It isn't likely to rewrite the rules of the comic book genre, much less give Fox's Gotham much competition critically. But Powers, an uneven and at times puerile adaptation of the graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, will usher in a new revolution when it hits the small screen Tuesday.
The first original TV show developed by gaming and streaming video content provider PlayStation Network, Powers stars South African thesp Sharlto Copley (District 9) as a former superhero who joins the Los Angeles Police Department when his nemesis Wolfe (Eddie Izzard) strips him of his powers. The series follows the melancholy detective's cases with the LAPD's Powers Division, which polices people with superhuman powers.
Its quality as television aside, Powers makes history because of the staggering inbuilt audience it will reach: PSN has more than 110 million users worldwide.
The serialized drama stands a very real chance to shame Gotham commercially. The show about the city of Batman's youth generated a total multi-platform viewership of 22.2 million when it premiered last fall.
Co-developed by Sony Pictures Television and PlayStation, two of the many entities owned by the Sony Corp., Powers will be available not only to the 20.2 million consumers who own a PlayStation 4 game console, but also to anyone with a Web browser who signs up for a PSN account (try it at www.playstation.com/Powers).
The show is free for most PlayStation 4 owners, who are already part of the PlayStation Network. For those without a console, it's free to sign up for a PSN account, but there is a small fee for each episode.
"Powers was a natural outgrowth of the gaming platform," said John Koller, vice president of platforms marketing at Sony. The film division and gaming divisions often partner to promote each other's efforts, such as The Amazing Spider-Man, which was both a game and a film.
"We are both storytellers, whether through film or through games, and we realized that gamers do far more things on PS4 than play [games]. They watch a great deal of streaming video content," Koller said.
PSN will hold off plans for other shows until it can gauge the success of Powers, according to Koller.
Whether a hit or not, one thing is certain: The future of TV programming seems to lie outside of the traditional TV, with platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Yahoo, and Amazon creating original works.
"Culturally, we think the audience, especially millennials, want streaming content," Koller said. "They want to be able to watch scripted series on their own schedules. To access an episode at a time, or to binge watch whenever they want and wherever they are."
But is PSN offering powerful drama?
Well, not really.
Like Alan Moore's comic book masterpiece The Watchmen (adapted for film in 2009 by Zack Snyder), Powers is not simply a comic book story but a self-conscious, self-referential deconstruction of the comic book genre. Sadly, it's not half as smart as its predecessor.
Copley does a nice job of pouting, brooding, and generally being angst-ridden as detective Christian Walker. Once he was a superhero - one of the good Powers. Now he's just a run-of-the-mill cop.
Joined by an over-eager newbie partner, Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward) in the series opener, Christian opens an investigation into the suspicious death of a former friend who was killed, it seems, while having sex with an underage girl named Calista (Olesya Rulin). In a transparent attempt to comment on celebrity culture, the show figures the girl as a wannabe so desperate to be one of the Powers, or at least be near them, that she sleeps with them. "I don't want to be like everyone else," she tells Christian as she prepares to jump - and hopefully fly - off a skyscraper.
Powers will be sure to appeal to hard-core gamers, but it's not likely to attract a wider audience.
The dialogue, for one thing, is likely to rub serious drama fans the wrong way with its mix of cheap one-liners, bad metaphors, and a stunning amount of epithets and four-letter words - anatomical, sexual, scatological, it's all there.
It seems that series creators believed the four-letter salad would signify Powers' street cred as cutting-edge drama.
All it does is mark it out as a linguistically impoverished piece of pulp, lacking true imagination.
The first three of 10 episodes will be posted Tuesday on PlayStation Network. Further episodes to follow. Information: www.playstation.com/Powers.EndText