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ABC's No Ordinary Family is Painfully Ordinary

ABC's superhero dramedy No Ordinary Family might be all the more frustrating because it has the potential to be something fun and irreverent, but instead is tonally inconsistent and plays too heavily with the sentimental and saccharine. To borrow some superhero parlance, rather than leaping tall buildings in a single bound, it thuds to earth with a sonic boom.

Creators Greg Berlanti and Jon Harmon Feldman want to have it both ways: he wants a superhero spectacle that borrows liberally from the success and charm of Pixar's The Incredibles but he also wants to tackle familial issues as well. When the Powells crash their plane into a remote section of the Amazon, they're granted extraordinary powers that separate them from mere mortals. Which would be enough of a suspension of disbelief but the powers they receive just happen to coincide with their particular cross to bear in life.

Father and husband Jim (Michael Chiklis), a police sketch artist by trade, has lost his spark and masculine edge: he's granted super-strength and nigh invulnerability, a bald-headed Hulk who can leap great distances. His wife, Stephanie (Julie Benz) is a harried scientist who is pulled in too many directions at once: she's gifted with super-speed! Kay Panabaker's Daphne can't understand her boyfriend or boys in general; she's the typical closed-off teenage girl, so of course she receives telepathy! And son JJ (Jimmy Bennett) is academically unmotivated, so he becomes a super-genius!

It's all a bit too neat and tidy as the Powells receive the very things that enable them to become better people, as Jim begins to moonlight as a steel-skinned vigilante, thanks to some assistance from his BFF George St. Cloud (Romany Malco); Stephanie is able to speed down a freeway and make a meeting on time. Daphne learns the truth about her boyfriend and JJ finally shines in the classroom.

But by solving their interior conflicts, the deus ex machina doesn't leave the series much room to grow either. It's also a bit head-scratching that the Powells would receive their newfound powers by landing in a remote section of the Amazon River and then return home to cross paths with other super-powered personae. It's a bit too coincidental and a final act reveal does nothing to ameliorate the strain of incredulity. Despite its efforts not to be Heroes 2.0, that's exactly what it began to feel like by the end of the hour, albeit a Heroes that focuses on more on hearth and home rather than, um, Sylar.

And, as mentioned earlier, there's a odd tonal inconsistency to the proceedings. In the pilot, the show tries to be cutesy, scary, and cozy in rapid-fire succession. While it wears its family entertainment badge of honor on its sleeve, it doesn't quite jibe with some of the violence that Jim encounters when he comes face to face with--SPOILER!--a teleporting thief with a penchant for firearms.

While No Ordinary Family could develop into a family-centric guilty pleasure in the 8 pm timeslot, it has a hell of a long road to reach that aim. Personally, I'd rather pop in my DVD of The Incredibles while they attempt to get there.

No Ordinary Family launches tonight at 8 pm ET/PT on ABC.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I am so pleased I wasn't the only one to be very disappointed in this one. So much potential implemented so badly. Most fun of the show was playing name that movie/tv show that the special effects had been in before.

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