When it seems like half of the television shows these days are comic book affiliated, a comedy within that same world seemed like the obvious avenue to explore. But while Powerless set itself to be something new and bold, it has instead clung to the boring and old.
Powerless isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good. While funny lines and witty replies are expected in comedies, it’s the characters and situations that are remembered and cherished. Powerless has developed characters that are too bland; it could be completely recast and no one would notice. This isn’t a dig to the actors because there is some real talent there, but unfortunately they are playing characters that have no originality.
Part of the problem is Powerless’s lack of exploration of their newfound comedy. There aren’t many comedies that come from the superhero world, and therefore they should march to the beat of their own drum without the fear of comparisons. The show relies too heavily on its Silicon Valley vibe and its superhero loving nerds, both of which already exist on shows Like Silicon Valley and The Big Bang Theory. Powerless makes it clear it doesn’t want to lean too much on the superhero’s story and yet those moments so far are some of the more interesting parts of the show.
Although it may be different in terms of its superhero world, its at-work half has big competition. In order to have an interesting story of the goings on of an office, you need to have an interesting cast. Parks and Recreation was able to nearly persuade you to join local government (in Ron Swanson’s dismay). Powerless shouldn’t have to work so hard to make Wayne Security look cool. And yet there isn’t enough behind the scenes of experimenting with the gadgets. The show doesn’t need to be at the level of Inspector Gadget, except maybe it should because that would be cool! But boring office or not, it is about not having boring and stereotypical characters.
If Powerless was on a smaller channel, like TBS, it may survive. But being on NBC means a short lifespan if you can’t find a big enough audience. NBC is building up its comedy block and has some solid shows, including The Good Place and Superstore. If Powerless wants to power-on, it needs to do just that. It needs to step it up and bring those characters away from being stuck in an office. Have developing story lines instead of packing it into one episode, and most importantly allow the characters to be more than the “insert here” sitcom character.
NBC is aware of its less than ideal opening month, but still have hope for success. President of NBC Entertainment, Jennifer Salke, comments:
“[Powerless] did not open to the most exciting numbers, which was OK because we thought it would be viewed by a digital audience really strongly. We’re still looking at it. I just wish it was performing better, but we haven’t’ made decisions. We’re going to continue to air it and we’re behind it.”
Maybe Powerless will find a digital audience. But regardless on how many people watch, Powerless has some tinkering to do.