“Powerless,” television’s first comedy set in the universe of DC Comics, premieres at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on NBC, set at a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises, the conglomerate owned by Bruce Wayne.
“Powerless” stars “High School Musical” alumna Vanessa Hudgens as the newly hired director of research & development for Wayne Security, which specializes in products that make defenseless bystanders feel a little safer in a world where humanity must cope with the collateral damage of battles between superheroes and super villains.
The company is run by Van Wayne (Alan Tudyk), a cousin of Bruce Wayne, who is “constantly trying to achieve that dangling carrot of getting a job in the Gotham office,” executive producer Patrick Schumacker said.
“We sort of saw the Waynes kind of like … the Rockefellers,” executive producer Justin Halpern said at last month’s Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour. “You have people who run the company and then you have a bunch of … hangers on. It’s a big field of nepotism.”
“Powerless” will make reference to the high-profile DC Comics characters, like Batman and Superman, but they won’t be seen, Schumacker said.
The original setting of “Powerless” was an insurance company that sold policies covering people suffering collateral damage from battles involving superheroes, Schumacker said.
A pilot with that premise was shot in March and the series was ordered by NBC.
“What we found it was difficult to articulate what insurance people do and we could only rely on interpersonal stories,” Schumacker said. “Not a lot of people understand insurance, including the writing staff.
“We ended up in a place where the sort of victory for the team in an insurance world was actually kind of screwing people over, so we wanted to go do something that was a little bit more obviously heroic and not really morally complex.”
A series of meetings with executives from Warner Bros. Television and NBC ensued. The revised premise came from an approximately two-hour meeting with DC Comics President and Chief Creative Office Geoff Johns. The episode airing tonight was shot in November, Schumacker said.
Subsequent episodes will tell stories “that really do have a lot of emotional content underneath the comedy,” Schumacker told City News Service.
“Justin and I are not inclined normally to get into the emotional state of things. We’re more joke guys (who write) funny stories,” said Schumacker, who like Halpern was a producer on the ABC comedy “Cougar Town,” the CBS comedy “$#*! My Dad Says,” The CW horror series “iZombie” and the Fox comedy “Surviving Jack.”
“Working with NBC and what they want to do with their brand (has) brought us to a place where I think we’ve been able to synthesize the emotion with the comedy.”
—City News Service