Wednesday, August 25, 2010

TV review: No Ordinary Family pilot

Y'all may have already noticed this, but there's been a definite shift in my blogging tendencies of late. Posts are getting longer, but less frequent. I'm of mixed opinion of this development. I like the space to develop ideas, but it's definitely led to fewer posts; since I know a given post'll take me at least two hours to write, it's harder to work up the energy to start. So, as an experiment, I'm going to limit myself to 500 word posts for a while, and see how that works. Please feel free to post your opinion on the new format.

Okay, four hundred words left. Following the recommendation of this blog, I went and watched the pilot of ABC’s new show, No Ordinary Family. The basic plot is that a family of four, consisting of husband and police sketch artist Jim Powell (Michael Chiklis), scientist and wife Stephanie Powell (Julie Benz) and their teenage children, Daphne and JJ, develop the super powers of strength, speed, telepathy, and increased intelligence, respectively. So, essentially, it’s a live action version of the Incredibles. In the pilot, they acquire and discover their powers, and Jim goes after a bank robber who turns out to also be a teleporter. The resulting fight sequence was really good—I actually put down my DS to watch it, which, as those who know me can attest, is high praise indeed. The science aspect of the show and the police procedural parts are very, very sketchy—the wife actually says, “the scientific term for what happened next is ‘unexplained phenomenon,’” but there’s something else that’s even more important and sets the show apart from previous live action superhero shows like Smallville and Heroes: the family dynamic.

There’s a lot going on—Stephanie’s career has taken off, whereas Jim’s attempt to be an artist apparently failed a long time ago, and the resulting tension is clearly still an undercurrent in their relationship. He resents the hours she spends at work, and she resents his continual pressure to spend more time at home. It’s especially telling that when they discover their powers, they turn not to each other, but to co-workers. The daughter’s in crisis because she suddenly knows what her teenage “friends” really think about her, and the son is under pressure because of Stephanie’s refusal to admit he has a learning disability (although the recently discovered super intelligence will probably negate that particular problem).

Running out of words quickly here. The show’s got a very “family friendly” tone which will work against them in the hardcore superhero fan, but it offers something very different from the usual superhero fare. There’s a sense in comic books that only single people are interesting, a feeling perpetuated by Spider-Man’s supernatural divorce, for example. No Ordinary Family offers a different take on super heroism on that score, and, as long as they don’t wipe all these problems away in the future, I think I’ll keep watching.
Later Days.

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