ABC's new show No Ordinary Family has a tough balance to strike: it's a family comedy with superpowers and crime-fighting. How will it manage this? We read a bunch of script pages from upcoming episodes to find out. Spoilers below...
So you may be one of the 50,000 people who had the chance to view No Ordinary Family's pilot online, or you saw a truncated version at Comic Con. But in case you missed it, this show is basically a live-action The Incredibles.
Michael Chiklis plays Jim, a police sketch artist who takes his family on a Brazilian vacation, where their plane crashes and they fall into glowing water that gives them superpowers. Jim becomes superstrong and nearly invulnerable. His scientist wife Stephanie becomes super-fast, like The Flash. The kids, Daphne and J.J., gain a kind of telepathy and the ability to visualize math problems respectively. Jim decides to use his new powers to fight crime, with the aid of his friend George, who's an assistant district attorney.
We managed to get hold of a ton of casting script pages from the third, fourth, fifth and sixth episodes of the show. We should caution that we haven't read the whole scripts for any of these episodes, but there was enough to give us a pretty good sense of the storylines. It's also possible that these pages aren't actually from the episode scripts — although chances are they're the actual shooting scripts — and there may be some rewrites before these scripts go before the camera.
In any case, these scripts give us a pretty good sense of how the show will work as an ongoing series and... it's not bad. It's definitely fluffy and lightweight, and the show feels more like an ABC Family show than an ABC show. But given that we liked Kyle XY and loved The Middleman, there's nothing wrong with ABC Family. You can see how the show is finding its feet after a so-so pilot, and there are some fun twists on the theme that superpowers won't necessarily make your life better.
So here's what happens in those episodes, more or less. Last chance to avoid major spoilers!
This is the "Wedding Crashers" episode. The superpowered Powell family attend the wedding of a girl who used to babysit J.J. and Daphne, and who's now marrying a rich stud. Jim shows up late (presumably because he's off fighting crime) and just after he gets there, some masked thugs show up and rob everyone. Jim almost intervenes, but realizes he can't do anything in front of his kids. The thugs take Stephanie's wedding ring, and Jim promises he'll get it back. But Stephanie says, "How about the man who gave it to me — when do I get him back?"
This is the third high-end wedding these creeps have robbed so far, so Jim and his sidekick George start crashing every wedding in town, in the hopes that they'll run into the robbers again. George explains to Jim the importance of having a secret identity, and also chides Jim on the fact that he's dancing "like you're trying to escape angry villagers." The first wedding, Jim and George nearly get thrown out, and then Jim accidentally attacks a waiter who's carrying a cake-cutter. The second wedding, though, they strike paydirt. Jim is like, "I'm going to see a man about a ring."
Meanwhile, there are subplots. Stephanie's research into the miracle plant gets funding, but they want to take out an insurance policy on her and that means she has to undergo a physical exam. She has to use her super-speed powers to switch the blood samples before anybody notices the irregularities in her blood.
And J.J.'s newfound mathematical prowess wins the attention of Sara, a hot girl who just wants his help with her homework. J.J.'s sister Daphne figures out Sara's not really interested, but doesn't know how to tell J.J. — so she tricks J.J. into thinking Sara has a thing for Jewish guys. When J.J. is hanging out with Sara, he starts quoting Hebrew poetry and talking about how he loves to recite the Kiddush. He realizes too late that his sister lied to him, when Sara is not turned on as expected.
Sara: I would totally fail if you weren't here.
J.J.: I'm performing a mitzvah. It's what we do.
J.J.: What is this? Oh, it's a Song of Solomon poem I loved as a boy. Do you like poetry? (Looking right at her) Kol benei ha' adam noldu benei —
Sara (beginning to get weirded out): J.J., can we just study please?
J.J.: Sure. Of course. I've just got to keep an eye on the clock. Don't want to be late for Shabbat dinner.
Sara: Sha-what dinner?
J.J.: Blessing the candles. Reciting the Kiddush? How can you not know what Shabbat dinner is?
Sara: Maybe because I'm not Jewish?
J.J. (Thrown): Then why are you only into Jewish guys?
Sara: What are you talking about? Why would I care what religion a guy is?
J.J. realizes... Daphne lied to him.
And meanwhile, Daphne is blackmailing J.J. into doing her homework for her, in exchange for not telling their parents about J.J.'s powers. (For some reason, Jim, Stephanie and Daphne have all told the rest of the family about their powers, but J.J. is being secretive.)
As for Daphne, she's got problems of her own. Thanks to her mind-reading powers, she realizes that something bad is going on in her friend Megan's life — but when she tries to be helpful, Megan freaks out that Daphne seems to know so much. Megan runs away from Daphne, who vows to tell Megan her secret — much to her parents' dismay.
Oh, and Detective Cho, Jim's friend in the police force, has died and everybody thinks it's a suicide except for Jim — and it's probably related to the shadowy supervillain guy from the first episode.
