DC has been having enormous success on television. The CW has a growing lineup of superhero shows, Supergirl is a hit for CBS, iZombie has a strong cult following built on smart writing and use of its concept, and both Gotham and Lucifer are doing well for Fox. And we haven’t even seen the debut of Preacher, yet. Still, DC is making arguably its boldest move yet, attempting to break into sitcoms with Powerless.
While rumors of Powerless have been going around for a while, NBC recently picked it up for a pilot and cast Vanessa Hudgens as Emily Locke, an insurance adjuster dealing with superheroes destroying the city on a regular basis. The basic concept is more or less one of the oldest jokes in comics, wondering who pays to fix all the property damage when Superman punches somebody through a building. Turns out it’ll be Locke, and her coworkers, trying to figure out if that’s an act of God or something they’ll pay out for.
Granted, DC has shown a willingness to do off-the-wall shows; this is a company that proudly has both a zombie and the Devil solving crimes on a weekly basis. But a workplace comedy seems to be a strange choice, even with Marvel developing a similar idea. While DC has a long history of releasing funny comic books, most recently Bizarro and the political satire Prez, they’re usually about the heroes themselves, not the everyday lives of people dealing with them.
But it makes sense once you look at the larger picture. DC is trying to have a little something for everybody, from Legends of Tomorrow for hardcore nerds to police procedurals for viewers uninterested in superheroes. But missing from that portfolio is a straight comedy, and the concept is, ultimately, universal. Everybody resents somebody who shows up, makes their job that much harder, and leaves. It also allows DC to roll out some characters that fans love, but translate better to outright comedy than the dramas they’re airing. Booster Gold and Plastic Man spring to mind as two examples, but DC has plenty of goofy heroes that it can put into this show that don’t really fit anywhere else.
The real question, of course, is how funny it will be, and currently Powerless is only an unfilmed pilot. But if it makes it to series, it’s got the potential to offer much more from DC than just the superheroes we’re used to.