Mix “The Incredibles,” “Heroes,” and “Modern Family” together and what do you get? Arguably, a bloody mess, particularly if you use one of those Magic Bullet blenders. Fortunately, “No Ordinary Family” escapes this fate. Although the pilot is bit too facile, the adult leads are likable and sympathetic in their roles, and the show has a buoyant energy, which honestly, is more than I expected. The jury’s still out on the kids, though.
The Powells are drifting apart — an all-too-ordinary tale. When scientist-mom Stephanie (Julie Benz: Darla, Angel; Rita, “Dexter”) has to travel to Bel�m, Brazil for work, unfulfilled police sketch artist-dad Jim (Michael Chiklis: “The Commish” and “The Shield”) decides the whole fam-damnily should go with her. Son JJ (Jimmy Bennett) and daughter Daphne (Kay Panabaker) comply only because they must. Their trip goes as expected, with everyone ignoring everyone else — especially poor old dad, so he insists they take a prop plane to the rain forest for a little family time. Of course, they then crash into a phosphorescent phlebotinum-rich section of the Amazon River. Their pilot, Mitch, is presumed dead, but the Powells swim safely to shore. We don’t see how they get back home from the rainforest, which I found disappointing. It might have been interesting to see their powers emerge while they were lost in the wilderness. Since they’re even more lost in suburbia, though, perhaps this way is better.
Their near-death experience inspires the Powells to tighten their family ties, but as soon as they’re back home, that dream goes up in smoke, faster than you can say “Tommy Chong.” As they go about their daily business, they find things aren’t quite back to normal. Jim, who has been struggling with feelings of inferiority, develops super-strength and the ability to leap tall buildings (and other distances of up to 1/4 of a mile) in a single bound. He finds he’s also adept at stopping speeding bullets with his hand (his neck — less so), and is generally invulnerable. Harried and hurried Stephanie now has super-speed, for which any mother would trade her eyeteeth. Virgin Daughter (we know, but the show dearly and clearly cares) Daphne, who has been suspicious of the wrong people, can now read minds, and learning-disabled son JJ turns into Good Will Hunting, just in time for a math test.
Their powers are, for now, a boon to everyone but Daphne. Thanks to her brand-spanking-new telepathy, she learns her “your-love’s-worth-the-wait” boyfriend Lucas has been patient because he’s been hooking up with her BFF. This results in the expected, including some WHINING that the writers better dial down a notch if they want the audience to stick around.
The whining is balanced out by Stephanie and Jim’s respective sidekicks Katie (Autumn Reeser) and George (Romany Malco), who don’t waste our time pretending the Powells’ super-powers don’t exist, and are genuinely delighted and amazed by them, like actual people would be. George even builds Jim a hi-tech lair, with Wi-Fi. Still, even super-powered marriages hit a few bumps, so Jim and Stephanie decide to go for marriage counseling and end up telling the counselor everything. He finds it all hard to swallow. We find it makes the show narration-heavy, and hope the writers will use a lighter touch with voice-overs, now that all the pilot exposition is out of the way.
Photo credit: ABC