It's a thought that goes through my head during every superhero battle on TV or in the movies: what about all those regular people getting rubble rained on them? Do they hate this, or what? NBC has turned the plight of the average citizen sharing a city with caped crusaders into the new comedy Powerless, premiering on Feb. 2. Vanessa Hudgens, Danny Pudi, and Alan Tudyk lead an ensemble cast in what's essentially a workplace sitcom with one big twist. Wayne Security is responsible for developing products that protect mere mortals from superhero fallout, an ongoing problem in the town of Charm City. Powerless will incorporate DC references and characters into its episodes, but is the setting someplace you should already know? Has Charm City appeared in DC Comics?
It has the ring of a comic book town, but Charm City isn't lifted from an existing DC storyline. The Hollywood Reporter quoted Powerless co-showrunner Patrick Schumacker from the Television Critics Association press tour, saying that Wayne Security is located in a "totally made-up city."
Notably, Powerless airs on a different network than the Arrowverse. So business matters make it tricky and maybe even impossible for the comedy to ever recognize the characters and situations in the CW's DC block. To that end, Powerless not only exists in a newly-invented city but also in a different universe. The creatives refer to the Powerless universe as as "Earth-P," per TV Line. Earth-P exists on a different plane than The Flash, Supergirl, Legends Of Tomorrow, and Arrow, as Fox's Gotham, and the DC cinematic universe. (So, no drop-ins by Jared Leto's Joker, if that weren't already obvious.)
However, the show was given permission by their bosses to poke some fun at the ridiculously bleak Batman V. Superman movie. "It’s always going up to [DC] and being like, ‘Hey, can we s*** on this?’ and usually they have a good sense of humor about it," co-showrunner Justin Halpern said at the TCAs, according to TV Line. So I hope there's more good-natured ribbing of DC mythos ahead.
The who-owns-what of it all may sound as if it could be constrictive for the show, but I think Powerless will actually benefit from hanging out in its own section of the multiverse. And it's not as if naming names is entirely verboten. Tudyk's ingratiating boss character is Bruce Wayne's cousin and very eager to impart that information to everyone he meets. But Charm City isn't Gotham City, so the creators say those jokes will be used sparingly. "We make it a point not to use Batman and Bruce Wayne as a crutch," Halpern said, according to that same Hollywood Reporter article.
Since so many superhero dramas have already set up residence on network TV, it's a clever concept to put a traditional sitcom set-up into a comic book universe. Will viewers enjoy spending time in Charm City as much as they do the hometowns of The Flash, Oliver Queen, and the rest? Powerless has something that no other comedy on TV has: a sister relationship to a rich superhero canon.