Saturday, 16 October 2010

'NO ORDINARY FAMILY' 1.3 – "No Ordinary Ring"

Saturday, 16 October 2010

[SPOILERS] This third episode demonstrated a good rapport with the family characters, with a collection of subplots that gave each of them a half-decent arc. I like the idea that Jim's (Michael Chiklis) desperate to prove his manhood by using his powers, egged on by buddy George (Romany Malco) but restrained by his cautious wife Stephanie (Julie Benz), and the kids got better material this week -- with Daphne (Kay Panabaker) agreeing to help brother JJ (Jimmy Bennett) determine whether a girl fancies him, via her mindreading, in return for super-genius JJ doing her homework. A situation you could well imagine occurring in the real world.

But the core of "No Ordinary Ring" concerned a gang of robbers that target lavish weddings, who stole Stephanie's wedding ring during one of their raids. Jim, unable to save the day because it would risk putting bystanders in danger, and still having problems controlling his super-jumps besides, had to watch the criminals get away, but resolved to catch them by crashing future weddings with George should they return. I have no idea why the police didn't hit upon the same idea, to be honest. Elsewhere, Stephanie's super-powers risked being exposed at work because the company are insisting on blood screenings, which her friend Kate (Autumn Reeser) gave instead to cheat the results. However, given the fact Kate's blood sample would be compared to an older one from Stephanie, and a clear mismatch discovered, Stephanie had to use her super-speed to break into her workplace and replace the erroneous blood sample after dark.

It's true that this episode didn't do anything that hasn't been covered in the previous few episodes (more superhero training between Jim and George, Daphne struggling to fit into school), but I felt the tapestry of storylines flowed much better, and I'm beginning to feel more invested in the Powell family dynamic. Chiklis and Benz are doing solid work together, Malco and Reeser and surprisingly good (which is remarkable, given the fact their characters so clearly risked feeling superfluous), Panabaker was much stronger here, and Bennett showed some improvement -- although the subplot with him learning Hebrew to impress a girl, based on false information given to him by his sister to spare his feelings, didn't deliver a worthwhile resolution.

In some ways, the show is still too lightweight to really grab my interest, but there are signs of a more intriguing mythology coming to the fore. We have the mysterious "Watcher" stalking the Powells (although he didn't make an appearance here), and now there's the feeling that Stephanie's creepy boss is becoming suspicious of strange goings-on (having noticed Stephanie's blood vial being replaced when reviewing security camera footage). My guess is that Stephanie's company are responsible for accidentally giving her family super-powers, and don't even realize they've done so -- but maybe that's too obvious. Or maybe not, given how straight and simple No Ordinary Family feels as a TV series.

Overall, No Ordinary Family still isn't must-see TV for me, but the majority of the actors are enjoyable to watch, the effects are pretty decent, there's potential for some fun themes with the family setup, I like how the Powells aren't crime-fighting superheroes straight out the gate, and the tone is playful enough to keep me engaged with what's going on. I don't want the show to become too solemn or dark just to lure in older audiences, but it could definitely use some bite to seal the deal.

  • This episode was co-written by Marc Guggenheim (a refugee from FlashForward, being one of the showrunners who quit the production) and Zack Estrin (who wrote for Prison Break, which may explain the guest-star presence of Reggie Lee, who starred in that show's second season).
WRITERS: Zack Estrin & Marc Guggenheim
DIRECTOR: Terry McDonough
GUEST CAST: Stephen Collins, Jason Antoon, Reggie Lee, Jonna Walsh, Madisen Beaty, David Hunt Stafford, Jeff Denton, Seema Lazar & Ben Cornish
TRANSMISSION: 12 October 2010 – ABC, 8/7c