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No Ordinary Family


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I'm curious if anyone else here watched the pilot episode of this show? For the record, it stars Michael Chiklis (The Shield) and Julie Benz (Angel) as Jim and Stephanie Powell, husband and wife who have been growing apart, due both to her high-stress research scientist job and his insecurities as a provider. Their two teenaged kids are fairly well-adjusted, but are torn by their parents' growing estrangement. Chiklis, in an annual attempt to re-unify his family, insists on making his wife's South American business trip into a family vacation, and in a horrible storm their plane crashes. Miraculously, none of the family are injured, and on their return home, they slowly discover that they have somehow obtained super powers. What are the odds those powers will reunite their family? Can you say, "incredible"?

I liked it a lot, though I didn't love it. Chiklis and Benz were great, and the story was light and fun. Unlike Heroes, which I think lost its fun pretty early on, this series seems to have planted one foot firmly in the "lighthearted" camp, which is a good decision. The "sidekick" characters - Chiklis' DA friend and Benz's lab assistant friend, were both good additions (especially the DA, whom I loved), and helped to both advance and defuse one of the key problems now facing superhero TV shows, namely that there have now been a decent number of superhero TV shows and movies, and so a lot of the questions about people with superpowers have already been asked and answered. (You can run really fast, huh? How come your clothes don't get shredded? How come your skin isn't sandblasted by the dust particles? Where do you get the energy to do these amazing stunts? etc.) By having these questions raised early and at least waved at, it defuses their suspension of disbelief power. Similarly on the superhero schtick angle. Chiklis' DA pal is a comicbook guy, so he knows that Chiklis needs a lair (with WiFi!).

The kids are agreeably...agreeable, I guess. Like all TV kids, when they spout off angrily they come out with profound psychological wisdom that causes their parents to reevaluate their relationship. When my kids spout off, they usually just say really dumb things that don't make sense. But whatever, it's a TV show. I think mind-reading characters are challenging to make interesting. The one thing I think Heroes consistently got right was the Matt Parkman character's difficulties with that ability. You have to establish some limits to their use of the power, otherwise there will be SO many times when the audience will ask, "wait, why didn't she already know that? She's a mind-reader!" This show hasn't done that yet, and they'll have to. I am VERY curious what the boy's power actually is. Is it just math-related? Does it extend to other kinds of problem-solving? Or is he simply super-smart? Any of those possibilities interest me.

I guess the one thing that keeps me from loving this show (after only the pilot) is that this ground has already been well-trodden by many other shows before it. To its credit, in many places they have tried to find at least an interesting new angle on things. I like that Chiklis tested out his abilities in a batting cage, for instance. I like that he's a sketch artist - that's such an odd choice of profession for a superhero secret identity that it makes me believe they'll do something interesting with it. But in the end, the pilot left me not wowed, but just hopeful that something good could be made from this decent base of materials.

There WAS one line that got me. The DA character is listing Chiklis' abilities, and he says, "...and you can leap a quarter of a mile in a single jump." Chiklis interrupts, "A single what? Eh? Say it. Say it." And the DA replies, "okay, a single BOUND." I was like, YEAH. If I had that power, I would TOTALLY insist that it be called a bound! :)

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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We had about the same reaction as you: not wowed, but we definitely liked it. I think Chiklis carried the pilot--really enjoyed his character. I wasn't all that thrilled with the daughter (character or power), but I do like that the whole family has powers. It could be fertile ground for exploring family dynamics, heh.

Doc Jensen over at EW asked an interesting question on Twitter last night: "For those who watched No Ordinary Family tonight: It's been billed as a "family show." Is it? Where do you put the age appropriateness?" My husband and I differ on this one. I'm a bit concerned about some of the elements (the daughter's mouth and some of the violence), but he thinks it's tamer than other series aimed at families out there...

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I would agree with your husband, generally. Compared to other shows, it's tame. Whether that means you should let YOUR kids watch it or not, I don't know. That depends on your kids. I would say my kids are still not ready for it, but in my family, we have three categories of viewing - Parents shows, kids shows, and family shows. We watch very few in any given category, but especially in the last one.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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I just watched the pilot yesterday. I liked it...not totally sold yet...but I like the parents and general concept. I also liked the fact that the parents' more physical powers have actual impact on world around them. Chiklis' strength and weight impact the ground. Benz's speed impacts her environment. It's a nice touch that is sometimes not paid much attention to. I also liked Benz's assistant who adapted quickly and became more interested in the "science questions" (why doesn't the friction impact your clothes?). It's a likeable cast, and the introduction of the surprise (other people have powers as well) may give this a good life.

My one gripe is that the next episode will already be bringing in a "are our powers hurting us?" aspect. Really, they should give us a season or two for growing to really like the family and the family really getting a handle on their powers. Really, a "our our powers hurting us" would be a great idea for a second or third season, with them more dependant on their powers and only then wondering if they have to try and avoid using them to survive.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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  • 3 weeks later...

