“Every story has a beginning, but ours doesn’t start the way you might think. Sure, it begins on a street that looks like most and with a family that was, for the most part, normal…ordinary.”
Superheroes are big business these days. I’m not just talking the blockbuster tentpole films, either. Television has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence thanks to shows like Heroes. All we’ve been waiting for was someone to come up with a fresh take on the whole thing. We almost got that with No Ordinary Family. It came close, but you remember what they say about horseshoes and hand grenades. The show had great potential and some rather impressive star power. And, as the man on the box of rice keeps telling us: “With great power comes great responsibility”. After watching a full season in just under a week I found that I was underwhelmed more than I was wowed. And to think it all started out so promising…
The Powell family is your typical American family with workaholic parents. When these parents decide the family needs more close together time they combine Mom’s work trip to South America with a family vacation. When the plane crashes, they barely survive. But they ended up with a killer collection of souvenirs. “My family went to South America on vacation and all I got were these dumb superpowers.”
Jim (Chiklis) is a police sketch artist who has always felt a little inadequate watching the “real” cops take down the bad guys. The crash has left him with super-strength and virtual invulnerability. He can stop bullets. He can’t fly, but he can leap so far that it’s almost as good. He teams up with his DA friend George (Malco) who turns his garage into the “lair” complete with police scanners and computer screens.
Stephanie (Benz) is a research scientist for Global Technologies. They do pharmaceutical research. She now has super speed and finally the time to be a mother and career woman. Her sidekick is lab assistant Katie (Reeser) who is a comic book geek and knows every superhero reference in the book. Together they attempt to study the powers, where they might have come from and the extent of their abilities. Unknown, at least at first, to Stephanie, her own company has been experimenting with a serum that creates supers. The effect is only temporary, unlike the Powells, but her boss Dr. King (Collins) has some diabolical minions and secrets.
Daughter Daphne (Panbaker) can read minds and even implant thoughts to compel her will. When she touches someone she can even see their memories. Most of the time she’s trying to impress Chris (Kleintank) who finds out about her abilities.
JJ (Bennett) was once a rather slow learner. Now he has super intelligence which only lasts for about 6 hours at a time. He tries to hide his power from his family at first, but that doesn’t work out too well. His nemesis at school is teacher Mr. Litchfield (Antoon) who suspects that JJ hasn’t been coming by his new grades honestly.
The episodes generally deal not only with the superhero mythology, but of course explore the dynamics of a suddenly super family. Jim’s become a vigilante, and his actions risk exposure. There’s a ton of the mustache-twisting bad guy in Stephen Collins who plays Dr. King. After a while it does get a bit tiresome watching this cat and mouse, particularly when we, the viewer already know each is aware of the other. The show loses some of its steam as it devolves into another Heroes or X-Man show. The best parts of the series aren’t when they’re narrowly escaping danger, but the few times they work as a family. There just is never enough of that dynamic, which is what could and should have set this show apart. The writers started to throw too many crazy things into the mix, and before long the show was more about the mythology and less about the family. Sad choice, because there was a pretty good cast here that would have made for an entertaining team.
For the sci-fi fans out there, you can look forward to the usual assortment of super bad guys that include the requisite shape shifter and beastly creature. There’s an impressive list of genre guest stars that include Lucy Lawless, Amy Acker and Tricia Helfer.
Each episode is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1.Those of you with access to HD network signals have already seen this nice transfer. Colors are quite accurate with flesh tones nearly reference. There are five episodes per disc, which has become all too common. Compression issues do indeed exist, but they’re minimal. The show has a pretty bright look and feel, so there’s a gloss to the presentation. Black levels are fair, but don’t look too deep for inky blacks or shadow definition.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is dialog pure and simple. It’s clear. It’s perfectly placed. It’s clean. There are tons of action moments, but there’s not a tremendous use of surrounds.
No Ordinary Bloopers: (3:20)
Deleted Scenes: (8:09)
The big problem here has little to do with the quality of the show or the presentation. The series ends with somewhat of a cliffhanger that isn’t going to be resolved. It’s obvious that big changes would have been in store had the show continued. There’s a rumor in the industry that Chiklis and Benz were not very happy with the series and unwilling to continue. I don’t know how much truth there is to that, but it couldn’t have helped the show’s chances very much. It’s an average series that might have gotten better with a chance to settle in. We’ll never know. In the end, “You find that you have more questions than answers”.