‘Powerless’ packs a comedic punch
Unlike any of the other existing DC Universe shows and films, “Powerless” is a sitcom that points out the absurdities of conflicts between costume-clad figures—from the perspective of regular—or “powerless”—people.
The character that introduces us to this rarely seen viewpoint is Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens), a bubbly go-getter who moves to chaotic Charm City, often a site for destructive superhero-supervillain feuds.
Emily is the new director of the Research and Development division of Wayne Security, recently hired by Van Wayne (Alan Tudyk), the inept and spoiled cousin of Gotham City billionaire Bruce Wayne.
Newcomer Emily is initially ignored by her colleagues, like secretary Jackie (Christina Kirk) and inventor-mechanics Ron (Ron Funches), Teddy (Danny Pudi) and Wendy (Jennie Pierson). But she wins them over in due time, proving her mettle and finding her place in the company that sells gadgets for the protection of regular humans.
Some have scoffed at the sitcom (Fridays, 8 p.m., Jack TV) early in its release, but while it may not be immediately endearing and laugh-out-loud hilarious, it does grow on you, especially if you’re familiar with the DC Universe from the live-action worlds, cartoons and the comic books depicting variations of it.
While poking fun at metahuman behavior and Van’s bratty, clueless ways, the jokes aren’t always wholesome, but they’re just fine for older viewers who might want a break from the confines of more family-friendly fare.
Almost nothing is sacred; all is made fun of—including Emily/Hudgens’ half-Filipino heritage (Wendy: “Filipinos are notoriously bad listeners.”), when the characters wryly talk about race issues.
The show, developed by “Cars 2” screenwriter Ben Queen, is reminiscent of Marvel’s old comics series, “Damage Control,” which is about normal people dealing with the aftermath of superbattles.
It isn’t a hero-centric show, although one may count Emily as a genuinely altruistic person. The effervescent Hudgens is pretty likeable, balancing out the louder, more “slapsticky” Tudyk, as well as the low-key humor of Kirk, and the quirkier gags of the brainiacs.
Despite references to superheroes like Batman, Robin and The Flash, they never truly appear onscreen, but can figure into the resolution of a subplot—for instance, when Teddy, Ron and Van are saved offscreen by the Caped Crusader!
“Powerless” also has its own, exclusive superheroes (Crimson Fox, Green Fury and The Olympian), who have occasional interactions with the group of proactive civilians.
But again, it isn’t about those types of heroic sagas; instead, we see Emily unwittingly go out on a date with a hot henchman, or Van salvaging a potentially disastrous business deal with the amphibious Atlanteans, and so on.
They’re in the periphery, but these very human, half-hour stories are effectively mined for hilarity, making “Powerless” a welcome respite, a brightly lit alternate world that’s a breather from the often-serious, doom-and-gloom scenarios of regular superhero shows.