Monday, 11 October 2010

'NO ORDINARY FAMILY' 1.2 - "No Ordinary Marriage"

Monday, 11 October 2010

Not a great deal actually happened in this second episode of No Ordinary Family, beyond cement the premise and offer a few hints at what the rest of the series could bring. It was the quintessential post-pilot episode in many ways; existing purely to reiterate points already made, for the benefit of those who missed the show's premiere, using the extra time to promote its good points. "No Ordinary Marriage" was a decent episode, but I'm still not gripped.

If the pilot was all about the Powell family realizing they have super-powers, then "No Ordinary Marriage" was about them getting to grips with their abilities and discovering the downsides. Jim (Michael Chiklis) has trouble being directed to bank robberies he aims to stop by friend/sidekick George (Romany Malco), and hasn't quite mastered the art of stopping moving getaway cars with his body; Stephanie (Julie Benz) realizes she may have super-speed, but one slip of her attention and she can fall and hurt herself like being in a high-speed car accident; JJ (Jimmy Bennett) is frustrated that his super-intelligence means his teachers suspect he's found a way to cheat his tests; and Daphne (Kay Panabaker) has to find a way to control her mind-reading, before hearing everyone's thoughts drives her crazy at school.

Right now, what works about No Ordinary Family is Benz and Chiklis. They're good actors and fun to watch in this context. Their screen kids are far less interesting, partly because the choice of super-powers they have are overused (mind-reading) or plain boring (intelligence), and their personal struggles are incredible clichéd. In fact, the whole dynamic of this family as a dysfunctional foursome who might be brought together via their newfound abilities isn't working for me. They're too normal and their problems are those of a clichéd sitcom. A better show would have made the Powell family a more plausible and interesting hotbed of angst and tension, but instead they're just a little boring as a collective. Far better is the supporting characters; from excitable George, who wants Jim to become a real crime-fighting superman, to Stephanie's lab partner Katie (Autumn Reeser) and even Jim's work colleague Detective Cho (Christina Chang), whom he lets in on his secret in this episode.

In terms of plot, I guess it's interesting that scientist Stephanie's discovered the phosphorescent Amazon water wasn't responsible for giving them super-powers (so what was?), and there's a welcome tinge of darkness in the lurking presence of a character called The Watcher (Dirt's Josh Stewart), who feels like No Ordinary Family's version of Heroes' Sylar. I'm hoping the collision of the show's fun and upbeat feel with the darkness of The Watcher's actions (forcing Cho to shoot herself in the head) will be a potent cocktail, to give this show some edge. However, it's probably a wise decision to keep this show light and breezy, because Heroes quickly latched onto a darker tone and made being a superhero into quite a buzz kill.

Overall, "No Ordinary Marriage" was decent and simple stuff, leaning on its amiable tone and the charisma of Chiklis and Benz in their scenes. I'm still not convinced it's going to grow into something that has me anxious to catch the next episode, because it feels like it's lacking that killer hook, but it's an undemanding hour of fun right now. I can watch a few more, to get a feel for where it's headed.

WRITERS: Allison Adler & Jon Harmon Feldman
DIRECTOR: David Semel
GUEST CAST: Stephen Collins, Christina Chang, Jason Antoon, Julia Campbell, Rich Ceraulo, Mark Durbin, Gilland Jones, Kendal Nicole & Josh Stewart
TRANSMISSION: 5 October 2010 - ABC, 7/8c