine Crimson Fox.

The show focuses on the people who must deal with the aftermath of these superhero battles. Though it sounds like a decent premise with lots of great stories to tell, Powerless went with a snarky take on the subject that feels as if comic fans are being mocked rather than entertained.

NBC wanted a half-hour comedy, and it is indeed funny, but it’s definitely not compelling storytelling. It simply plays off the stereotype of comic fans, who may not be willing to laugh at themselves.

For example, the pretty Emily Locke is excluded by the engineers despite her every effort to fit in. It’s a “social justice”-lite storyline that comic fans are inherently nerdy and would enjoy watching revenge fantasies played out for laughs. As one of those geeky kids, it’s kind of insulting.

Powerless is lacking despite great performances from Hudgens and the always-awesome Tudyk. If NBC wants to salvage this show, they need to recognize that fans don’t want their favorite genre treated with silliness masking contempt. The show could turn it around if the source materials — such as it is with a show like Powerless — can be respected.