Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No Ordinary Family

The first episode of ABC's new superhero TV show was available as a free download on iTunes, so I figured I had no reason not to check it out. It wasn't anywhere near as brilliant as the first episode of Heroes, but let's hope it never gets as bad as the last few seasons of that show. It was nothing mind-blowing or all that original (in fact, it was incredibly cliche and derivative), but it was pretty cute and fun and entertaining.

The basic premise of the show is that an "ordinary family" is given super powers. The mother is a some kind of research scientist who accidentally exposes her husband and their two kids to some kind of extraordinary plant that grants them all extraordinary powers. The dad gets superstrength and becomes impervious to harm, the mom gets super speed, the daughter gains the ability to read minds, and the son gets... smart? I don't really know what the son's powers were, since his were the last to manifest themselves and were kept vague. Toward the very end, they just showed him becoming really good at math and acing his test. All things considered, the kids got some lame ass powers. I mean, I'd love to be super smart and telepathic, but as a TV viewer, I'd much rather watch a group with more visually thrilling powers than that. Let the daughter should lightning bolts from her fingers or something.

This pilot was basically a "first issue" origin story, where we meet this family that is somewhat dysfunctional and growing apart. Their powers slowly begin to manifest themselves, and we see some cliched but fun scenes where each member starts to practice and test their powers out. There is one really fun scene where Michael Chiklis tests out his powers by renting out an entire baseball batting range while he lets the machine toss fastballs at his chest. And the sequence where the Julie Benz first uses her speed powers was amazing and stands out as a special effects masterpiece. That was the best use of superspeed I've ever seen in any movie or TV show.

As fun as the premise was, it's really the cast that made this episode so fun. Michael Chiklis is just one of those actors who's so good and so engaging, he was just as fun to watch before he got superpowers than he was at the end where he was jumping over tall buildings and punching apart cars. He is just a really good actor who is believable both as a loving family man, and as a larger than life super hero. The scenes were it was just his character talking with his best friend, played by the always great Romany Malco, were ridiculously entertaining and charming. And Julie Benz as the mom is gorgeous and really likable as well. The pilot is worth checking out just for the scene where she tests out her speed wearing a pink tanktop and spandex pants. The best thing I can say about the kids is that I didn't find either of them to be annoying at all. But I don't remember anything about either of them either.

So I liked it, and I'll probably watch it again. The cast was great, the story is fun, and the special effects and action sequences were phenomenal. However... I dunno. It did feel too much like the Incredibles, which felt too much like the Fantastic Four. I understand that ABC wanted to create something unique with completely new characters, but considering the long, rich history of super powered character, it still seems silly to me that we have a show with another super strong character, another character with super speed, etc. Whenever Hollywood attempts to create their own superheroes, they always end up failing or creating something that feels like a cheap knock-off of a better, more established character we all know already from comics. But maybe ABC will prove me wrong and this show will establish itself as something unique and brilliant in its own right. Anyway, the pilot was fun.

1 comment:

Justin Garrett Blum said...

"That was the best use of superspeed I've ever seen in any movie or TV show."
Hmm...you've intrigued me. I'll have to check out the pilot online. I'm actually still pretty fond of the Flash series from the early 90s.

And I guess they didn't want to totally exhaust their special effects budget by having four characters that required fancy special effects. Still...telepathy is always kind of lame, barring, maybe, a few instances like that neat scene from X-Men 2 where Xavier freezes everybody in that building.