Review: 'No Ordinary Family' - 'No Ordinary Powell': The shapeshifter of things to come
Has the superhero family show improved since the fall?
I checked out on "No Ordinary Family" relatively early in the season, figuring I would try it again either on a slow night or when ABC made a screener available. The latter happened with tonight's episode, and I have some thoughts on the episode, and where the show stands at this point, coming up just as soon as I fight myself...
I stopped watching back in the fall because even though I liked many of the actors, the concept and the sense of light-heartedness, "No Ordinary Family" felt like it was stuck in neutral. The show was content to tell minute variations on the same inconsequential stories over and over again, and I didn't like any of the main characters enough to stick around through that. (The sidekicks, played by Romany Malco and Autumn Reaser, on the other hand? I dug them, but the show wasn't about them.)
In many ways, it reminded me of "Journeyman," another sci-fi genre show with some likable actors and a premise it proceeded to do nothing interesting with at all. (And in the case of the kids' stories, theyw ere less-than-uninteresting.) After a half-dozen episodes worth of repeating the pilot, though, it felt like a switch got flipped, and the stories being told were more varied, more interesting, and more emotionally rich. That became a really good show, and one of two reasons (the second season of "Life" is the other) I'm glad the writers strike happened, as NBC would have surely canceled it in a normal season before we ever even saw the good episodes. Where I stuck with "Journeyman" because there wasn't as much on due to the strike, I decided to step away from "No Ordinary Family" and come back later in hopes of an improvement.
So how did "No Ordinary Powell" work for me?
Well, it was a definite improvement in a number of areas. I was glad to see Jim and Stephanie now working together, and to see that the story with the kids wasn't a total drag. And it's clear in the machinations of Dr. King and the Powells' response to them that the story is finally maybe kinda sorta going somewhere.
On the other hand, I have an instinctual cringe reaction when shows like this or "Heroes" bring in an evil shapeshifter. That power becomes too much of a writers' crutch, in that it allows characters to dumb things because they don't seem dumb, and in that it allows the writers to pull the rug out from under viewers so often that the "surprise" reveals become anything but. So outside of the chance to watch Michael Chiklis fight his well-chosen stunt double, I wasn't a fan of Rebecca Mader's character and was glad to see her dead by the end of the hour.
Overall, I would say this was enough of a marked improvement from where I stopped that I'll try to keep sampling the show for a bit, but not a big enough leap that it's going to be appoint viewing (or weekly blogging) for me.
When we discussed it on yesterday's podcast, Dan - who's been watching all along - was even less impressed, because he's seen these modest improvements happen incrementally, where for me it was a noticeable change from the fall. And so I'm most curious about the reactions of those of you who, like Dan, have stuck with it. Do you feel the show's begun to live up to its potential? Do you feel like "No Ordinary Powell" was any kind of turning point in terms of narrative and/or quality? Or are you still watching because you like the idea of the show more than the show itself?
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