Starring Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, Romany Malco, and Stephen Collins
ABC’s No Ordinary Family is the newest broadcast network series to hop on the superhero bandwagon. Like Smallville and Heroes before it, this show primarily deals with its characters coming to grips with their newfound powers and figuring out how to use them. Unlike those two previous shows, however, all of the superpowered protagonists are part of the same family, which adds an additional dynamic to the standard origin plot. The show is obviously taking cues from The Fantastic Four and The Incredibles, as it is just as much about the family’s relationship as it is about their powers. While this premiere episode shows some promise, the show as a whole needs to work a little harder to make us care about these characters and the overall plot.
As the debut episode begins, we are introduced to the Powells via the first-person narration of Jim, played by Michael Chiklis of The Shield and the Fantastic Four movies, and Stephanie, played by Julie Benz from Dexter. They are a seemingly average married couple with two teenaged children. Jim works as a police sketch artist, while Stephanie works as a research scientist. They take the kids on a vacation to Brazil, where Stephanie is researching a special plant, and while taking a tour of the Rainforest, they survive a traumatic plane crash. After they return, Jim discovers that he is super-strong, nearly invulnerable, and can jump half a mile high, while Stephanie soon learns that she can run at super-speeds. They initially have different views on how to use their powers. With the help of his buddy George (Romany Malco), Jim immediately goes the superhero route by going after a group of thugs that have been behind some robberies and murders in the area, while Stephanie uses her abilities to help manage her personal and professional life. Their kids, Daphne and J.J., eventually discover that they too have special abilities, and Jim discovers that there are more people in the area with powers.
There is a lot of decent stuff in this episode, but it’s hard to really pin down what the show is going to be about just from the premiere. It’s obvious that the family dynamic is going to be the main focus, and the last scene of the first episode leads us to believe that there is something shady going on with the company that Stephanie works for, so time will tell whether it will effectively combine these two subplots into an entertaining show. The special effects are decent for a network program, but some of them look a little too much like effects from past superhero movies. I also have issues with the casting. Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz are both very good actors, but they are not believable at all as a married couple, as they have no chemistry at all together. The actors playing the kids aren’t bad, though hopefully the show won’t focus as much on teenage drama as this episode did.
For a show entitled No Ordinary Family, this premiere episode was a little too…well, ordinary…to really stand out. While the characters are likeable, they aren’t particularly interesting, so hopefully they will get a little more developed as the season progresses. I did like how the episode used the first-person narrative device in an unexpectedly innovative way, but that was more than likely just used for the premiere and won’t be used again. In an age where new shows have only a limited amount of time to grab viewers, No Ordinary Family still has a lot to do in order to stay on the air, but the premise is interesting enough to at least keep me watching for a few more episodes to see if it gets better. 3.5 out of 5 Obama-masked perps.