Oct 6, 2010

No Ordinary Family - first impressions

The Powell family is the typical American stereotype - Jim and Stephanie (The Shield's Michael Chiklis and Buffy and Angel's Julie Benz) love each other, but can't seem to connect. He is a failed painter turned police sketch artist, and she is a scientist, and "Executive Vice President of Research at Global Tech", whatever that means. They are both rather estranged from their two teenage kids - rebellious Daphne (Kay Panabaker) and slow-learner JJ (Jimmy Bennett) - and although Jim finds the time to be a housewife and bear as much load as his kids choose to dump on him, Stephanie is almost never at home long enough to take the part of the mother. All in all, family life is on the decline.

But then something extraordinary happens. After a plane crash, all four Powells suddenly find themselves with superpowers. Jim is impossibly strong and capable of sustaining staggering amounts of damage. Stephanie has gained super-speed. Daphne is suddenly telepathic. And as for ever-failing-tests JJ, he seems to have become a genius who understands ridiculously complex scientific concepts by just looking at them. But while they are struggling to figure out what those powers are, and how they are going to affect their lives, Jim finds out that there are others like them out there. And some of those people might be really dangerous.

The first two episodes of No Ordinary Family seem pretty decent. I am a bit twisted when it comes to Supernatural/SF/Fantasy shows, because, honestly speaking, most of them aren't made by Joss Whedon and therefore tend to, well, suck. That said, I kinda enjoyed Heroes' first season (although I stopped after that to spare myself from the disappointment that it seemed to induce in everybody else in further seasons), and this one looks a lot like a cross between it and Fantastic Four. I can't say yet whether or not it's going to deliver, but the premise is promising, the intrigue that's slowly developing seems interesting, and the special effects are kinda the shit. The fight at the end of episode 1 in particular was all kinds of awesome, and Stephanie's super-speed deal is visualized in an amazing way.

Another thing No Ordinary Family has going for it are the two leads. Although I've never watched The Shield, I know enough to know it's good, and so is Chiklis, who manages in just a few short scenes to portray a really warming picture of a caring father who feels alone among his own family. The place I heap all my adoration though, is at the feet of Julie Benz. Ever since Angel I've held nothing but deepest respect for her acting abilities. She projects an amazing mixture of devilish charm, intelligence and tender sensitivity, and I think the role is more than perfect for her.

So, I'll be having my fingers crossed that this would be one of those rare exceptions where - like Whedon - screenwriters have an actual plan for the show, the way it develops and what it wants to say. Cause the setup is good enough to deliver a lot.

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