Probably the most realistic element in ABC's new adventure series "No Ordinary Family" is the back-talking teenage daughter. It's a good thing the show, as the title suggests, isn't intended to be all that realistic.
"No Ordinary Family" is a mostly cheerful sci-fi drama about an entirely ordinary family that suddenly transforms into something pretty extraordinary: a family of super heros. But don't let that H-word scare you. It's nothing like the dark, weird, terrible "Heroes" mercifully canceled last year by NBC.
The patriarch of the Powell family, played by Michael Chiklis ("The Shield"), is a sort of whiny everyman who complains about how his brood never spends enough time together. The mom, played by Julie Benz ("Dexter"), is a disengaged, workaholic scientist who has no idea what's going on in her kids' lives. Their high-strung teenage daughter has a pretty specific PG-13 (at least) boyfriend problem and their mopey teenage son has a learning disability.
In the pilot episode, the dad insists the family accompany the mom on a research trip abroad so that they can bond. And after their plane crashes in the Amazon, the family does grow closer -- "for about 30 seconds," dad tells us in a voiceover. More importantly, the crash and consequential dunking in the Amazon River endows each of them with a unique special ability.
The mild-mannered dad discovers he has super human strength and reflexes. He can stop bullets and he can leap over tall buildings. The mom, always rushing and short on time, discovers she can run really fast. Like streak-of-lightning fast. The daughter gets the power of telepathy (sometimes you may wish she had the power to shut up) and the son is suddenly a genius.
How each person decides to use their powers should be the interesting part of the show as it proceeds. Judging from the pilot at least, it doesn't look like it aims to be a live action "Incredibles." In fact, only the dad seems interested in using his powers to help others. This also makes him the most interesting character so far. His job as a police sketch artist gives him a bit of access to knowledge about crimes and wanted criminals, even though his colleagues, the real crime fighters, have no idea about his powers and don't take him seriously. His best friend is a district attorney, Romany Malco from "Weeds," and he's all about helping his pal. He even builds for him what every superhero crime fighter needs: A lair. With wi-fi.
This basically lighthearted action show has a bit of an ABC/Disney Family feel to it, but it's definitely not an ABC/Disney Family production. You know how you can tell? In the first ten minutes of the pilot, the teenage daughter says "dumbass" and "whore," then later calls her learning-disabled brother an "idiot." Mom chimes in later by calling the daughter's deceptive best friend a "bitch." This show is on at 8pm.
If you're not picky about that kind of thing, I actually think it's a great family show. The tone is light and there's a lot of talk about family togetherness and loving and respecting each other. And the dad's determination to use his powers not to advance himself, but to help others in need is a good teach-by-example element. We'll see if that spirit rubs off on the rest of them.
Mostly, "No Ordinary Family" is just highly watchable and fun. It airs on Tuesday nights at 8pm on ABC.