'No Ordinary Family," ABC's action-fantasy, starts Tuesday

Cast of "No Ordinary Family" (from left) Romany Malco as George, Autumn Reeser as Katie, Kay Panabaker as Daphne, Jimmy Bennett as JJ, Julie Benz as Stephanie, Michael Chiklis as Jim, and Stephen Collins as Dr. Dayton King.
Cast of "No Ordinary Family" (from left) Romany Malco as George, Autumn Reeser as Katie, Kay Panabaker as Daphne, Jimmy Bennett as JJ, Julie Benz as Stephanie, Michael Chiklis as Jim, and Stephen Collins as Dr. Dayton King.
Posted: September 28, 2010

"Something extraordinary's happened to me," says one member of the non-ordinary family to a friend. "Something impossible, and I need your help to figure out what it is."

You, Mr. and Ms. Home Viewer, will be of no help, but you might have fun in the figuring, on ABC's new action-fantasy, No Ordinary Family, which, even a numskull can tell, is a family show, too. It premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m.

The show stars Michael Chiklis as Jim Powell, a schlub of a dad who dreams up schemes to bring his family closer, despite their lack of interest.

"Last month, you made us play charades, and then you threw out your back miming some dude from Iron Man," his texting-obsessed daughter, Daphne, complains.

By the end of the first episode, Jim may still seem like a schlub, but he can catch bullets with his bare hands and jump a quarter of a mile in "a single leap."

"A single what?" Jim asks his buddy and confidant George, who agrees that "a single bound," matching the prologue to the old Superman TV show, might be more appropriate.

Jim may be able to catch bullets, but it's his wife, Stephanie, who is faster than a speeding bullet. Nobody can fly like a bird or a plane up in the sky, or change the course of mighty rivers, but Daphne can read minds. And their son, JJ, moves smartly from the lowly land of the losers onto some sort of intellectual Mount Olympus.

How could this be, you might be asking.

Well, it's ABC, and it had a trick that worked pretty well before, so, the creative giants thought, why not do it again?

There's a plane crash.

On a trip to the mysterious Amazon - a family attacked together by 8-ounce mosquitoes and foot-long leeches stays together, Jim must have thought - the not-so-fearsome foursome winds up in some weird water and gets just the super powers each one of them needs to help them cope with their daily problems.

There are hints that other, less savory characters may also have taken the plunge and gained super powers, and the family will probably have to negotiate with them for the duration of the series. But there will be weekly adventures, and the powers are sure to cause all sorts of difficulties that will bind the once-dysfunctional family together, perhaps in other dysfunctional ways.

There's none of The Shield's mad-dog Vic Mackey in Chiklis' Jim, but the Emmy-winning actor does draw effectively on some of his previous experience as the easygoing title characters in The Commish and Daddio, and as The Thing in Fantastic Four. Dexter's Julie Benz is his nationally prominent corporate scientist wife, and 20-year-old Kay Panabaker, who has been acting professionally since 2002, plays Daphne.

Panabaker is pretty extraordinary in her own right. When she was 17, she became the youngest person ever to get a B.A. in history at UCLA. Maybe she can give tips to Jimmy Bennett on how to play her smarty-pants brother.

There really is something for the whole family in this 8 p.m. series, which craftily combines the struggles of relatives' relationships with some excitement and a little humor, too. And that makes it no ordinary TV show.


Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or jstorm@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "Eye of the Storm," at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/storm.Television Review

No Ordinary Family

8 p.m. Tuesday on 6ABC

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