Between network, cable, and streaming services, there are plenty of comic book-based television dramas ranging from The CW’s Arrowverse to FOX’s campy Gotham and Netflix’s burgeoning Defenders universe, among many others. However, both Marvel and DC Comics are gearing up for the half-hour comedy treatment on network television, with ABC developing two comedies — including Damage Control, which has already been ordered to pilot — and NBC’s Powerless.
NBC ordered Powerless to pilot earlier this year as a half-hour comedy inspired by the world of DC Comics, with the twist being that it would focus on a group of powerless office workers at an insurance agency. Now, Powerless has added its first cast member to the workplace comedy as pilot production season gears up.
Variety is reporting Vanessa Hudgens (Spring Breakers) has been cast as original character Emily Locke, “an insurance claims adjuster who loves her job because she gets to help people.” Emily prefers to keep her head down and get her work done, which puts her at odds with the more noticeable antics of the superheroes in her city. Michael Patrick Jann (A to Z, Reno 911!) will direct the pilot episode, which was written by Ben Queen (A to Z, Cars 2).
Powerless marks Hudgens’ first regular role in a television series, as well as her first appearance in a comic book role. The actress rose to fame in the Disney Channel TV movie High School Musical and starred in its two sequels, including the theatrically released High School Musical 3: Senior Year. In addition to her family-friendly roles, Hudgens has taken parts in more edgy fare such as Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch and Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills. Hudgens has also utilized her musical talents on stage, most recently starring in FOX’s Grease Live.
If the premise for Powerless — a workplace comedy along the lines of The Office, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock — wasn’t already an indication that NBC is hoping to capture a more mainstream audience, the casting of Hudgens certainly makes that clear. Though the actress herself may not have the same kind of name recognition as DC Comics, she is well-known among audiences who may not be as familiar with the comic publisher, its characters, or its other television series.
That being said, most of the current shows based on either DC or Marvel comics have struck a balance between entertaining casual viewers while not alienating comic book fans. Though certain series like Gotham or Lucifer are less successful in that regard, Powerless could prove to bring in plenty of mainstream viewers while giving comic fans comedy counter-programming to the more established superhero dramas. This combination of viewers could potentially help the series be more successful on NBC, which has a certain standard for ratings — one that recently proved difficult for comic-based series Constantine to maintain.
Screen Rant will keep you updated on Powerless as more information becomes available.