In Which No Ordinary Family Descends Into Self-Parody...
Once upon a time there was a television show with an interesting premise and good actors. That little TV show had a decent start, but then it descended into an orgy of mediocrity and wheel-spinning. Suddenly, hope for those talented actors arrived upon the wings of a decent mid-season twist, serialization, and more talented guest stars!
Tonight, that hope was taken behind the shed and shot. It was very sad, but given the chance to make that television show better, which I will reveal to you now as a metaphor for No Ordinary Family to your certain amazement, the show's writers apparently decided to turn back, hearts filled with fear, and double-down on that mediocrity. Even that ambition was thwarted, however, because once the show's been on for months and actually demonstrated that it could be good every so often, returning to the ordinary status quo isn't the status quo; it's self-parody.
The premise of “No Ordinary Friends” is that Jim saves a random dude's life, and random dude with a random name like “Dave” or something decides to invite Jim's family over for a barbecue. Jim and “Dave” bond over being men who like music and lifting things, Stephanie and “Dave's Wife” bond over booze and gossip, and eventually their kids WHO ARE AMAZINGLY THE SAME AGE AND GENDER AS THE POWELL'S bond over high school nonsense.
Every single member of the family has their counterpart in the other family, and in every single goddamn case, the other person is just perfectly annoyingly exactly what they need. Mirrorverse Daphne teaches Earth-616 Daphne about not taking bitchy high school girls seriously, which encourages Daphne to use her “intuition” to run for student council president on a “get new gym lockers” platform. It appears to work, seriously.
Meanwhile, AlternaJJ notices that JJ Classic is losing the random perfect 21-year-old genius high schooler he fell for last episode and encourages him to be more of a bad boy. JJ Classic stammers for a bit and declines, but then he notices AlternaJJ mackin' on his lady. AlternaJJ talks enough shit that JJ punches him, and lo and behold, his 21-year-old girlfriend is back in his embrace after mere commercial breaks! Turns out that was AlternaJJ's plan the whole time, and thus, JJ Classic's relationship which we are invested in has been saved! Also, did you know that his 21-year-old girlfriend went to the SAME high school as he did?
The main storyline involves Jim & George tracking an art thief. Jim sees a super-shiny watch of Dave's on the thief as he gets away, and that, along with some other circumstantial evidence, he uses his “light touch” to accuse Dave of thievery. Dave gets pissed off, but when Jim goes back to apologize, he discovers that whoa, it wasn't Dave at all, it was Dave's wife Michelle (played by Annie Wersching, another Angel alumna, albeit with a tiny cameo).
The problem is that Stephanie had become superfriendly with Michelle really quickly (look at those puns, I could write for No Ordinary Family too!). Since these people actually seemed to be a nice little suburban family just like our heroes, they can't really be criminals. Jim actually utters the line “This is real life! These are real people!” about the Wishverse Powells. That line neatly sums up everything wrong with this episode and much of what's wrong with the show as a whole. First of all, no, these weren't real people. In a show filled with artificial, one-dimensional supporting characters, the new family stands out as being the most obvious contrived metaphors for the Powells to deal with.
Second, just because these people are white and rich and live in the suburbs, that doesn't make them any more “real” than anyone else. The whole thing felt like the writers saw The Chappelle Show's faux-Law & Order where the white CEO was treated like a black crack dealer and vice versa, and the writers decided to subvert it by having the rich white art thief family get preferential treatment, instead of those common criminals. Actually, given Jim's "think of the victims instead of the criminals" speech earlier in the season, that's plausible.
Meanwhile, in an episode filled with absurd, eyeroll-inducing moments, the biggest came from the Katie-Vader romance. It turns out, in an EERIE PARALLEL TO A MOVIE THAT ACTOR ROMANY MALCO (WHO IS IN NO ORDINARY FAMILY) IS FAMOUS FOR, Katie, despite being ridiculously attractive, has never gotten around to ever sleeping with anyone, because she is too anxious and nerdy. She never found the right person when she was young, see, and then it became a thing, and oh my god this exact fucking scene happened in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. EXACT. FUCKING. SCENE. Except that in that movie, it was actually funny. Here, despite the best efforts of ABC's crack “this scene is funny!” music team, it wasn't funny.
That storyline did, however, lead to our token bits of serialization for the night, as when Vader is told of Katie's virginity, he, like, totally freaks out. But it turns out he freaked out because he was serious about her and quit on CEO Palpatine. So they did the sex, and then Katie was smelling his pants, yes really, and Stephanie's missing journal tumbled out. Dun-dunh!
- Hey, remember that cool twist/cliffhanger of Vader brainwashing Daphne so that she didn't know he had superpowers? It took less than a scene for Daphne to get memories back, thanks to a quick telepathic mind-meld with her family. And, with Katie finding the journal, less than an episode for the effects to be reset. Sigh.
- Yes, George did make fun of modern art by saying his nephew could have painted it. Next up on No Ordinary Family, sushi! It's crazy, right? Raw fish! Abstract art!
- “For lack of a more familiar trope, superheroes.”
- “You're about to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Katie finally figures out how to tell Vader she's a virgin. It's a nice character moment that she can only communicate through nerdiness. It's also the only redeeming moment of the whole side plot.
- The art thief? Stocky. Michelle? Bony. But s/he had a mask, so sure, why not, right?
- Jim was back in his mask, too, which is probably wise.
- Katie's a pretty effective televised nerd portrayal, but on the other hand, when Vader comes to the door to say that he “chooses you” to Katie, a real nerd would have said “You choo-choo-choose me?”
- “I sympathize. I'm hungry too.” Only one funny George line. That's an issue.
- “I'm sorry, I didn't realize we were toggling back to your problems."