It’s Birds, It’s Planes, It’s No Ordinary Family
- Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The term "dysfunctional family" has become clichéd, even passé. (Of course, the fact that all families are dysfunctional in that they all have people in them could be a contributing factor.) Nevertheless, the new ABC series, No Ordinary Family, not only embraces the concept, but takes it a step further by giving Dad, Mom, and the kids super-powers.
In a bid to keep his cracking, splitting family together, Dad takes them on a South American vacation. A plane crash dumps the family in the Amazon River and thence into very deep waters indeed. Though they survive the crash (the pilot conveniently dies, saving the show from becoming No Ordinary Family and No Ordinary Charter Pilot), upon their return to the states, they find they've become…more than ordinary.
Jim Powell (Michael Chiklis) is a browbeaten police artist living in the shadow of his successful wife, Stephanie (Julie Benz), a scientist with a large research firm. Stephanie neglects her husband and children, Daphne and JJ. Jim struggles to contain his resentment. The kids have no qualms verbalizing theirs. When Mom, Dad, Daughter, and Son discover their super-speed, super-strength, telepathy, and hyper-intelligence, respectively, the resultant crisis forces them to examine their relationship. Anxiety and confusion draws the family closer.
And here I thought it was the family that prayed together that stayed together!
The idea of ordinary people being infused with super-powers isn't new. Remember The Greatest American Hero? Nor is the concept of a super-powered family, an idea going back much further than The Incredibles. Way back in 1961, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby shook the funnybook tree with the Fantastic Four. At least, they were pretty close to a family. Sue and Reed were engaged, Johnny was Sue's brother, and Ben, while not blood relation, was a good friend of Reed's. It's fitting, then, that Mike Chiklis, who played the super-strong Thing in the FF movies, should play super-dad in this heir to that comics series.
Speaking of comics, the first two episodes of NOF are a feast for fans, sprinkled liberally with references to Superman, Batman, the Flash, et al. In fact, the series plays the Geek card often, throwing in everything from "a single bound" to mention of Michael Keaton's Batman (that takes me back!). Stephanie and Jim find sidekicks in a female lab assistant/comics fan and a boyishly excited assistant DA. Obviously, the producers are hoping to tap a large audience in tune with Iron Man II and The Big Bang Theory. This, of course, explains why most of the pilot was by-the-numbers super-hero origin stuff, including How They Got Their Powers and What They First Did With Them--nothing new, but very well done.
In the second episode, Jim divides his free time between experimenting with his abilities and popping up at crime scenes, incurring first the suspicion, then the ire of a female detective. Meanwhile, Stephanie uses her incredible speed to create more time for making meals at home and muffins for the school fair. When she trips over a bike, however, skidding half an abrasive mile, she learns that even super-moms have their limits. Over at the high school, Daphne searches for a way to tune out "random thoughts from hormonal, insecure teen-agers" while JJ's sudden genius lands him in trouble with a teacher who thinks he's cheating. Stephanie and Jim argue over the dangers of their activities. They agree to quit acting super.
Of course, you know that won't work because every super-hero has his rogue's gallery of super-villains. Thus, before the credits roll we learn that other, less benign, people are running around with frightening abilities. Plus, there's a Mastermind (played by former TV minister Stephen Collins) who also happens to be Stephanie's boss.
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