Lionsgate // 2010 // 880 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // September 6th, 2011
"Every story has a beginning, but ours doesn't start the way you might think." -- Jim Powell
Why is it that so many promising TV concepts are killed before they even get a chance to breathe? Debuting on ABC in September 2010, No Ordinary Family had only just begun to develop and grow its audience before being cancelled.
Meet the Powell family: James "Jim" Powell, Sr. (Michael Chiklis, The Shield) feels disconnected from his job and his wife; Stephanie (Julie Benz, Dexter) is a workaholic, and their teenage children James "JJ" Jr. (Jimmy Bennett, Star Trek (2009)) and Daphne (Kay Panabaker, Fame) are, well, typical angst-ridden teenagers who'd rather do just about anything than spend time with their parents. Mixing business with pleasure, Jim and the kids join Stephanie on a business trip to South America. Little did any of them know that their fateful trip would change their lives forever.
All 20 episodes of the series are spread over four discs:
* "Pilot" -- The Powells are a pretty average middle class family with teenager trouble, marital challenges and other bumps in the road. But that all changes on a trip to Brazil when their plane crashes in green-tinted water, giving each of the Powells an amazing new power. JJ conceals his amazing mathematical ability from his parents.
* "No Ordinary Marriage" -- As the Powells continue to learn about and struggle with their new powers, Jim gets an ultimatum from police and a super villain (big surprise!) shows up to cause trouble.
* "No Ordinary Ring" -- Jim and his assistant district attorney friend George (Romany Malco, Blades of Glory) team up to get to the bottom of a jewel theft, while JJ and Daphne struggle with whether or not to use their powers.
* "No Ordinary Vigilante" -- Jim is mistaken for a vigilante he is trying to stop and Stephanie's co-workers become suspicious of her behavior at the lab where she works. Meanwhile, the kids begin to use their powers to get ahead in school and improve their social status.
* "No Ordinary Quake" -- A series of targeted earthquakes turn out to be the work of someone with super powers. Stephanie suspects JJ's powers and decides to have him tested.
* "No Ordinary Visitors" -- A series of home invasions begin just as Stephanie's parents arrive for a visit and Daphne discovers a new aspect to her powers.
* "No Ordinary Mobster" -- Jim goes after the mob and winds up in jeopardy while Stephanie is confronted by her boss.
* "No Ordinary Accident" -- A group of carjackers crash into JJ's math teacher, Mr. Litchfield (Jason Antoon, Minority Report), forcing Jim and Stephanie to operate to save his life.
* "No Ordinary Anniversary" -- Jim and Stephanie's romantic anniversary plans are interrupted by a serial arsonist.
* "No Ordinary Sidekick" -- Jim and Stephanie lose their sidekicks after a fight with George and Katie (Autumn Reeser, The Big Bang) about how they feel underappreciated.
* "No Ordinary Friends" -- The Powells become friends with the Cotten family after Jim saves their father, but the Cottens aren't quite what they seem.
* "No Ordinary Brother" -- Jim's brother Mike (Jason Wiles, Third Watch) shows up with plans to start a new business but Jim discovers he owes a huge debt to a prominent loan shark.
* "No Ordinary Detention" -- Jim deals with a hostage situation at the precinct while JJ and Daphne pay truth or dare with their detention mates.
* "No Ordinary Double Standard" -- Jim and Stephanie race to be the first to solve a mystery that will reveal disturbing truths about Stephanie's boss, Dr. Dayton King (Stephen Collins, Private Practice).
* "No Ordinary Powell" -- Dr. King works to find the truth behind the Powell's ongoing abilities and the kids use their powers to help solve a murder mystery.
* "No Ordinary Proposal" -- Jim feels guilty when he accidentally causes harm to a civilian, and the danger to the Powells from Dr. King continues to build.
* "No Ordinary Love" -- Their marriage is put at risk when an enemy uses her powers to make Jim and George fall in love with her.
* "No Ordinary Animal" -- The Powells face jeopardy on all fronts, as their enemies ramp up their nefarious plans.
* "No Ordinary Future" -- After glimpsing a less-than-desirable future, Stephanie works to keep it from happening. Meanwhile, Daphne and JJ discover that Mr. Litchfield, now working for Dr. King and Helen Burton a.k.a. Mrs. X (Lucy Lawless, Xena: Warrior Princess), has been using JJ's powers to help him achieve an evil hidden agenda.
* "No Ordinary Beginning" -- The Powells join forces to rescue JJ from Mrs. X and are ultimately contacted by the NSA, who know all about the plane crash and their powers and want to enlist them.
The concept of No Ordinary Family had my above-average family hooked from the beginning. Finally here was a TV series we could all watch together that was exciting and action-packed, without being too intense or inappropriate for my 9 and 11-year-old. From the beginning, we enjoyed both the family time and a great show that had heart and appeal. Sadly, the series has been cancelled.
Produced by ABC Studios for the 2010-2011 season, No Ordinary Family featured some amazing talent both in front of and behind the camera. Created by writers Greg Berlanti (Everwood) and Jon Harmon Feldman (Wonder Years), and executive produced by Berlanti, Feldman, Morgan Wandell and David Semell (Party of Five) the series had some significant energy and experience behind it. While the concept seemed very familiar right from the start, for my family, it was more like something comfortably familiar that instantly appeal to us, rather than being a straight reboot or copycat of an existing property. Other critics have written the series off as too predictable or smarmy, but I'd argue it may be that they either aren't the target market for this show or they have become too jaded to see the value here.
As with any film or TV series, as good as a concept might be, it is the actors who bring the concept to life and make or break it for audiences. Fortunately No Ordinary Family featured both a core and supporting cast populated by skilled actors with familiar faces. Particularly Chiklis and Benz were solid and skilled performers who breathed life into the Powell family, making them flawed but believable protagonists.
The plot lines always works, blending everyday family challenges, teenage issues and superhero adventures into something unique. Imagine if The Incredibles had been a series of films and you'd have some idea of what No Ordinary Family delivered week after week. No good guy is complete without a solid nemesis and Antoon, Collins and Lawless delivered that in spades. The more I think about the series' cancellation, the more concerned I become that the creativity and appeal of more and more series may be sacrificed at the altar of the corporate machine. It seems that these days, to quote Billy Joel, "only the good die young."
No Ordinary Family blasts its way onto DVD with a color palette that is vibrant and warm, with acceptable fine detail and contrast. While supposedly shot in 720p, there seems to be no indication of a Blu-ray release at this point, and the DVD release doesn't seem to have been created from an HD master. Each disc launches with full motion video of one of the family members before settling into a static selection menu. Sonically, the series gets a crisp but limiting 2.0 mix that holds the presentation back far more than I would have liked; while the packaging lists a 5.1 mix as well, it is nowhere to be found. As far as extras features are concerned, disc four includes an all-too-short blooper reel that will make fans smile, and an assortment of nine deleted scenes that add some minor additional character and plot development.
Speaking for my family, we will greatly miss this series, but thankfully, we have No Ordinary Family: The Complete Series to watch and re-watch together. In a TV landscape skewed towards more adult-themed drama series, it's a shame the show was cut down before it had a chance to grow into something really special and unique; shame on you ABC!
ABC: Guilty. No Ordinary Family: Guilty only of being something special with real promise.
Review content copyright © 2011 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 880 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site