You might have superhero fatigue from watching too many Avengers movies in one sitting, but that's nothing compared to the residents of Charm City. NBC's new half-hour comedy Powerless shows the havoc caused in the lives of everyday citizens when superheroes fly in to save the day. Since it's produced by DC, it should come as no surprise that Powerless will use comic book heroes, villains, locations, and more, but probably not in the way you'd expect. While you'll hear iconic DC names, there won't be many appearances from those popular characters themselves.
Powerless is on NBC, separating it from the Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow DC universe on The CW. It's also separate from the WB's movie universe where the biggest heroes, like Superman and Batman, can be seen battling for the fate of the world. And unlike those adaptations, Powerless is not based on any single comic. All of its eccentric, comedic lead characters are original to the show, though NBC's President of Entertainment, Jennifer Salke, told IGN that it is free to reference any DC character and features some on screen. "The idea isn't that it's the creme de la creme of the superheroes," she said. "It's a world where there's a whole population of superheroes with all sorts of all challenges themselves. So you're seeing quite a range of characters in that realm in addition to our great, kind of grounded human ensemble." That means there's everything from mentions of the big names down to appearances from some of the more obscure DC characters.
There is a tradition of depicting the lives of ordinary humans in the DC Comics universe. For example, Gotham Central, a short series about the lives of Gotham City police officers, is beloved by comic fans. Like Powerless, it addresses how wildly dangerous it is to live in a city besieged by supervillains as a non-powered human.
Also like Gotham Central, Powerless is making some overt references to the Dark Knight, possibly the most powerful hero who doesn't have powers himself. Emily, the protagonist of the series, works at Wayne Securities, and that name is no coincidence. A "subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises," the company is owned and operated by Bruce Wayne, but instead of Batman being a regular part of the series, his lazy cousin Van is Emily's boss.
Rather than going out of its way to avoid its DC inspiration, Powerless is embracing the fact that it's about ordinary people in a world with extraordinary heroes. The big guys don't really notice the protagonists, and the occasional appearances from less well-known DC heroes and villains should delight fans. This street-level look at what it's like to live in a world with superheroes makes Powerless a fresh take on the same universe that already populates a handful of TV series.