NBC’s new comedy series POWERLESS, set in the DC Universe filled with all its superheroes but focusing on the normal citizens of that world, does have one power: to be very, very mildly amusing! Sometimes.
Yeah, it’s not looking good.
I had had higher hopes for the second episode, as first episodes of comedies tend to be pretty heavy on the set-up and light on the jokes. Second episodes should REALLY come at you fast and hard with the funny. But tonight’s episode “Wayne Dream Team” did no such thing.
We open on Emily and Jackie walking to work through Charm City. The A storyline is quickly set-up by Emily commenting how she thinks the office can be friendlier. Jackie insists that she’s the boss and can’t be friends with her employees. A fine premise ripe for comedy. And just as a reminder we’re in the world we’re in, the cold open ends with some super villain attacking the city while our characters are purchasing scones from a street vendor. The villain drops a safe or something on the cart and the vendor delivers a flat “We’re out of everything.” Hoo-boy, gonna be a rough episode.
The project of the week at Wayne Security is the “rumbrella” an umbrella that protects you (and presumably the scones you’re attempting to sell/buy) from falling debris in a superhero/super villain clash above you. Emily insists to her team that they need to complete it in a quick time frame to impress corporate. This proves more difficult than anticipated when Ron, Teddy, and Wendy start their draft for the Fantasy Superhero League (like Fantasy Football, except instead of which wide receiver ran the most yards, think which superhero saved the most people). While it may be a distraction from the task at hand, it’s also an opportunity for Emily to get in with her underlings and find the friends she’s been looking for. And for the record, they have their work cut out for them. When they demonstrate the current rumbrella model, imagining Ron’s granny as the customer, her head gets knocked off easily by falling debris.
Troubled with her team’s lackadaisical approach and procrastination, Emily needs to figure out a way to motivate them to meet the deadline. Jackie advises her that she needs to be the bad guy. Emily decides to go to HR to ask him to block their Fantasy League site from their work computers. This backfires when HR actually just goes ahead and blocks every site on the internet besides LinkedIn. The entire office throws a fit, Emily feels guilty, and demands HR give them the internet back, though he refuses. When Teddy, Ron, and Wendy see her leaving HR, she tells them she was in there fighting for them. They quickly kick Susan out of their Fantasy League, and invite Emily in (one of the few times I laughed this episode–hey, being mean to people unnecessarily is always funny).
However, if you couldn’t figure it out, Emily is eventually caught in her lie when HR calls her out on it in front of everyone. She’s kicked right back out of the Fantasy League and she’s even further from being actual friends with her coworkers than ever. The one way to fix it? Suck it up and watch the six-hour anti-bullying video enough for everyone–which is FOUR TIMES. The team sees her endure this torture for them (she eventually is seen twitching in her seat like an insane person while watching it the last time) and decide Emily is, if not their friend, then at least not a bad boss after all. They end up inviting her to join the league once again (and advise she take Crimson Fox over Batman in the draft, also kind of funny).
AND they finish the rumbrella in time! But when Van Wayne points out the debris just spills off the sides of the rumbrella taking out other civilians, they point out this works to their advantage: EVERYONE will have to buy a rumbrella to be safe.
In the B Story this week, Van (Alan Tudyk) is upset he got cropped out of the Wayne Dream Team photo that now decorates a wall of the front office. He goes through painstaking effort to get himself on there, snapping pics of himself, hiring graphic designers to photoshop him in, etc. When he does get in it is revealed he did the “two hands as guns” gesture for the pic. The rest of the office promptly makes him into a meme. In the end Jackie sees that his actual picture is added to the photo (he was originally cropped out because he was blinking).
Overall, the episode was again light on laughs, and even lighter on the superhero aspect of the show. And without that it’s just another mediocre workplace comedy. Bring the superlaughs soon, Powerless. It’s your only hope.
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Powerless airs Thursday at 830PM on NBC
Paul transferred from the Gotham City branch of The Tracking Board offices where he used to write reviews for shows with actual superheroes starring in them.
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Paul Gulyas | Contributor