Watched last night's episode, "No Ordinary Vigilante" and was unfortunately overwhelmed by the silliness of the sub-plot where JJ becomes a football player. Forgive me, but as a 265-lb weakling, I can attest that there IS more to football than just math. A football is not weightless. You can know where you want the football to go, know the trajectories and speeds, and still not be able to get the football to that point, because your arm can't do it. And a football quarterback has to throw the football over and over and over again during a game. That takes arm strength, and stamina. And frankly, just because you know how to do a thing, it doesn't mean you automatically can do it. JJ would have had to practice, practice, practice to get his body to accomplish what his brain was telling it to do.

And unfortunately, I was also overwhelmed by the growing stupidity of the sub-plot where JJ keeps his powers a secret from his parents. At this point, he's becoming pouty and teary-eyed every time his parents suggest that maybe he has powers - because he's interpreting it as a sign that they don't believe that he could do these things without special help. HELLO! He does have powers! He can't do those things without special help. And he knows it. Which makes every scene like that fall flat, and makes me hate the kid, not feel for the kid. Even worse, this sub-plot forces the show into a repetitious relational formula: Kid does something cool with his/her powers, parents object/question it, kid makes wise-beyond-years speech filled with psychological insight that makes parents feel bad and fix their own lives, parents learn their lesson, everyone hugs. HELLO! Sometimes KIDS need to learn their lesson. In fact, often that's the case. There's a reason parents raise kids, and not the other way around.

Unfortunately, this is a show that rests its appeal on the family dynamic. And they are losing me in that area. :(

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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Two little bits on the show.

First, from Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files comes two spoilers:

Question: Do you have any spoilers on No Ordinary Family? —Mike

Ausiello: A recurring character has an appointment with the Grim Reaper in early December.

Question: I am loving No Ordinary Family. Got any good spoilers for me? —Deb

Ausiello: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Julie Benz’s Ordinary parents will be played by Maddie Hayes and D-Day (a.k.a. Cybill Shepherd and Bruce McGill). Ma and Pa pay their superhero daughter a visit next month.

And second, Chiklis and Benz do a fun little interview with TV.com, where they talk about the tone of the show, whether the parents will find out about JJ's powers, and what would happen if their characters' powers were swapped. A highlight:

Chiklis: In all honesty, my concern was that the show would just remain very light fare, but after having some great conversations with [showrunners] Greg [berlanti] and Jon [Harmon Feldman], they want to do a show like last week’s that are very light—and paint it on a broad canvas. We go away to a decidedly darker tone in some shows, so it gives the show just a broader breadth for us to deal with. And I think that’s smart and leaves the show open for a whole lot of different places to go.
Edited by CrimsonLine
In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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Okay, so I watched the earthquake episode last night, and had a couple of reactions:

1. THANK GOD that the "JJ hides his powers from his parents" storyline is over. As I've said before, I never believed it, it never made sense, and it was silly. And the ending of it was excellent, with his Dad challenging him to rise to his abilities, rather than to coast on them. The scene in the football game near the end was well done, and I like the idea of Dad actually getting it right now and again. Call me crazy, or call me a guy who IS a dad, and who had a great dad.

2. The supporting characters played by Autumn Reeser and Romany Malco continue to be the best part of the show. Reeser is creating a fresh and believable character in lab assistant Katie, and Malco's George is my favorite part of the show. His opening scene wangling information out of a secretary is priceless.

3. I liked seeing some superhero-on-supervillain action!

4. This is a big one - the show gets some small things right, but gets some big things wrong. And the biggest stems from its conception. This show is intended to be 1 part superhero stuff, and about 3 parts family drama. If that's the case, it's more important to get the family drama parts right than the superhero stuff. And a lot of the family drama elements have been flatfooted at best, mind-numbing at worst. Exhibit "A" is the JJ lies to his parents about his powers storyline, which is now blessedly over. A couple of other examples happened in this episode. For one thing, if you are being complimented by someone for a job you didn't do, how would YOU feel? Pride and a sense of accomplishment, as this episode implied? Or guilt over claiming work that was not your own? I'd argue it would probably be the latter. Second example, the failure to distinguish between keeping secrets and lying. Smallville has this problem, too, and it's always been frustrating. Keeping a secret is an entirely different category of thing than lying. This show, and Smallville as well, blurs that distinction entirely, making characters feel guilty for keeping a secret, and equating it with lying. Every show needs a moral dilemma in it, an inner conflict for the characters to face, even as they run up against external conflict. It's even more important for this show to have that, given its aims. But when the moral dilemma is artificial, or rings false, the show just becomes annoying. What's ironic is that this episode ALSO featured a well-handled, subtly-nuanced, excellently executed moral dilemma, in the subplot involving the mind-reading daughter and her teacher.

