NBC's live-action DC Comics superhero workplace comedy (say that three times fast) Powerless has gone through a little bit of re-jiggering; in the original iteration, the Vanessa Hudgens-led sitcom had her at an insurance agency that helps people collect on the collateral damage done by superheroes.
Now, the concept has been tweaked: Hudgens is director of research and development for Wayne Security, a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises that specializes in products that make defenseless bystanders feel a little safer. The agency exists in a realm known as Earth-P, its own universe within the DC multiverse. "The idea is we're going to pull from the entire canon of the comics. We want to show as much of the DC breadth as possible," executive producer Patrick Schumacker said at the Television Critics Association winter previews Wednesday.
But even with producers confident in an uniquely uh, powerfully geek-friendly funny show, puling it off — or more specifically, the writing of it — did require some big leaps and bounds. As you can imagine, the DC Comics franchise is very protective of its characters, so negotiating storylines and appearances can be tricky.
"There's a lot of going up to them and saying, "Hey, can we sh-- on this?" said executive producer Justin Halpern. Most folks' knowledge about the DC Comics doesn't extend far past the Big 5 — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan and Barry Allen — so writers and producers have to carefully manage how they roll out lesser-known heroes, as well as how they're shown. "If you want to see Batman's hands pop into frame, you'd have to get [Ben] Affleck," he said. On top of that, The CW's wunderkind Greg Berlanti has a near monopoly on DC characters, creating a scenario that requires permission to involve characters.
Fortunately, producers have invented a world that doesn't revolve around the superheroes, but the everyday people who are affected by their actions down on Earth-P. The movies we've come to love (or hate, depending) haven't happened; the Berlanti-verse is its own separate thing too. That's good news for DC Comics nerds who'll no doubt be bummed by inconsistencies. Powerless doesn't have to worry about existing rules... unless, of course, it wants to. "I never know when they're going to fight us on something," Halpern said. "The lesson I've learned is to ask for everything. Or just do it, and then get a laugh at the table read and then they're stuck with it."
Powerless premieres Thursday, Feb. 2 at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.