February 3, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Powerless”


POWERLESS:  Thursday 8:30PM on NBC – If Nothing Else is On…

So far, NBC’s POWERLESS is merely a clever idea for a sitcom.  It’s set on the fringes of the DC superhero universe, in Charm City, where Wayne Security (owned by the unseen Bruce, who of course has things to do in Gotham) exists to create products that can safeguard innocent bystanders caught in the midst of super-villain attacks (and for that matter, superhero battles).

The gimmick of Powerless is also its limitation:  it treats life under the constant threat of comic book destruction as just another day at the office.  Series showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacher (who replaced creator Ben Queen, and who wrote the aired pilot) have delivered a broad, very typical sitcom that lacks superpowers of its own.  Our protagonist is the relentlessly chipper Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens, trying very very hard), a newcomer to Charm City who’s been hired as Wayne Security’s new head of R&D.  She works for Van Wayne (Alan Tudyk), who only wants the company to shut down so that he can go work with his cousin Bruce.  Emily’s department is made up of Teddy (Pudi), Ron (Ron Funches) and Jackie (Christina Kirk), who are various shades of cynical and enthusiastic.

That’s a lot of idiosyncratic talent, and Hudgens is likable, but Powerless hasn’t yet melded them as an ensemble.  Pilot director Mark Buckland gets to play around with glimpses of special effects that are unusual for a half-hour, and he may have spent more time with those toys than with the actors, who are all, to one extent or another, over the top.  Hudgens needs to have more to play than wide-eyed positivity, Tudyk will require more layers than bumbling scheming, and the rest of the cast is simply undeveloped.

Many sitcoms require time to discover their proper tones, and Powerless, which is more unusual than most, deserves a chance to prove itself over several episodes.  As of its pilot, though, its repartee is less snappy than Supergirl‘s, so it’s got plenty of work ahead.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."