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TV Series Review

Superpowers can be such a bummer.

First off, you almost always have to go through something horrible—a meteor shower or radioactive spider bite or a planetary cataclysm—to get them. And once you have them, you have to learn how to use 'em. Then, just when you think you have it all figured out, some nefarious arch-villain shows up, laughs menacingly and declares his intent to take over the world.

(That's why I returned my own special superpower—the much sought-after ability to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. That preternatural ability to craft creamy, crunchy goodness wasn't worth the hassle, largely because my archnemesis, the nefarious Toaster Fiend, was always tracking crumbs on my carpet. We still keep in touch through Facebook, though.)

The Powells weren't born with superpowers. They were once a typical, slightly dysfunctional American family: husband Jim, a police mugshot artist; wife Stephanie, a high-powered scientist; two truculent teens, Daphne and JJ. The only real power they shared was the ability to annoy each other.

But when their plane crashes in strange, soupy, tropical waters during a family vacation, and everything changes. Oh, it starts gradually enough, with Jim catching a few bullets with his bare hands. But before you know it, everybody in the family has a superpower. And not just any superpowers. These seem to have been handpicked and special ordered by a family therapist with some serious connections. Jim, who before had felt unsuccessful and slightly emasculated next to his highly successful wife, now sports über-macho strength. Steph, who never had enough hours in the day to do all she needed to, is souped up with superspeed, effectively giving her more time. JJ, who has struggled all his life with a learning disability, becomes the family brainiac. And Daphne … well, most teens always think that their friends are thinking bad things about them anyway. So Daphne has a chance to confirm it with her new ability to read folks' minds.

But these superpowers, as nifty as they might be, don't solve any of the family's lingering issues. They actually create a whole new bevy of problems. Jim wants to become a Superman-style crime-fighter, but Steph doesn't want him to put himself in danger. Daphne has to learn how to drown out all the noises in her head. JJ at first doesn't even tell his parents about his powers, allowing them to think the A's he's bringing home are all the product of hard work.

"When I brought these grades home," he confides in Daphne, "they were so proud of me, for the first time ever."

No Ordinary Family has the ambition to fly: It hopes to be a comedy, an action show and a poignant family drama all rolled into one hour-long package. And, at times, it succeeds. The Powells clearly have relationships to revamp, along with making the world safe from evildoers. But you can tell they're trying on both fronts.

At other times, this so-called "family show," airing in prime-time's traditional family hour, tosses chunks of kryptonite at the good guys. Sex talk isn't restricted to Jim and Steph sharing their marital bed. Daphne frets about losing her boyfriend because she won't sleep with him. And Steph doesn't much like to button up her shirt, apparently.

Kids show very little respect for their parents. Parents seem to have very little control over their children. The Powell household, as well-meaning as it is, seems at times a breeding ground for lies. Sibling name-calling includes "idiot" and "dumba‑‑." And those words share space with a smattering of other profanities. Some of the violent action sequences generate blood and/or terminate in death.

"When I hear the words 'family show,' I think: 'Appropriate for kids under 10,' writes Jeff Jensen, television critic for Entertainment Weekly. "I'm not sure that pilot was appropriate for the under-10 set. … The good news for my kids—who were really excited to see No Ordinary Family—is that I'm willing to do this for them: Record the show; watch it on my own; and then watch it again with them the next day knowing exactly when and where to fast-forward, if needed."

That's a pretty good system for any parent, actually. Sure, it's a little extra effort. But it's hardly superhuman.


Positive Elements

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Episode Reviews

NoOrdinaryFamily: 1052010



Readability Age Range



Michael Chiklis as Jim Powell; Julie Benz as Stephanie Powell; Kay Panabaker as Daphne Powell; Jimmy Bennett as JJ Powell; Romany Malco as George St. Cloud; Autumn Reeser as Katie Andrews; Stephen Collins as Dr. Dayton King






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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