This is the "Jim vs. the vigilante" episode. (I don't actually know the episode titles, so I'm just summing them up here. There's a nasty mugger victimizing a poor woman, and Jim is about to step in, when a shadowy figure shoots the mugger. Jim has to rush the mugger to the Emergency Room and leave him there with a note saying the mugger should be arrested. Later, the same shooter kills a criminal in the park. The couple who witness the event ID Jim as the perp because he was there — and because Jim is a police sketch artist, he's stuck having to draw a picture of himself as they describe him. Jim is determined to go after this vigilante, even though the cops secretly think the guy's doing them a favor and George thinks they should leave it alone. Jim finally finds a suspect — a guy named Andrew Meyers, whose kid was shot in the park. Jim has a few drinks with Meyers and wangles a kinda/sorta confession out of him, but will the cops listen? It's not clear.
Meanwhile, J.J. discovers that his "J.J. vision" doesn't just let him ace tests — it also lets him join the football team and win games. But now everybody suspects him of being on performance-enhancing drugs, and his parents suspect he's got superpowers he hasn't told them about. And Daphne tries to use her mind-reading powers to crash the popular kids' party, but everything she does just makes things worse for her. And Stephanie gets assigned a new "lab partner," an odious researcher named Chiles who's assigned to work with her on her research and snoops into her business.
There's a superpowered woman named Rebecca who just wants her normal life back, and it sounds like she's connected to Stephanie's boss somehow. The pills he gave her don't work, and so she's been robbing pharmacies and killing innocent people, trying to become normal again. But it hasn't worked. She shows up and confronts Stephanie's boss just as Stephanie is about to give a big speech, but there are guards waiting for her and they hit her with a tranq dart.
The guards are dragging Rebecca into an unmarked van as Stephanie gives her speech, but she wakes up and busts out of the van, taking out the guards. Jim confronts her, and Rebecca's amazed that Jim is still alive after what Rebecca did to him. Rebecca hints at a conspiracy that's creating superpowered people, but it's all very vague. She attacks Jim with her shockwave powers and he almost passes out — but just then, the mysterious figure known only as the Watcher grabs Rebecca and sweeps her up into the air.
Meawhile, J.J. has to pee in a cup to prove he's not taking drugs, but it sounds like he finesses it somehow, and meanwhile he admits to his parents that he has superpowers like the rest of the family. And Daphne sees her good-looking teacher having coffee with a classmate, Olivia, and suspects they're having sex. Daphne "hears" their thoughts enough to receive what she thinks is confirmation — but it turns out the teacher was actually having sex with Olivia's mom. Daphne only realizes the truth after she comes forward with her suspicions and ruins the teacher's life.
This one starts with two different family dinners: the Staffords, who are a regular family freaking out over the fact that their son just wants to play video games all the time and doesn't sit down for meals, and the Powells, who are worried that they spend all their time talking about their superpowers and how they're going to afford all the home repairs to all the damage that Jim's superstrength has caused. And then - boom! - some crooks bust in and rob the house of the "normal" family, the Staffords. Only the Staffords' video-game-playing son, Trent, sees anything. The criminals decide they can't kill a kid.
Later, Daphne finds out for the first time that not only can she "hear" people's thoughts, she can also "see" their memories when she touches them. She uses this power to "see" the face of one of the robbers in Trent's memory. She describes it to her dad, who makes a sketch but begs Detective Cordero to keep it quiet. Instead, the cops put the sketch on television, and the criminals go back to the Staffords' house to shut up the kid. Jim shows up and saves Trent, but then everyone has to worry that Trent won't keep the secret about Jim's superpowers.
And meanwhile, Stephanie's parents are visiting, and nothing is ever good enough for them. They think Jim's a loser and don't appreciate how successful Stephanie is. J.J. is playing pool against his grandpa, who underestimates him. J.J. bets he can sink all the pool balls, and if he wins, he gets grandpa's car. He does win, of course, and grandpa learns an important lesson about underestimating the Powell family. And the grandparents start to appreciate Jim, especially when they hear vague stuff about how Jim is helping the less fortunate and the helpless. The grandpa finally kinda/sorta gives permission for Jim to have married his daughter. The grandma admits to Stephanie that she feels threatened by how successful Stephanie is in her career, since the grandma was just a homemaker.
Also, George, Jim's African American friend who's an assistant district attorney, gets pulled over for driving while black, and proves that the law is his superpower. (It says that in the directions.) He lectures the cops about the 14th Amendment until they are well and truly schooled, in what could be one of the coolest moments on television this fall, if it's done right.
George: Look, man, you got any cause to pull me over? I'm an ADA. Got my ID right here —
As George reaches for his jacket pocket, the cop, assuming George is reaching for a gun, whips out his weapon.
Cop: Hands where I can see 'em!
George shows off his own superhero skill — the law.
George: Making assumptions about me based on my appearance is a breach of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution.
The cop grows intimidated, lowers his weapon slightly.
George: Also, familiarize yourself with the 14th Amendment, which requires that all citizens be treated equally under the law, regardless of the color of their skin. You want me to start citing from the 1954 ACLU suit, White Vs. Williams, or you good?
Cop: Uh, my apologies, sir. You can go.
George: You bet your ass I can go — (Memorizing his badge) — Badge number five, three, oh, niner... Officer... Hartwick.