Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

“No Ordinary Family” Premiere Review

Posted by CJ Cregg on September 28, 2010

Learning he's invincible...

A research trip turned family vacay is never a good idea.  Dad Jim (Michael Chiklis) pushes the fam to do something together by taking a trip to Brazil.  When their small touring plane goes down into some questionable water, each family member winds up with special powers and a renewed commitment to being together.  Dad has the fastest reflexes in the world and can stop bullets and fastballs with his bare hands.  Mom Stephanie (Julie Benz) can run really really fast.  Daughter Daphne (Kay Panabaker) can read minds.  Son JJ (Jimmy Bennett) is a boy genius.

Their new skills are intimately tied to their feelings of inadequacies in their relationships.  Mom gets to be fast because there aren’t enough hours in the day to have a career and a family.  Daughter gets to read minds because, hey, it’s tough to be in high school.

The show is set up around what seems to be interviews with the family.  They seem to be telling a therapist (who turns out to actually be the head of Stephanie’s research company) about the problems in their relationships.  It seems a bit too obvious to me.  We can obviously tell that this family is struggling to connect.  And frankly the characters seem more like caricatures of modern people than actual people.  The wife is a workaholic, the dad is lonely, but well-meaning.  The daughter never puts her cell phone down, and the son is an enigma.  We get it.  It’s tough to connect in a modern age.  As Dad tells the doctor, “It’s like we were living under the same roof but in different worlds.”  Daphne, the daughter, seems to have the most sense when she tells her parents that “this family isn’t broken, you two are.”  But I don’t really find myself feeling for the parents or the kids.  I just kind of don’t care.

Jim feels like he should put his new superpowers to good use, but when Stephanie calls saying she’s home early from work, he tables that plan for an afternoon hookup.  Bringing the family back together seems to be more important than fighting crime.  A noble goal, but it leaves me unsatisfied.  And then Stephanie talks Jim out of fighting crime because “he was extraordinary before he could catch a bullet” so I guess that means he should stay safe for his family or something.  OK.  And what does it say about our modern age that one needs super powers to make a family connect?  What about those of us who don’t have that option?  The Incredibles worked for me because I actually liked the family and while they had their problems, they weren’t utterly dysfunctional.  Also they were animated and cute.  This is just depressing.

In good news, there was an awesome 5 seconds on screen from Tate Donovan (Jimmy Cooper on the OC) as the pilot of the doomed plane.  He dies within the first four minutes of the show.  Very sad.  Oh.  And I guess I should have said spoiler alert.  Also, Stephanie’s research assistant is Autumn Reeser, also known as the OC’s Taylor Townsend.

The most interesting part of this show is the premise.  The characters don’t interest me that much.  Or at all, really.  So I don’t think this show will be able to survive now that they’ve established that the family has super powers.  I’m not sure where they’re going to go from here.  Maybe they’ll band together and solve crimes as a family.

There is a little bit of a twist at the end.  And there are some anti-heroes running around in their town.  But I’m still not interested.

Grade: C-

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One Response to ““No Ordinary Family” Premiere Review”

  1. Mr. Feeny said

    First off, CJ, let me just say that your review is spot on with what I’ve read of most other critics. They focused on how poor the family elements were and how clunky the storytelling to the therapist was.

    But…I’m a sucker for shows about super powers. Back to the day of “Bewitched,” where I wanted so desperately to be a warlock. Not a creepy modern warlock, but like Maurice Evans. Classy. So I watched this entire pilot giddy. It’s lighter than “Heroes” and with less mythology, so that should make it fun to watch every week. I agree that the family elements were weaker, but I still bought it. I didn’t need to have it dropped on my head like an anvil, but I chock that up to pilot woes. Also, I like that he chose his wife over fighting crime now. That’ll probably change later in the season, leading to a conflict, blah blah blah.

    The storylines are probably going to be pretty predictable. We’ve all seen how super heroes develop. But rarely in episodic format. But I didn’t see the twists at the end coming. SPOILER ALERT! — I liked that the normal villain was actually powerful. I hated that Daphne’s best friend was cheating with her boyfriend. Lame. And I kind of expected Stephanie’s boss to be a bad guy (Reverend Camden from “7th Heaven!” What a difference a few years make. He’s also playing Saul’s boyfriend on “Brothers and Sisters”). But how does he relate to Stephanie? Does he know she has powers?

    My bold prediction: The water had nothing to do with their powers. They’ve had them all along.

    Grade: B+

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