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No Ordinary Family 1.01 – Pilot

The cast of ABC's "No Ordinary Family"


Genre: Family Drama/Sci-Fi

Grade: C-

Verdict: DVR it?

Too Long, Didn’t Read: Coupled with a poor script and surprisingly poor performances from seasoned actors, No Ordinary Family is nothing more than a poor man’s The Incredibles.

Welcome back! While it won’t be for a few weeks until Network Exposure rolls out reviews on the new shows of the fall, ABC has gladly provided the first 50,000 viewers with a glimpse at its newest serial, No Ordinary Family on ABC’s website. Along with My Generation, ABC is promoting Family as one of its top new dramas of the season (of course, they did the same with FlashForward… oh hey) so it’s no surprise that ABC wants to advertise the show as heavily as possible. It’s not uncommon for a network to give a sneak peak of a show to promote it via word of mouth before it’s tradition premiere – FOX did it last spring with Glee and will be doing it again with Terra Nova this upcoming year. However, word of mouth only works if the show is worth talking about; with No Ordinary Family, viewers may find themselves with little word to spread.

Starring The Shield‘s Michael Chiklis and Dexter‘s Julie Benz, the show centers around an ordinary family with some typical dysfunction that finds themselves submerged in an Amazonian river that provides supernatural powers to each one. The pilot focuses on each character realizing their own superpowers and coming to terms with the fact that they no longer are “ordinary”. Sound like The Incredibles? Well, that’s exactly what it is. In fact, the show is so similar to The Incredibles that it really makes No Ordinary Family seem that much more insipid. Both show families that are a little too ordinary and are dealing with many of the problems associated with raising a family into its teens, yet each character on Family pales in comparison to their obvious Incredibles counterparts. Again, this is a pilot so this is not necessarily indicative of how the rest of the season will pan out. For now though it’s definitely disconcerting.

One of the major strains on No Ordinary Family is the script and overall tone of the show. Family treats itself as a somewhat serious biopic into the lives of a family that just happens to discover their superpowers. It would be much better off exchanging some of its drama (“Oh no! We are dysfunctional!”) for some more comedic elements. Maybe this is a bad idea though: even some of the one-line zingers that the writing team includes fall flat (“Who are you texting?” “God!”). I found myself rolling my eyes too many times based on the quality of the dialog on monologues. Does the show really need to start with “every story has a beginning.”?

It’s also unfortunate that two fantastic actors have found themselves in this bog of a script. Michael Chiklis was amazing on The Shield, but almost all of his lines feel forced or disingenuous. It’s unbelievable that an actor as talented as Chiklis could deliver this (albeit uninspired) script so poorly. Julie Benz handles herself better considering the quality of her lines, yet she delivers some of her script as if this is a serious monologue in an acting 101 class. Both feel extremely uncomfortable in their roles. It’s unfortunate too; both are some of the most talented television actors. And the children? Summerland‘s Kay Panabaker is too jittery and spastic as a teenage girl while Jimmy Bennett’s character is nothing more than a whiny cliche.

It would be unfai to No Ordinary Family if it was blanketly qualified as terrible. Romany Malco and The O.C.‘s Autumn Reeser both provide necessary counterpoints to the world’s most boring dysfunctional family. Malco plays George St. Cloud, Jim Powell’s best friend who counsels him through the discovery of his power and eventually constructs his lair (with wi-fi). Reeser plays a quirky lab technician and comic book aficionado working for Stephanie Powell and is her first confidant. Hopefully both are exhibited more in the coming episodes, as there is obvious room for growth already. There is also a sense of ongoing storylines; the end of the episode leads the viewers knowing that there are others with super powers and that there obviously will be a serial mystery surrounding their genesis. Not to mention that old plant has to mean something, eh?

Pilots are hard to rate if just because they tend to be a bit rougher than the rest of the show. They have to both exhibit what the tone of the show will be to the network while also providing the first hour of television to the viewer. Both of their needs are inherently going to be different, so pandering to both will often result in an episode that is rough around the edges. While this pilot was fairly unremarkable (and at some points plain bad) I wouldn’t count No Ordinary Family out just yet. A lot of its success or failure will lie on the overall development of the mythology and more importantly the development of the main family. I’ll stick around for a bit and see what happens.

No Ordinary Family premieres on Tuesday, September 28th at 8pm only on ABC.


One Response

  1. […] No Ordinary Family (ABC – C-) […]

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