Friday, February 17, 2017

TV Mini Review: Powerless

I am a DC Comics fanboy.  I am also a big fan of shows like Arrow and The Flash.  So when it was announced that they were doing a DC Universe Sitcom on NBC, I was very excited.

Powerless takes place in Charm city where Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) has just moved.  Obsessed with superheroes, she takes a job at Wayne Security to work for Bruce's idiot cousin Van (Alan Tudyk).  She supervises a group of misfit inventors and engineers that include Teddy (Danny Pudi).  Together they attempt to create safety equipment in a world of super-powered beings while navigating the foibles of every day office life.

The biggest drawback so far is that the show leans in too much to the silliness of its own concept.  Rather than take the world they live in absolutely seriously and letting the comedy come from there, there is a constant winking at the camera pushes the show to feel much closer to a SNL sketch than a workplace comedy.

Right now, the comedy is too broad and the characters too flat.  It feels very much in tone and style to the short-lived Better Off Ted, which covered a lot of the same satirical ground.  In general, comedies that take place at work suffer in comparison to The Office, which also tended to address universal job experiences.  Now when sitcoms make fun of things like idiot bosses, you can't help but feel "The Office did it better."

But Powerless is not hopeless.

Other shows began with too simplistic a start, like The Goldbergs.  But if given enough time, I can see the show really growing into itself.  Powerless actually has a lot of things going for it.

They have pretty great cast.  While they are playing things a bit dimensional, it is more a failing in the writing than their acting.  Hudgens is has a natural likability that prevents her from being too cloying.  Tudyk as a fantastic comedic delivery.  And Pudi is great as always.  Two other standouts are Christina Kirk as Van's cynical assistant Jackie and Ron Funches as Ron, the science nerd from Atlantis.

So far, three episodes have aired and they've been getting subsequently better.  Right now its current strength lies in its quick-paced dialogue.  The scripts try to pack in jokes at a mile-a-minute, which I love.  The little DC easter eggs are incredibly fun for me, but may not appeal to the general viewer.

And the writing is improving, or at least the jokes are making me laugh more.  Funches delivered a line that made have to pause the show.  When discussing the possible secret identity of one of their co-workers, Funches says, "It's like my theory about how Bruce Wayne is the Flash or how Stephen Baldwin is really just a character played by Alec Baldwin."

As the show improves, my enjoyment grows.  I hope NBC gives it a chance to find its way.

3 out of 5 stars.

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