DC Comics is trying something new with its upcoming NBC series Powerless. Thus far on television, the company has been producing drama series ranging from the uplifting and optimistic Supergirl to the gritty drama of Arrow or Gotham. Powerless is something else entirely, new to DC Comics but old hat for NBC: a workplace comedy.
NBC began promoting the series this week with a set of promos that present a clear idea of what the show will be. The first promo features Vanessa Hudgens’s character, Emily Locke, reciting the famous “is it a bird/plane” Superman line before getting showered with plaster as two sparring superheroes damage a nearby skyscraper. It’s not a good look for the new Director of Research and Development at Wayne Security.
The promo sets the tone for Powerless. Set in the DC Comics universe, the show takes place at a company struggling to hold itself together in a city plagued with capes and masks. The company may be called Wayne Security, but Bruce Wayne is not the guiding hand of this particular Wayne Enterprises subsidiary. That honor belongs to Van Wayne, an original character created for the series who happens to be Bruce’s cousin.
Van Wayne is played by Alan Tudyk of Firefly and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story fame. Van seems to be more obsessed with vanity (hence his first name) than Bruce, as seen in the most recent promo for the series posted to the official Powerless Twitter.
— Powerless (@NBCPowerless) January 13, 2017
The rest of the Powerless cast rounds up some highlights from recent NBC comedies. These castings were reported in February by Comicbook.com, although Tudyk’s character had yet to receive the Wayne family name. Christina Kirk is here as Jackie, one of Emily’s co-workers who is obsessed with superheroes. Kirk was most recently on Powerless creator Ben Queen’s NBC romantic comedy A to Z.
Danny Pudi plays Emily’s work best friend Teddy. He is described as a prankster who attempts to make the workplace less “unsuper.” This plants him firmly in the well-worn shoes of The Office‘s Jim Halpert, though Pudi hails from a different NBC comedy: the cult classic Community.
— Jill Pantozzi ♿ (@JillPantozzi) January 16, 2017
IndieWire reported on Ron Funches joining the Powerless cast in the summer of 2016. Funches plays a character aptly named Ron, an I.T. guy who still loves superheroes. His optimism should provide a contrast to the more jaded responses to superheroes present in the new promos. Funches was most recently on NBC’s Undateable and is a veteran of The Kroll Show, where he was both writer and actor.
The ensemble is the star of another NBC promo, which is centered around two engineering jokes: designing an anti-rubble umbrella and a “wear bag” which should ideally protect against super-powered violence.
“It’s only good for one use,” Pudi’s character quips in the promo as the bag falls to one swing from a baseball bat.
Although details are fuzzy on what kind of superheroes may or may not be dropping into Powerless, the pilot is confirmed to feature characters from Justice League Europe, Crimson Fox and Jack O’Lantern, according to ScreenCrush. The degree to which other characters may appear on the show depends greatly on DC Comics, who have shown reluctance to allow characters from different media (and different television networks) to cross over.
That may mean actual appearances by recognizable characters will be rare, or it may mean Powerless will be running with the DC Comics D-listers—heroes and villains virtually unrecognizable to anyone not intimately familiar with the company’s extensive lore.
Either way, Powerless represents another step for NBC in building a stable of fresh comedies. Seven years ago, Thursday nights on NBC meant a full two hours of the network’s most recent greatest hits: The Office, Parks and Recreation, Community, and 30 Rock. Now that the network has a companion for its current high-performing workplace comedy Superstore and a budding Community-esque weirdo show in The Good Place, a new Thursday block of high-quality comedies may soon emerge.
A photo posted by Powerless (@nbcpowerless) on
Powerless premieres February 2.
[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]