How Powerless Sets the Tone for the Ordinary in a Heroic Universe

first_imgStay on target The room is large and bright, and not just because lights were plastered around. The walls are a steely brand of off white. The desks are crisp and clean, dotted with photos, computers, and random knick-knacks, including one desk with a Joker card displayed prominently. Off to one side is a small lab filled with 3D printers and other equipment. Next to that is a large black office with its own private bathroom. On the wall is a large picture of Alan Tudyk in a suit, and it’s probably the place’s most amusing feature.The set of Powerless looks like every early stage start-up, minus the crew with headsets bustling about and the elevator that goes nowhere. As Teddy (Danny Pudi) and Ron (Ron Funches) argue with Emily (Vanessa Hudgens) and Jackie (Christina Kirk) about whether somebody named Tony the Hot Dog guy is funny or creepy, a guy on a hoverboard floats by dropping off mail. There are multiple inspirational messages sketched out on the floor in electric tape, musings to make employees work harder (“teamwork makes the dream work”). On the wall, it says “change the world” but according to Tudyk, who plays Bruce Wayne’s less interesting cousin Van Wayne, it came with the office, so who cares really.The intricately styled stage sets the scene for Emily’s introduction to the world of Wayne Security and of Charm City, which is filled with people trying to live their daily lives without getting interrupted by a supervillain attack. The company is staffed with jaded employees with little creativity to invent preventive gadgets in a world filled with superheroes. The company has the potential to be something great. It has all the pieces. However, there’s something only half done about it. It looks like a start-up because it’s basically a failing one. By the time we enter Wayne Security in the pilot, it’s about to shut down.But that’s not a problem for Emily.“Emily’s very positive and very optimistic,” Hudgens said during a roundtable interview on the set. “She truly believes she can change the world and she wants to, and she wants to motivate people to do the same. But obviously, being around superheroes and supervillains and getting used to the damage they cause… and getting used to having the worst boss ever… it definitely is taxing on Emily, but she stays chipper.Powerless takes place in Charm City, which showrunner Patrick Schumaker says is like the DC universe’s Cleveland, although writer Sabrina Jalees says it also has a New Jersey vibe. Basically, it’s a nothing city–not large enough to be Metropolis or Gotham, and not boasting any big superhero names, but big enough that a girl from a small town (which the show calls a “flyover state” because of all the superheroes that never stop there) could strive to. They have Crimson Fox and, according to Schumaker, others that are “a little pissy” that they’re the B-team. When we meet the main cast, they also feel that way.Van specifically wants to get out as soon as possible. What we learn is that he looks up to his cousin Bruce, but a little too much, and without looking to put in any of the efforts.“He wants to go to Gotham, that’s where he wants to climb the ladder…he doesn’t want to do anything,” said Tudyk about Van. “He just wants to be asked to be there. He’s a Wayne. But he doesn’t work.”The people behind the show are a different story. The actors differ in how they relate to the DC universe (some are comic book fans, and some only know it from films), but all are excited to see what becomes of their characters.Evans Vestal Ward/Warner Bros/NBCPudi and Funches specifically, who are long time nerds, smiled when they talked about certain geeky topics. A batarang plays a role in one of the later episodes, for example, and both talked about getting to hold it. In another, Tudyk puts on a Robin costume.Even just rattling off names of things from the DC universe is amusing.“Flash was one of my favorites as a kid,” Pudi said, “Just being able to say ‘The Flash’ on television is exciting.”Don’t expect to see the Flash, or any of the other Justice League members for that matter, in any of the episodes. The point of Powerless is that Charm City is B-tier. There will be some Justice League Europe references and some visits from Atlantean businessmen. Schumaker said that the show has been a part of long discussions with DC about which characters to use, so the Justice League is a no-go, but the Global Guardians are fair game.“We want to make sure that we’re not trying to promise or over deliver characters here,” Pudi said. “Because I think then it becomes about the superheroes and that world more than it does about the office here.”What the viewers will get: Wayne Security, the mention of Bruce Wayne, vague glimpses of Batman’s stuff. The Wayne name is “brand recognition,” according to Schumaker. “It would be a touchstone for people who weren’t so hardcore in DC mythology,” he explained. This is why the plot was dramatically changed from its original incarnation, where everybody worked at an insurance agency.