One episode of the first season of “Powers” was provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.
When I was a kid, I thought the pinnacle of mature adult entertainment was a movie like The New Guy. Awash in the lavish, hormone-fueled juncture between middle school and high school, my friends and I mistook PG-13 level profanities and boner jokes as what every adult must be hiding behind those elusive and mythical R ratings. And then a few years later I watched The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I was an idiot, as most 12-year-olds are, in understanding what actual, substantial and effective mature entertainment really means.
I bring all of this up, because watching PlayStation’s first foray into televised entertainment reminded me of being at that age, in those moments of assuming profanity and sex for automatic maturity. With that, and I say this with as little vile as I can muster: Powers is The New Guy of television shows. All four-letter expletives and thin characters over-dramatizing events you barely begin to care about by the time the credits roll. It’s a pre-teen’s idea of what a grown-up, violent superhero show should be, with such little foresight as to think referencing Breaking Bad in bold letters on its poster will convince enough people to watch who don’t know that the only similarities behind the production on the two shows is that they were maybe shot on the same Sony lot.
The first issue is the set-up: two drastically different partners run around a crime-ridden city to dispatch criminals, but this time, the criminals have superpowers, and one of the cops doing the catching (Sharlto Copley) used to have powers as well. The show attempts to create mystery with a hit-the-ground-running opening hour, but befuddles more than it bespells. There are dead partners, imaginary voice overs, super-villains, Sharlto Copley doing his best David Tennant Broadchurch impression, and a glut of winningly awful superhero names that sound like most of the writing staff took the day off and left a “Name Suggestion” board up in the lobby.
Perhaps even more worrisome, especially for a show billed as an action series and premiering on a video game console, are its lackluster visuals and sound mix. Hardly any powers are exhibited in the pilot, the most prominent of which is a teleporter (Noah Taylor) whose dastardly ways cause those around him to cower, yet whose actual teleporting sounds like the cheery notification my iPhone makes when my mom checks in to see how my week is going. He’s like Alpha from Up as a super-powered human with a highly impractical decapitation fetish.