No Ordinary Family is shaping up to be one of the few hits of this gloomy fall season, and while it wouldn’t be my top pick, I can’t begrudge it. A benign, breezy superhero action-comedy, it’s got a premise out of The Incredibles mixed with the likable tone of the old eighties show The Greatest American Hero. It’s a notch better than Undercovers — which has a similar real-couple-with-secret-lives premise, but too much sexyface by far. In the continuum of sleek, perky procedurals, No Ordinary Family is more like the charming Castle and Bones than the irritating Lie to Me. God, there are a lot of these shows.
After a plane crash, a family develops metaphorical superpowers: the emasculated cop dad gets super-strength, the stressed-out working mom can run super-fast, the angsty teen girl can read minds, and the dopey teen boy becomes a math whiz. Occasionally, the narration gets clunky (“In science, we call it an ‘unexplained phenomenon” — yes, we call it that in regular life, too!). Neither the conspiracy plots nor the family-angst conversations break any original ground. And the show could use a greater sense of emotional jeopardy, since the couple, despite the fact that they talk about having grown apart, seem perfectly happy and loving.
Still, a family oriented procedural with a supernatural twist is a clever, commercial concept. The great Michael “Vic Mackey” Chiklis is solid, literally, as the dad, catching bullets with the back of his neck; Julie Benz (Dexter’s Rita! Angel’s Darla) is charming as a hot-shot scientist who can now run at the speed of light. She would be watchable even if I weren’t so relieved to see her out of that bathtub of blood.