Can any of Fox's upcoming sci-fi shows fill the Powerless void?
Superheroes can be funny.
I mean, the basic premise of any comic book film is that there’s danger in the city/country/planet/galaxy and only a select group of ridiculously good-looking people dressed in spandex outfits can save us.
That’s basically the plot of Baywatch, which is so campy and ridiculous that it spawned an R-rated comedy adaptation being released this summer.
The box office returns and critical acclaim for Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Sky High prove that successful superhero comedies are a possibility, they just haven’t been brought to the silver screen yet. In fact, a quick survey of the biggest superhero TV shows on air right now—Gotham (FOX), Legion (FX), The Flash (CW), Marvel’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist (Netflix)—are all dramas. These shows are pretty good for the most part, but I think we’re rapidly approaching a saturation of “gritty” superheroes. In the modified words of Bonnie Tyler, I need a funny hero!
NBC’s Powerless was supposed to be the first superhero TV comedy, but like most DC projects, it suffered from too much executive meddling (the pilot’s concept was changed after original show runner Ben McQueen departed the project) and thinking that the Wayne Securities team endlessly trashing Vanessa Hudgen’s sweet and sunny Emily Locke qualified as comedy.
With Powerless officially canceled, there’s an open spot for a comedic sci-fi show, and this fall, Fox is debuting not one, not two, but three sci-fi/fantasy shows. Let take a look to see if any of them can be the funny superheroes we need/deserve.
Or at the very least, include an Adam West cameo since Powerless never got to air theirs.
The Orville (Thursdays, 9PM)
Can it be a hero? If I were a hiring manager and a resume for The Orville landed on my desk, I would be putting together a nice offer letter (with benefits!) together right away. On paper, it looks perfect. It’s a Star Trek parody in the vein of Galaxy Quest and stars Seth MacFarlane as Captain Ed Mercer and Adrienne Paliciki (formerly of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the never aired Marvel’s Most Wanted) as Mercer’s ex-wife and first officer. The show also features Scott Grimes (Justified) as Mercer’s best friend and helmsman; a serious, deep-voiced alien a la Worf from Star Trek: Next Generation; and Norm Macdonald voicing a gelatinous blob. The pilot is being directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), who also serves as an executive producer along with MacFarlane. Whether you’re a fan of MacFarlane’s Family Guy or not, it can’t be denied that he has an excellent track record at Fox.
Powerless elements: Very few TV pilots are strong right out of the gate, but it’s worrisome that not a single joke from The Orville’s trailer seems to land. You’ve got an alien from an exclusively male species and all you can joke about is how there must no arguments about putting the toilet seat up? The Powerless cast had great comedic chemistry but didn’t know how to use it to form relationships with each other. The Orville cast is set up to have all these interpersonal relationships, but they don’t seem to have any comedic chemistry. But according to reports from EW.com, The Orville will have “serious elements” and it “plays more like a dramedy.” If it can’t make us laugh, then maybe it can make us cry?
Ghosted (Sundays, 8:30PM)
Can it be a hero? Craig Robinson (The Office, Hot Tub Time Machine) and Adam Scott (Parks & Recreation, The Good Place) star as Leroy Wright and Max Allison. Leroy is a skeptic and Max is a “true believer” in the paranormal—sort of like the Mulder and Scully dynamic without the need for a Scully box—and both are recruited by a secret organization called the Bureau Underground to investigate a series of unexplained paranormal activities in the Los Angeles area that could threaten the human race. Unlike The Orville trailer, Robinson and Scott demonstrate great comedic chemistry and their jokes actually land. The concept reminds me of the short-lived CW comedy Reaper, which followed a demon-hunting average Joe and his friends and their comedic misadventures, as well as the critically acclaimed British series Crazyhead, which follows a similar Buffy the Vampire Slyer-esque premise. Ghosted definitely has the high energy to match its high concept and will fit in well with Fox’s Sunday lineup.
Powerless elements: The trailer doesn’t give too much detail as to exactly why Leroy and Max are being recruited for the Bureau Underground, but I expect all our questions will be answered in the premiere anyway, so it’s not a real strike against the show. I’m a little concerned that the special effects budget, even if it’s all not that great right now, might make Ghosted too expensive to produce and thus up for cancellation, even if it has a successful first season.
The Gifted (Mondays, 9PM)
Can it be a hero? Okay, this isn’t going to be the comedy show I want, but with X-Men director Bryan Singer at the helm, you know The Gifted is going to be amazing or amazingly messy, and that could squeeze a couple laughs out of me. The plot focuses on married couple Reed (Stephen Moyer) and Caitlin (Amy Acker) Strucker, who must go on the run after it’s discovered that their children, Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White), have mutant powers. Their life on the lam, in which they join up with other mutants—Marcos Diaz/Eclipse (Sean Teale), Clarice Fong/Blink (Jamie Chung), Lorna Dane/Polaris (Emma Dumont), and John Proudstar/Thunderbird (Blair Redford)—is complicated by the fact that Reed is a prosecutor in a district attorney’s office that’s been targeting mutants.
Powerless elements: Depending on which fans you ask, Bryan Singer’s work is a little hit-or-miss, and the concept feels a lot like season 3 of Heroes, and we all know how that show ended: confused, muddled, and lost in its own mythology. The Gifted has the advantage that its origins are grounded in the X-Men comics, but we’ll have to wait and see how it incorporates the original Strucker characters into the existing universe.
What do you think? Which Fox sci-fi show will be powerful? And which one will be powerless?