No Ordinary Family - 101 - Pilot
Watching this made me realise something good about Heroes. For those who know how critical I was of Heroes, that wasn't meant as offensively as it sounded! Season one of Heroes was successful in certain ways creatively. I now see that one of the important things which Heroes did early on was take the changes which were occurring in people's lives seriously. Clare, Hiro and Peter were all freaked out and scared, excited or disturbed by the major changes that they were going through. It gave the show a sense of consequence, the feeling that was going on was important.
Now that's not to say you can't do a superhero show which isn't light hearted and fun. Not at all. But a light hearted show will gain a different audience to a dark one. No Ordinary Family feels a lot more like Chuck than Heroes. In Chuck I don't take the bad guys seriously at all. The "drama" was long ago sold out for comedy and silliness. The show survives therefore on being comedy escapism. Chuck does a fine job of that because of the quality of its actors and some clever plots. Can No Ordinary Family do the same?
Perhaps. The pilot is full of attempts at comedy, none of which I particularly laughed at. With the exception of Jim giggling at a Super Man reference being used to describe his jumping ability. The comedy may get better as time goes on. By having a whole family involved the show is going to have a lot of ground to cover as teenagers and adults understandably face very different challenges in this scenario.
The reaction of the family to the change in their life was weak. I will have to get over my disappointment in that quickly if I am to enjoy the show. Having superhuman abilities would freak you out to your core yet the children in particular blow the development off as not a big deal which is ridiculous. The writers were more concerned with showing that the family is broken (so that their new powers can, you know, fix them) and so we were left with Daphne refusing to talk about her telepathy and JJ moaning about being left out. Similarly Jim's willingness to be shot at and jump off buildings ignores the obvious fearful reaction that he would still have in those situations.
There were plenty of cliches in the drama with Stephanie being short on time and gaining super speed. Or the detective asking "What are you doing here Powell, trying to be some sort of hero?" I found the twist that there are others with powers to actually be a disappointing development. It means that the show is going to be full of campy action sequences and fake threats to the super family which will never actually materialize. I feel like if the show had just been an unabashed comedy it might have won me over.
Instead I am pessimistic about the show. Not because it was that bad but just because I think it's treading into Chuck's genre and it's a very rare show that can carry out unconvincing drama well. Desperate Housewives is probably the most successful at it and their villains aren't nearly as silly.
p.s. I bet their pilot isn't dead. I bet he turned into some kind of super villain too. Origin stories are never left untouched in comics so look out for that one.
No Ordinary Family - 102 - No Ordinary Marriage
I may stop writing about the show but keep an eye on it. It feels harsh to judge a show so early on when it has promise but I don't see No Ordinary Family turning into anything good.
Why? It doesn't feel real enough. Yes I know, I always say that. There are just crucial tipping points that make something seem real enough to hold my interest. And reality is a word which can't adequately cover what I am trying to convey. It's about creating a world within the TV show that I can believe in. Chuck is just as silly a show as this but Chuck always played his role with such convincing panic that I believed that he was in danger and under stress. Here I don't feel that.
One way in which this manifests itself is in the lack of dialogue about anything unrelated to the plot. In real life you have a hundred conversations a day related to all sorts of subject matter. In TV shows there is an understandable tendency to focus dialogue on the relevant plots. But No Ordinary Family badly needs to create the impression that these are real people who have lives worth caring about. Yet none of them talks about anything but their powers. I understand that that would be their biggest preoccupation but with no sense of what else they have in their lives they don't feel like real people.
The one exception to this was the arrogant neighbours who implausibly take public jabs at Jim for earning less than his wife. The lack of subtlety in their jabs drained any reality from their interactions and made it clear that we the audience ought to be admiring this family struggling against a difficult world. I'm not sure Julie Benz is really the best fit for the Super-Mum character. She seems too pretty and well presented to gain our sympathy as this hard working career woman and mother who needs our sympathy.
I did like JJ instantly being called out for cheating by his teacher. It would be a logical conclusion to come to. However Daphne being able to control her powers so quickly was rushed through. As I said in the pilot, the bad guys have no threat at all in this show because the family unit is so obviously going to survive and flourish.
The show lacks the sense of fun and genuine comedy which Chuck had early on. So this episode just felt charmless and dull and I suspect the show will meander along its path toward somewhere unsatisfactory. I will check back in if something changes.