Friday, 22 October 2010

'NO ORDINARY FAMILY' 1.4 – "No Ordinary Vigilante"

Friday, 22 October 2010

After four episodes, No Ordinary Family is still occupying a tepid middle-ground. It's quite fun, the cast are appealing, there are flashes of darkness for the older crowd, but it still isn't firing on all cylinders. There's only been mild progress since the pilot, as each episode's been content to follow cute subplots for each family member and hope that's enough to sustain overall interest. It's certainly not a bad plan of attack, because the majority of each episode has been entertaining, but there are underpinning annoyances that are growing stronger.

Chief amongst them: why is the Powell family so dumb? Jim (Michael Chiklis) and Stephanie (Julie Benz) don't realize their son JJ's (Jimmy Bennett) inexplicable success at school is related to the onset of powers? I was glad "No Ordinary Vigilante" eventually had them ask JJ if he's keeping a secret, but until then it made his parents look like absolute idiots. The fact they swallowed his continuing lie still means they're dopes. And why didn't Daphne (Kay Panabaker) realize that blackmailing a liquor store worker with knowledge he steals cash from the register would boil down to her word against his? Great plan, girl. There are similar head-slapping moments that sit on the edges of this show, and it's slowly infuriating me.

The storylines this week were a jumble: Jim took to wearing a black hoodie "costume" and prowling a local park as a nocturnal vigilante, hoping to catch a mugger, only to discover he's not the only person with that idea (there's a more violent man who shoots the criminals he comes across), and Jim's soon mistaken for the shooter by two witnesses; Stephanie continued to research the origin of her family's super-powers with the help of lab assistant Kate (Autumn Reese); Daphne used her mind-reading to learn the location of an exclusive high school party, which she gatecrashed with her friends; and JJ realized that his super-intellect could be applied to the game of football, as he manipulated his way onto the school team and became a sensation with his skills (accurately calculating angles, trajectories and speeds to make the perfect plays).

There are some entertaining ideas and scenes floating around, which keeps this show on-target. I liked Jim having to sketch himself to the people who saw him "attacking" a jogger in the park, JJ becoming a sensation on the football field wasn't plausible (so he can judge distances with precision, but what if his throwing arm's weak?) but it was entertaining, the idea JJ wants to make his parents proud for achievements they don't think is down to super-powers is a decent angle to explore for awhile, and I like the playfulness and commitment of the actors. Even if the scripts aren't that funny or surprising, the cast all make the most of the shaky material. Whatever success No Ordinary Family is having mostly boils down to the sharp casting.

Still, something needs to happen to kick this show into a higher gear. It's particularly absurd that the telekinetic "Watcher" murdered a detective a few episodes ago (forcing her to commt suicide), but nobody where Jim works has even mentioned that death yet. You can't give us big moments like that, and then have the ensuing episodes forget about them. It's just not logical.

Overall, I'm prepared to give No Ordinary Family a chance to hit its stride, mostly because I want to see where they're going with the serialized elements (the origin of their powers, The Watcher), before deciding if there's enough going on to pull me through the lighthearted middle-class family angst that's the heart of each episode.

WRITERS: Ali Adler & Jon Harmon Feldman
DIRECTOR: Ron Underwood
GUEST CAST: Jason Antoon, Katrina Begin, James Earl, Carly Jones, Tim Kelleher, Brock Kelly, Zorianna Kit, Steven Krueger, Ashton Moio & Chord Overstreet
TRANSMISSION: 19 October 2010 – ABC, 8/7c