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Why 'No Ordinary Family' Is My Favorite New Fall Show

by Bob Sassone, posted Oct 19th 2010 4:30PM
No Ordinary FamilyEarlier, AOL TV (along with Life & Style magazine) asked you fine readers vote on the best new show of the fall. I've been thinking about it, and for me it's really an easy pick: ABC's 'No Ordinary Family.'

This has been an odd fall season. None of the shows are must-see, OMG good, and there seems to be sort of a shrug from the public about most of them. Maybe this is because people watch things when they want to now or perhaps they're weary about new shows in general.

So why has 'No Ordinary Family' broken through the pack?

I started to watch 'Hawaii Five-0,' but quickly got tired of its predictability. 'Boardwalk Empire' is fine but not entertaining enough for me. I don't hate 'Outsourced' like a lot of people do, but I also wouldn't care if it was canceled after one season. 'Undercovers' runs hot and cold and so does my interest in it. And the less said about '$#*! My Dad Says' the better.

So 'No Ordinary Family' is the show I like the most. I didn't know what to expect when I first heard about the show many months ago. From the title alone (and a quick video preview), I thought the show was another family-oriented comedy-drama, maybe a little 'Modern Family' mixed with 'Parenthood.' A comedy-drama about the problems a middle-class family faced in the modern world.

I didn't realize it was actually more like 'Heroes,' a show about ordinary people who suddenly find themselves with super strength, The Flash-like speed and the ability to read minds.

No Ordinary FamilyThis mixture of family drama and comic book action could have been a disaster. How would they mix the "oh how am I going to work late while still making dinner for the kids?" family questions with the let's-save-the-world action? Pretty skillfully, so far.

I also like how -- unlike some of the mopes on 'Heroes' -- the family is actually embracing their new powers. There's been very little despair or incapacitating shock about what has happened. Daphne is glad she read her boyfriend's mind and found out that he was cheating. JJ loves getting good grades for once. Stephanie is happy that she can run around and get things done. And Jim is actually being proactive about it, joining forces with George to secretly fight crime, instead of being a bystander at the police station. The show chose wisely by getting right into all of that.

Speaking of George, it could have been a tricky thing to have friends find out about the super powers, but it actually adds a lot to the show. It's funny when Daphne tries to read George's mind. Plus, having friends know about what's going on means there's less "will they find out?" tension shoe-horned into every scene. The family already has to keep the secret from everyone else in the world so it's great that they have some friends they can confide in and go to for help and advice.

It also gave the show the opportunity to have George not only help Jim on his missions but to decide to make a lair for Jim. Every superhero needs a lair. I like how Jim didn't have to tell him to do it -- George did it on his own. He's getting into it, too.

The show is also a bit darker than you expect and a bit more unpredictable. In the second episode, the show actually had the nerve (and smarts) to kill off what we thought was a major character, in an especially cruel way. It was another moment when fans realized, hey, this isn't the show I thought it was going to be.

No Ordinary FamilyI also love Stephen Collins as bad guy Dr. King. Here's an actor who usually plays the calm good guy, and here he's the calm bad guy -- one who seems like a friend and boss but is really the mastermind behind some nasty events.

It will be fun to see where the show takes this plot, because it's not like the family is a bunch of superheroes working out of their secret hideout, trying to find bad guys who are also working out of a secret hideout. Stephanie actually works for King and doesn't know that he's a bad guy or how the company is involved in all of the superhero stuff. Having her be so close to evil -- and having a family with kids so close to the evil too -- is an interesting touch.

Of course, I'm hoping that the show puts Daphne in a room with Dr. King at some point, because she'll be able to read his mind and find out what's going on. Then again, that would propel the plot forward very quickly and I'm sure they want to take things a lot slower than that.

Could the show still go off the rails like a lot of other shows of this type? Sure. If the family stuff starts to overwhelm the superhero/conspiracy stuff, we might start to move around in our seats. If the family's super powers remain secret to the world or even to some of the bad guys for too long, we might start to roll our eyes. But so far this show is doing the smart things we wish shows like this would do. And it's fun and entertaining and manages to be that rare concoction, the family show that -- gasp! -- also has an edge to it.

I really like it.

'No Ordinary Family' airs Wednesdays at 8PM ET on ABC.

[Follow Bob on Twitter.]

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I really enjoy NOF. It certainly could be significantly more in-depth, but it has far more potential than most of this season's new shows (it and Hawaii Five-0 are the only new ones that I have continued to watch). The plot should develop now that one of the henchmen witnessed Jim's powers.

October 27 2010 at 9:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I like this show too, but I actually think the plot should move more forward. I want to see Jim get more control over his abilities and start to kick a little more butt.

October 21 2010 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree wholeheartedly with this review.

October 20 2010 at 4:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's my favorite new show, but that's not saying much. I DVR Glee and watch NOF now. The plots are kinda predictable, but, I'm sure they'll start maturing around sweeps.

October 20 2010 at 8:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stephen Collins is bad guy Dr.Dayton King not Powell.Powell is the name of the family of NOF.I'm liking this show quite a bit,not flawless but its fun.

October 19 2010 at 9:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the show is OK, though it doesn't feel like there is much originality to any one piece. The whole show is basically "The Incredibles," all of the family situations are so cliche and all of the superhero situations seem way too contrived. Also, that whole "Hitch" ripoff with Jim teaching George how to dance was absolutely PAINFUL to watch.

October 19 2010 at 8:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brett Alan

After the first two episodes, I would have agreed with most of this. I wasn't *loving* the show, but I liked it better than anything else new I've tried this season. However, I thought last week's episode was bad. Lots of people acting stupidly (George and Jim know exactly what wedding will be hit, but the police can't send one person? And they have to actually go into the wedding instead of positioning themselves to catch the baddies?) and lots of oh-so-predictable melodrama (the girl JJ liked).

I'll be watching tonight, but if they do many more like last week, they'll lose me.

October 19 2010 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's an ok show, the plots are not outside the realm of every day life.
I think it would be nice if there was just a touch more humor. In every day life, there is humor. I am not saying make a dramedy out of it, but maybe they could lighten up just a touch now and again, make it slightly less soap opera for primetime and more just a good show that can play at any time.

October 19 2010 at 5:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I want to like it because of Julie Benz and Romany Malco, but I can't. The dialogue is always too on-the-nose for me. Everyone just says what they're thinking with no real subtext. It's difficult to listen to.

October 19 2010 at 5:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree. There is some darkness here, but it is also a show that that my entire family crowds around to watch. With five boys-16, 15, 11, 6 and 3 that is no easy feat.

October 19 2010 at 4:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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