5. Which was the big win of the episode. She runs into one of her friends at a coffeeshop, having lunch with a teacher, and reads both their minds just enough to tell that both did not want to be discovered there, and that something inappropriate had gone on. Given what they say and think at various points in the episode, it is appropriate for Daphne to draw the conclusion that she does - that the teacher had been sleeping with his student. And given that conclusion, she does the appropriate thing - she tells her suspicions to the proper authorities. Now, her assumption turns out to be incorrect, and the friend is mortified - but her reaction makes sense given the character and her situation. But the real subtlety is on the part of the character of the teacher, who will now have a question mark in his record that will never go away, but acknowledges to Daphne that she did the right thing. There's a whole lot of depth in that one interaction - the teacher knows that while he didn't do what he was suspected of doing, he did cross a line he should not have crossed, but he also had already brought it to a close, and was now trying to do the right thing, and while he's been incorrectly labeled now, perhaps forever, he recognizes the same impulse in Daphne. It's a meaty subplot, and shows how this program CAN handle such a thing with elegance and creativity.

So, like all the episodes of this show so far, this one was a mixed bag. What were your thoughts on the episode?

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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The problem with Smallville, for me, is often the secret was so important, Clark and his parents often argued he should not help people and would resort to lying to keep the secret. Actually, the biggest problem Smallville had was, honestly? It is a show that has a guy being told what a great, noble and inspirational here he will be-but he lacks any heroic qualities. The show has tons of heroes-and yet Clark was the only reluctant one. That's not simply tweaking the Superman myth-that simply is not Superman.

I have not seen this week's No Ordinary Family, bu I share your relief about ending the "hiding my powers" storyline. I kind of feel like of the two parents, the mother has gotten the real shaft. Chiklis' character has actually been portrayed as a thoughtful and longsuffering parent. His wife praises him constantly and she is is repeatedly painted as "the bad parent". I do like the characterization of Chiklis' dad, but it would be nice if Benz was not stuck having to be the apologizer or the antagonist to Chiklis hopes and dreams in most situations on the show.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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I see your point, Nez, but while Benz's character gets portrayed as the absentee parent, Chiklis gets portrayed as being irresponsible for wanting to use his powers to help people. Actually, in the show's mind, Chiklis is using his powers to fight crime because "it makes him feel good." Which I despise, because it undercuts any sense of heroism that might develop. The producers of the show can't envision selfless motives for anything. It is a brutal handicap.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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I don't have a problem with it feeling good to help people be a motivating factor-but the show has established that he has long wantd to put done the pencil and actively stop criminals. I know Benz keeps referring to it as his hobby-which I guess reads to me as one more negative on her character-not his. She is dismissive of his attempt to do right. Where as she uses her own powers for her own benefit and not to help anyone but herself. I would say Chiklis comes out looking far more noble in the context of the series so far.

And I do feel there is room for that... those characters who really enjoy having a super pwoer can be fun-but Benz's is stuck with a character who seems disconnected from the excitement of her abilities. I like the idea of the characters falling into heroism-or reacting instinctively under pressure(hey, most peoploe do not wake up wondering what heroic thing they can do today-they react in the moment). I like the idea of them learning to use their powers more ethically (I mean, really, if you were suddenly super smart-wouldn't you be likely to use that to make your day a bit easier at first?). But the show has seemed to fight that with decisions not to use their powers, lying to each other needlessly and other stuff that feels more like forced drama than organically grown family based drama... right now I am enjoying it more for what I hope it grows into than what it is.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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... right now I am enjoying it more for what I hope it grows into than what it is.

I would agree with that. Though, there are certainly parts that I do enjoy so far.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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... right now I am enjoying it more for what I hope it grows into than what it is.

I would agree with that. Though, there are certainly parts that I do enjoy so far.

Definitely. There are definitely things I like (Autumn and Romany are definitely great) in the series.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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  • 2 months later...

I have really warmed up to the show at this point. I relieved they dropped the "are our powers killing/hurting us" thing for the time being and seeing the direction certain characters have been going has been entertaining.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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I agree. The introduction of Charlotte the shapeshifter has been cool, and I like what they are doing with the kids, finally.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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I was so relieved they didn't drag out the memory loss thing, since, yeah, Daphne's powers should totally get her right back up to speed-minus times her family wasn't around. Seeing how "Joshua" is being handled is pretty interesting, because it's definitely a case where the truth would probably cost him what he is trying to protect (his relationship with Katie). Far more understandable than the drawn out annoyance that was the son holding back about his power. I also think the kids are using their powers in a pretty believable fshion-both for gain and to help people.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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  • 2 months later...

I am a bit disappointed after last night's season finale that there is unlikely to be a season two. There were a couple intriguing developements. While it was not perfectly done (it felt like they cut a lot-especially the sequecnces involving Katie-which were big developements-but much happened off screen to the point of being a bit confusing) overall I was enjoying seeing where it was going.

Edited by Nezpop

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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I watched the pilot episode as well as the second episode but quickly lost interest. I also found it hard to think of Stephen Collins as a villain considering how I grew up watching him play Eric Camden on 7th Heaven.

He finds no mercy

And he's lost in the crowd

With an armoured heart of metal

He finds he's running out of odd-numbered daisies

From which to pull the petals

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I've enjoyed the show, and came to care about the characters. They really hit their stride!

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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