“We kind of hit a wall,” Schumaker explained. “Nobody on the staff understood the world of insurance. When the turnover happened, and we were asked to take over, we decided to do something that would more organically bring in the genre elements.”Evans Vestal Ward/NBCOnly the pilot episode was available to press before the premiere, but Jalees says that the showrunners are letting the writers tell their own human stories. One episode shows how an increase in villainy can make women feel uncomfortable without even phasing men and it draws on Jalees’ experiences in a post-Trump society.“Now more than ever, with the title being Powerless and the idea that we can all relate to having zero say or influence in these huge overarching things that have huge consequences to our lives and the best, and only thing we can do, is to lean on each other…and try to make the day-to-day better,” she said.Superheroes in this universe are the equivalent of athletes, politicians, or celebrities. They’re out of reach and doing their own things that can have an effect on the everyday people that occupy the same space. So viewers won’t be seeing a lot of them when watching Powerless. However, they’ll be seeing excited and knowledgeable actors, writers, and producers playing around in the DC world, along with the casualties that go along with that (including maybe dating henchmen)“It’s not about who’s the supervillain they have to kill this week,” Hudgens said. “It’s like, what paperwork do we need to finish, and who’s trying to mess everything up?”Powerless premieres Thursday, Feb. 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC. The ‘Powerless’ Pilot Begs the Question: Where Do We Go From Here?Alan Tudyk is the nerd-of-all-trades last_img read more

The 11 Best Twilight Zone Episodes On Netflix

first_imgIt’s easy to forget, but Netflix doesn’t just do original programming! The service’s record on TV shows has been a little spotty in the past, but the masterminds behind the scenes did us a solid recently when they added the first four seasons of Rod Serling’s classic The Twilight Zone.Originally premiering in 1959, The Twilight Zone was a half-hour anthology helmed by Serling that took inspiration from the thriving horror and sci-fi scene of the era, delivering brisk single-episode stories that were often characterized by a third act twist. Most of the show’s contemporaries don’t hold up all that well half a century later, but there’s something about The Twilight Zone that is timeless – despite the black & white footage and primitive effects, they captureHere are our pick for 11 must-watch episodes streaming right now.The Eye of the BeholderIf you’ve gone your whole life without spoiling the twist of a TV show from 58 years ago, we’re not going to ruin your streak. Let’s just say that “The Eye Of The Beholder” stars Beverly Hillbillies cutie Donna Douglas as a young woman who has undergone eleven plastic surgeries on her hideously deformed face and is awaiting the results of the last one. The Twilight Zone was never afraid to take strange approaches to life’s great questions, and this episode combines some startlingly effective makeup with a dramatic and intense third act reveal to create an unforgettable half hour of television.The Monsters Are Due on Maple StreetFor all the supernatural shenanigans that showed up on The Twilight Zone, the show’s essential moral message is that we have more to fear from ourselves – and each other – than the unknown. No episode illustrates this quite like “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” written by Serling himself. A bucolic suburb is shocked by a sudden flash of light and the shadow of a strange craft overhead, and it isn’t long before neighbor is turning on neighbor with accusations of being a space alien in disguise. This taut little thriller really encapsulates the show in a nutshell, and great performances by some of the era’s finest character actors deliver it home.I Shot an Arrow Into the AirSpace travel was a popular preoccupation in the early 1960s, as we prepared to launch a man to the Moon for the first time. Nobody really knew what to expect out there, which is why “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air” works so well. A crew of eight astronauts crash-land in barren, rocky terrain, their navigation ruined somewhere in space. Four survive the landing and set out to explore their new world, only to discover that it’s bleak and lifeless. With resources running low, the quartet turns on each other over the last canteen of water, but when they cross the line into murder it sets up one of the show’s most startling endings.The ShelterImpending nuclear armageddon was a big deal as the Cold War heated up, and Serling loved to poke at the frailty of Man’s redoubts against it. In “The Shelter,” suburban doctor Bill Stockton has built a fallout bunker