Of the more than 400 TV shows currently vying for your attention, approximately half are based on existing comic book properties. Well, that's what it feels like anyway.
Following the success of The CW's superhero franchise and in the wake of Marvel dominating the box office, more and more networks are producing series following the valiant efforts of well-known superheroes than ever before. Now, with the addition of NBC's Powerless and FX's Legion to the lineup in February, it seems comic book-based programs don't even need superheroes, well known or otherwise, to be greenlit.
Powerless, which has the distinction of being the first sitcom set within the DC Universe, is a new workplace comedy centered around regular folks without powers — they're powerless, get it? — who work in research and development at Wayne Securities, a subsidiary of Wayne Industries that creates products designed to make innocent bystanders feel a little safer in a world that's become overrun with superheroes and super-villains.
Vanessa Hudgens stars as Emily Locke, the overly enthusiastic new director of R&D who truly wants to make the world a better place. Standing in her way is Alan Tudyk's Van Wayne, cousin of Bruce Wayne and head of Wayne Security who desperately wants to be promoted to the Gotham City office.
"Emily's the type of girl that's good at almost everything," Hudgens recently told TVGuide.com. "Van ... is just the rich, spoiled guy who's never had to work very hard in his life, and my character wants to change the world, so they clash a lot."
When the entire company faces termination in the pilot because the work they do has become obsolete in the eyes of Bruce, Emily and her team of cynical scientists, played by Danny Pudi, Ron Funches and Jennie Pierson, must come up with a great new product that will reinvigorate the company and convince their billionaire boss not to shut them down.
The premiere, titled "Wayne or Lose," hits all the necessary pilot beats as it introduces viewers to the team and presents a challenge for them to eventually overcome, while also setting Van up as a larger foil for Emily as the season progresses. It's a familiar situation that viewers have seen literally hundreds of time, but one that's a bit different than originally imagined.
The original concept for Powerless featured Hudgens portraying a young insurance adjuster who handled coverage related to the damage and destruction caused by the frequent battles between heroes and villains. The retooling process began 15 weeks in, something executive producer Patrick Schumacker told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour earlier this month was necessary to be able to tell the stories they wanted to tell.
"We had a nice sit down with DC in the studio with [DC Chief Creative Officer] Geoff Johns and kind of brainstormed where else we could take it that we could tell classic workplace comedy stories but in a way that kind of activates the DC universe a little bit more," Schumacker said. "We landed on security products because we still wanted to do the idea that they are working on stuff that makes everybody like you or me a little bit safer in a world where demigods are flying around in the sky, wrecking buildings, causing falling rubble and that sort of thing."
However, just because the show is set in the world of Batman and other familiar superheroes, viewers should not expect to see the familiar faces belonging to stars of either the DC films or the CW's DC Universe created by Greg Berlanti. Although they technically all exist within the larger DC Universe, they're all separate worlds.
"The marketing team treats the films as if they happen in this world, but in the show we tend to not," explained executive producer Justin Halpern. "In any of these superhero battles, there seems to be collateral damage that no one ever pays attention to, so it didn't feel like it was exclusive just to those films."
In fact, the goal for the show is to actually portray as much of the wider DC universe as possible.
"Hopefully, we've been able to kind of introduce new characters that are in the DC canon," said Halpern, "but in a way that everyone else will be able to kind of digest them."
Powerless premieres Thursday, Feb. 2 at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.