You know who seems really tired of superheroes? The people involved in Powerless, the superhero sitcom premiering on NBC Thursday night. Set in a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises — Batman’s day-to-day business operations — the new show has permission from DC Comics to poke fun at DC superheroes. But what comes across more forcefully is a weariness with the superhero overload in TV and movies right now.
The show’s premise: Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) is on her first day as director of Research & Development for Wayne Security. She meets her wacky crew of co-workers, who include Community’s Danny Pudi, doing an Abed dialed back to about a 3. Her boss is played by the always good Alan Tudyk (Firefly and tons of excellent voice performances in animated films ranging from Frozen to Moana). Tudyk is Van Wayne, cousin of Bruce, and his running gag is that his mighty relative never returns his texts — or when he does, it’s to tell Van things like: stop using my HBOGo password. It’s painful to see an actor as good as Tudyk made to force enthusiasm about calling Bruce Wayne “B-Dubs!”
Because it’s set in the R&D department, Powerless — get it? no one here has any superpowers — has ample opportunity to give us sight gags about hero-related inventions that don’t quite work properly. In fact, the department is so mediocre that Emily is the fifth boss hired in whatever year this is set. The best thing about Powerless are its opening credits, which use real frames of DC comic-book art from classic artists such as Carmine Infantino. The credits aren’t funny; they’re just beautiful.
Powerless airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.