No Ordinary Television

I considered throwing together a graphic for “Television Tuesday” or something, but I don’t see doing this as a regular enough thing to merit it, plus that would just be one more damn thing on my plate.

But as No Ordinary Family approaches the end of its first season, I thought I’d revisit my earlier comments. And my early opinion still holds. The show is very wobbly from a writing and plot standpoint, but is helped by appealing performances in the leading roles.

If you haven’t seen the show, No Ordinary Family is about the Powells, a family which gained superpowers when their plane crashed into a particular river in the Amazon.

Jim, played by Michael Chiklis, is the father, a police sketch artist who, like most movie superheroes, is a vanilla strongman. Stephanie, played by Julie Benz, is the mother, a research scientist who has gained super-speed. Their daughter Daphne is a telepath, and their son J.J. is a super-genius. Together, they fight crime.

The bad: As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m not a big fan of the fact that Stephanie’s boss is the Big Bad (although it has been recently revealed that there is a Bigger Bad). Yes, it made for tension, but it also required ridiculous amounts of coincidence and contrivance to keep everyone from discovering each others’ secrets too quickly. Now that everybody knows each others’ secrets, the show requires even greater amounts of contrivance to put off the inevitable confrontation until it’s time for  the season finale.

Yes, I know, much of this is simply part and parcel of the episodic TV format. But I don’t have to like it when it’s not well done.

The Good: As I’ve said, the performances. I like Chiklis, I like Benz and I like their chemistry together. The kids aren’t bad, and Stephen Collins is pretty good as the charmingly evil boss. I initially hated Josh Stewart as the super-hit-man Collins set on the trail of the Powells, but his character grew on me, developing in unexpected directions. Kudos to the writing staff on that one.

And I really love Autumn Reeser as Stephanie’s assistant, Katie. Not only is she gorgeous, but the character is written as total fanboy wank material: a super-hot woman who doesn’t know she’s super-hot, who is not only smart, but also a total comic-book fangirl. The big problem is that, because Stephanie’s the star of the show, Katie often gets relegated to comedy relief, so the writers end up making her head-bangingly naive (a nice way to say stupid) while forcing cringingly clumsy lines out of her mouth. In one episode as she’s talking to her boyfriend “Joshua” (actually the super-hit-man whose real name we have not yet learned), she says something like, “You make my cardiac organ levitate.” And I know that every writer has some bad lines in them, but seriously, whoever wrote that needs to be fired.

The danger sign for the show, I think, is that, while I do like it, I don’t like it enough to put it at the top of my stack. Back when I used to buy comics on a regular basis, I would have the comic book store put aside the comics I wanted to buy, and I would come in every few weeks to pick up a big stack. And I would notice over time that there were certain comics I would read as soon as my fingers touched them, while there were others I would shuffle to the bottom of the stack to read later. And if a comic was a bottom-shuffler for long enough, eventually I would just drop it altogether.

No Ordinary Family is one of the bottom-shufflers in my Hulu queue. I still watch it, but only after I’ve watched everything else I’d rather watch. Which is not a good sign for the show’s longevity, I would think.

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