‘No Ordinary Family’ Pilot Recap: Seems Pretty Ordinary to Me

Since NBC finally canceled ‘Heroes‘, ABC is now trying to fill the primetime superhero void with its new comic-themed adventure series ‘No Ordinary Family’. Even the title is utterly generic, isn’t it?

What a waste of a cast, too. Michael Chiklis spent seven years as TV’s ultimate badass on ‘The Shield’, but he made the mistake of cashing a paycheck in those awful ‘Fantastic Four‘ movies, so that’s how he’s being typecast. Julie Benz was so deliciously evil on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, and spent a few years on ‘Dexter‘, one of TV’s edgiest current series. Now this is what they’re stuck in. I hope it pays well.

I’m not going to bother with too much of a plot recap. You could easily put the whole thing together from the 30-second TV spots. If you’ve ever read a comic book in your life, or watched any other movie or TV series on the superhero theme, then you’ve already seen this all before.

Chiklis and Benz are the parents of two precious teenagers. They’re a cutesy “dysfunctional” family. I put that word in scare quotes because their dysfunction comes down to mom being too good at her job, dad spending too much time caring for his kids, and the teens having the most superficial of typical teenage angst issues.

Dad feels that they really need a big bonding experience, so he plans a family vacation to Brazil. A plane ride over the rainforest ends in disaster when a storm causes them to crash into a river with weird glowing stuff floating in it. Everyone survives (except the pilot), but when they get back home, they start noticing that they suddenly have superpowers. Dad is really strong, can catch bullets, and can leap tall buildings. Mom runs really fast like The Flash. The daughter can read minds. At first, it looks like their dummy son didn’t get any powers, until he miraculously turns super-smart. (Actually, he’s still pretty dense, but the answers to anything he needs to know are magically spelled out for him.)

What do you do when you get superpowers? You try to fight crime, right? The ‘Pilot’ episode is the origin story, so a lot of time is spent with the members of the family exploring their new abilities. Then Dad tries to capture a bad guy who’s been running all over town robbing banks or something while wearing an Obama mask. (Is this supposed to be some sort of half-assed political statement?)

Ooooh, shocking twist: The bad guy has superpowers too. He can teleport around just like Nightcrawler in the ‘X-Men‘ movies. (Literally, it’s the exact same visual effect.) Oh, and Mom’s boss at the research lab where she works (Stephen Collins) is evil.

Honestly, there’s not a single surprising or unpredictable moment in the episode. The only thing that distinguishes this show from other superhero fare (like, for example, the first season of ‘Heroes’) is its extremely family-friendly slant. The network clearly wants parents to watch this with their kids. Really young kids, presumably. It’s aimed at the kind of families who thought that ‘The Incredibles’ was far too edgy for their delicate sensibilities, and needed something a lot safer and more familiar.

Maybe that audience will actually enjoy this. I won’t begrudge them that. Parents need something to watch with young kids, I suppose. But I don’t have kids, and this show just isn’t for me. This is a one-and-done, as far as I’m concerned.

4 comments

  1. JoeRo

    I almost wish I could muster enough interest to be disappointed with this series, but I just can’t. People have been saying for awhile that the superhero genre is stale. These hypothetical people are correct. It’s hard to be concerned about various superpowered individuals when, at the end of the day, they can pretty much punch all of the problems away (I’m looking at you superman).

    When Heroes came along I was hoping they would explore what it would really be like for regular people to gain superpowers. How would they react? Considering how different people are from one another the answer is probably wildly varied. But that didn’t happen in Heroes, in the end people became either heroes or villains, and in some cases simply victims.

    I’m reminded of how awesome Straczynki’s “Rising Stars” books were, and how deeply it delved the various flaws and idiosyncrasies of its “super”-powered individuals. Some distinctions should be made here. First, at one point does a special ability become useful? So there’s this guy who can’t be hurt, he’s invulnerable(Unbreakable??). But really what good does that do? You’re not smarter, faster, or stronger than anyone else. Kind of pointless when it comes to being able to pay your rent. Some other examples are a woman who is the most beautiful woman in the world to anyone looking at her, and another woman who has a great singing voice (at least this second woman can turn her power into a career).

    I really liked this series because it explored superheroes/superheroism in different ways. As a child its fun to imagine being superman, fighting the bad guys and always saving the day. As a teenager and adult I started thinking about what I’d really do. I’d probably be a total prick (sort of like Hancock before he changes). I’d take whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I’d probably eat a lot of food that was bad for me and smoke nonstop (Earth cholesterol and tobacco being no match for my super powered arteries and lungs respectively). Even if I was raised by a couple of backwoods teetotaling weirdos with a penchant for adopting kids from smoldering craters I’d probably still end up being just a superpowered asshole.

    Heroes, in season one at least, toyed with this idea a bit in the form of Sylar, but he was quickly neutered in subsequent seasons. I just don’t understand what writers/directors/studio execs … you name it, find so difficult about producing an interesting superhero show. I’m not particularly fond of the superhero genre as a whole, but it’s mostly because comics seem to have long ago exhausted whatever creative reserves they had.

    Anyway, this show sucks. No surprises really. But if you care to check out some good superhero comics, hard to come by these days, I would recommend “Rising Stars” and “The Pro”. “The Pro” being a very brief one-shot that is the only superhero comic to genuinely bring a smile to my face in years.

  2. HuskerGuy

    “This is a one-and-done, as far as I’m concerned.”

    Sums it up for me as well. I normally give a show at least 2 episodes, but not this one. Have there been any good new shows this year?

  3. Josh Zyber
    Author

    If we’re recommeding things, I’ll recommend the novel “Soon I Will Be Invincible” by Austin Grossman. It tells a story in alternating chapters from the perspective of both a super hero and a super villain, and goes into a lot of detail about what it would feel like to gain super powers. It’s also very funny and very entertaining. You can read the first few pages on Amazon to get a sense of it:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0307279863

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