Powerless First Impression: DC Comics Finds Success in Comedy

DC Comics is no stranger to primetime given its current crop of superhero dramas currently airing across network television. But its latest addition is perhaps one of its smartest. A comedy – yes, comedy – hailing from the studio that has brought us hits like Arrow and The Flash.

Powerless tells the story of the ordinary people in an extraordinary world where they find themselves dealing with the aftermath of these superheroes going about their duty to save the people of their city. It finally answers the question: what happens after the hero saves the city?

While there are certainly a number of references to superheroes and we even see them throughout the show, make no mistake this show is about the ordinary people in this world and how they perceive this super world. And it’s humorous, honest, and endearing.

Sure there was some hesitation on my part heading into this show. How would this work? Would DC find success in a comedy? But following this pilot I found those concerns put to rest. Simply put Powerless is a recipe that works.

Here are five takeaways from the Powerless pilot:

1. The Humor is Smart

Powerless is unique from the other DC properties on television in one fundamental way: it’s a comedy. But it’s not only a comedy; it’s a comedy where the humor is smart. It knows how to balance itself between that humor and emotional moments for the characters. The genius in the humor is that it never tries to do too much. It works perfectly with the tone of the moment and the characters. The show knows what it is and does a fantastic job of maintaining that balance of being a comedy and connecting with the audience in the right way, which is impressive for a pilot.

2. There are Easter Eggs Galore

Given Powerless’ setting within the DC Comics world there’s an expectation that there will be references to that world made throughout the show. And if the pilot is any indication then Powerless is going to be one hell of a place for DC Comics Easter Eggs. There were numerous nods to that universe, including Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Aquaman references, and even mentions of Big Belly Burger. Whether or not the show will eventually pay off those Easter Eggs like some of the dramas have remains to be seen. But when you have a character delivering the line “I want to nail Aquaman so hard” it almost doesn’t even matter if you ever get to see Aquaman make an appearance because it’s just so damn funny.

3. The Casting is Genius

The key to any successful comedy is the central cast that embodies the project. And Powerless has the perfect cast to bring this world to life. Whether it’s seasoned comedians like Alan Tudyk and Danny Pudi or Vanessa Hudgens, who is making her comedic debut, or the subtle presence of Christina Kirk, who will leave you cackling with her one-liners, every member of this cast brings something unique to this show. You can feel the camaraderie of this group and it’s something that just lights up the screen and makes this fictional world with superheroes all the more real.

4. It’s a New Take on Superheroes

DC Comics isn’t exactly hard to come by on television nowadays with five dramas between The CW and FOX. So the concept of bringing superheroes to the small screen isn’t a unique concept. However, focusing on the “after” part of when the superheroes save their city and how that affects the citizens of the city is a unique concept. Of course the comedic element certainly doesn’t hurt. But in Powerless we get a different point of view of these heroes. Sure, they’re still saving the lives of those in need. But you’ll also find yourself beginning to nod along with some people who are less than pleased with how these heroes sometimes interfere with their personal or work lives. Heroes are still heroes, but for the first time you’ll find yourself focusing on what happens after they save the city.

5. The Show is Already Well-Established

Powerless was my favorite pilot screened at Comic-Con mostly due to how it came across more as an established series than just a solid pilot. Lots of shows can have a solid pilot but never fully deliver on what it’s promising. The Powerless pilot felt like it delivered us an episode in what could’ve been the middle of a season because everything just flowed that well. We have this established world, an established concept, and we can see where this show is headed this season.

Powerless premieres midseason on NBC.

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