Saturday, 30 October 2010

'NO ORDINARY FAMILY' 1.5 – "No Ordinary Quake"

Saturday, 30 October 2010

This marked a turning point for the superhero drama, with the revelation of big secrets kept by the family, and the stronger emergence of its mythology. "No Ordinary Quake" made me more confident about No Ordinary Family going forward, which feels like it's taken the Bennet family from Heroes and given them ALL super-powers. In so doing, the show's likely to avoid the trap Heroes fell into (characters becoming mere playthings for the mythology), by keeping its fanciful nature rooted in everyday issues and relationships.

This week, Jim (Michael Chiklis) tried to find a super-girl stealing drugs from pharmacies across the city, using her ability to project concussive shockwaves; Stephanie (Julie Benz) continued to investigate the mothballed research of a doctor who may be able to explain her family's condition; JJ (Jimmy Bennett) came clean about his super-powers to his parents, before deciding to play a game of football by ignoring his gift; and Daphne (Kay Panabaker) jumped to the conclusion her classmate is sleeping with a teacher, after hearing incriminating thoughts cross their minds, only to be proven wrong...

I quite like how the show divvies up its storylines, as there hasn't really been a truly awful subplot on the series so far, and the weaker elements never overwhelm things. It feels like you're always less than five minutes away from a funny or entertaining sequence, and the performances are becoming tighter the more the cast get to know each other. Chiklis was especially good in a man-to-man chat with JJ in the locker room before his big game. Benz's character is something of a killjoy right now, as she isn't keen to use their powers to benefit anyone, but the actress is too likeable for Stephanie to become as annoying as she might be. And it remains true that Romany Malco and Autumn Reeser are really enjoyable and personable actors, making the most of small roles.

I'm glad the show has unburdened itself of the secrets setup from the pilot (Stephanie knows there are other "supers" in existence, everyone knows JJ is a ubergenius), and the idea that Stephanie's company are responsible for giving people these powers was returned to. I'm not really expecting the show to deliver hugely unexpected answers or a unique direction regarding its mythology, but so far it's unspooling at a decent rate and is providing lots of fun. It's a shame the series is slipping in the ratings (dropping from 10.6m to a series low of 7.38m with this episode), but I hope it'll hold steady from hereon in, and maybe coax people back through word-of-mouth.

Personally, I still think No Ordinary Family's too lightweight to appeal to a broader audience, as Heroes once did, but it's an agreeable series that's nicely acted and has a warm charm you can't help responding to. A lot of that's down to the cast and tone, so who knows what might develop if the stories start to take some risks...

WRITERS: Todd Slavkin & Darren Swimmer
DIRECTOR: Timothy Busfield
TRANSMISSION: 26 October 2010, ABC, 8/7c