Saturday, 13 November 2010

'NO ORDINARY FAMILY' 1.6 - "No Ordinary Visitors"

Saturday, 13 November 2010

I feel like I'm close to just repeating myself every week, so there's a chance my reviews of No Ordinary Family will be put on hold soon, until the show starts moving into fresher territory. Still, I very much enjoyed "No Ordinary Visitors", despite a few lame or unlikely moments. This was a fun "meet the parents" episode, and the arrival of Stephanie's (Julie Benz) mother Barbara (Cybil Shepherd) and father Allan (Bruce McGill) meant the show could reiterate its usual plot-point (the Powells must keep their powers a secret) in the context of family disharmony. Jim's (Michael Chiklis) father-in-law has never liked him, and underestimates JJ's (Jimmy Bennett) intelligence, while Barbara believes her daughter's career gets in the way of her duties as a wife and mother. Both are, of course, proven wrong over the course of this episode, which was entertaining despite being rather predictable.

I'm a sucker for moments when superheroes use their extraordinary powers against unsuspecting people, who deserve to be taken down a peg or two. I suspect it goes back to that scene in Superman II, when Clark Kent got his revenge on the trucker who beat him up when he didn't have his powers. It's cathartic to see the bullied get payback on their tormentors, so the moment when JJ was given permission to hustle his granddad at pool was very amusing. I was surprised by how unlikeable the story made the Cranes, who both came across as very unsupportive and distant from their relatives. There were moments when their behaviour tipped over into ridiculousness (would any grandfather openly claim his son-in-law's having an affair at the dinner table, in front of their grandkids!), but otherwise it was handled fairly well. Shepherd and McGill certainly brought a new dynamic to the show.

This week's crime subplot for Jim was edgier than usual, opening with a genuinely sinister home invasion by mask-wearing thugs, who hospitalized a teenager's family during their burglary, and warned him not to identify them to the cops, or risk a violent reprisal. The teenage boy, Trent Stafford (Jackson Rathbone), happened to be a friend of Daphne's (Kay Panabaker), whose ability to read minds was expanded into actually seeing memories by touching people. The episode also setup the possibility that Trent might become the first person outside the Powell's "circle of trust" to know about their abilities, as Jim later saved his life and suspiciously vanished into the night, while Daphne spent this episode acting strangely around him. I'll be happy to see that play out, even if Rathbone's acting wasn't particularly strong, and it would be better if there was chemistry between him and Panabaker. He's surely going to become her boyfriend and realize her family's secret, right?

Overall, No Ordinary Family continues to be ligthhearted entertainment, although there were a few darker edge in this episode. The family were nicely broadened and developed, Daphne's power became more interesting, guest-stars Shepherd and McGill were good additions, and I really liked the final scene -- where the Powells used their abilities to collectively help fix their broken car. A fun moment of family harmony, and perhaps an early sign of the Powells working together to solve a crisis. I remain convinced that the finale, if not an earlier episode, will require the Powells to become a crime-fighting team to defeat a super-villain and save the city. And that should be fun, if or when it comes. The characters are still slightly twee and achingly middle-class, but the actors are easy to watch and very likeable. I can't help responding positively to them, and that's half the battle of a show like No Ordinary Family. It's an undemanding piffle, but perfectly enjoyable, with a positive message or two.

WRITERS: Zack Estrin & Ali Adler
DIRECTOR: David Paymer
TRANSMISSION: 9 November 2010, ABC, 8/7c