in his basement, as was the thing to do back then. During his birthday party, surrounded by friends and neighbors, air raid sirens sound and it appears that the Big One is upon them. And that’s the cue for the fabric of civility to break down, as Bill’s shelter only has room and food for his family. A gripping examination of how far we’ll go to preserve our lives even at the expense of others, this is like a Walking Dead episode a half century early.Twenty-TwoOne of the most viscerally horrifying episodes in Twilight Zone canon, “Twenty-Two” tells the tale of dancer Liz Powell, who winds up in the hospotal for exhaustion and begins to suffer intense recurring nightmares where she is compelled by an unknown force to follow a nurse down to the hospital morgue, where the nurse tells her “Room for one more.” The use of repetition and audio cues – a ticking clock, a breaking glass – create an atmosphere of pure existential dread that continues all the way until the episode’s climax, which is about as close to a “happy ending” as the show ever delivered.The Midnight SunOne of the most interesting things about The Twilight Zone in hindsight is how the show used its limited special effects budget to evoke situations beyond human ken. In the Season 3 episode The Midnight Sun, the Earth has spun off its axis and entered an elliptical orbit that’s bringing it closer and closer to the center of the solar system. As temperatures rise, the two last residents of a New York apartment building slowly lose their minds in a gripping character study. If you’re stressed out about global warming, this one will probably give you a straight up heart attack.The Hitch-HikerOne of the things the show did so well was create a feeling of oppressive dread around even the most commonplace circumstances, and the first season episode “The Hitch-Hiker” is a terrific example. Inger Stevens plays Nan Adams, a young woman driving from New York to Los Angeles. After she blows out a tire in Pennsylvania, she spots a disheveled hitchhiker on the side of the road but doesn’t stop to pick him up. When Nan sees the same man again in Virginia, though, things start to get weird. Stevens is captivating as a woman losing her mind one mile at a time, and although the final twist is sort of obvious, it’s delivered so beautifully and brutally that it works.The SilenceBets and wagers were popular plot devices for suspense writers of Serling’s era, and “The Silence” stands out for being one of only three Twilight Zone episodes without any supernatural or fantastic elements. It’s a testament to the gimmick that it still packs a punch without them. When a senior member of a private gentleman’s club gets fed up with the ceaseless chatter, he bets Jamie Tennyson that he can’t remain silent for a year. He accepts, is sealed within a glass-walled room continually monitored by microphones, and then the fun begins. The ending delivers a double twist so harsh that it’ll leave you wincing – let’s just say there are no winners in this bet, just losers.The InvadersAlthough the show is known for Rod Serling’s introductory narration, one of the best episodes they ever did has virtually no dialogue. Horror writer Richard Matheson penned season 2 outing “The Invaders,” which stars Agnes Moorehead as an elderly woman who lives alone in a cabin in the woods with no electricity or modern conveniences. When a flying saucer lands on her roof bearing a pair of six inch high humanoids armed with futuristic weapons, it starts a battle for her life that has one of the show’s most notorious twist endings. Moorehead’s performance is astounding – she really makes you believe that these little bastards are threatening despite the primitive special effects.A World Of DifferenceThe thing that elevated The Twilight Zone from imitators like The Outer Limits was its willigness to be nearly literary in its plot conceits. “A World Of Difference” illustrates that perfectly with its heady metafictional conceit. At the episode’s start, we meet businessman Arthur Curtis as he plans a vacation with his wife. All of a sudden, a director yells “Cut!” and we learn that Curtis is in reality an actor named Gerald Raigan – only he doesn’t. Is he so lost in the role that he’s lost his mind, or is something much weirder going on? The answer may well surprise you.Time Enough at LastHenry Bemis is one of the most perfectly-drawn characters in the Twilight Zone, a bespectacled bookworm bank teller who takes refuge in the vault while the world ends and comes out to find that he’s the last man on Earth. Burgess Meredith – well-known as the Penguin from the kitschy 60s Batman TV series – carries an entire episode on his able shoulders, taking us on Henry’s emotional journey as he realizes that being forever alone might not be as bad as he thinks. The closing twist of this one is one of the show’s most mean-spirited and has been endlessly parodied and homaged.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img read more