Here are my first impressions of “No Ordinary Family,” which airs at 7 p.m. Central Tuesdays on ABC.
1. The cast is easy to like. It’s especially neat to see Michael Chiklis (“The Shield”) and Julie Benz (“Buffy”/”Angel”) play nice, ordinary people; I previously pictured them as a gruff cop and a vampire, respectively. Chiklis is like a big teddy bear here as the dad; easy to warm up to. I’m still a little suspicious of Benz, though, as if she could morph into full vamp face at any second.
2. Whereas the adults get refreshing, against-type roles, Kay Panabaker essentially plays the same girl she played on “Summerland.” But I liked “Summerland,” so I’m not complaining.
3. Chiklis’ superpowers are that he can jump really high and he has a really thick skin. Bullets and 120-mph fastballs are mere annoyances. Benz can run super-fast. Panabaker can hear people’s thoughts. The fourth member of the family, played by Jimmy Bennett, has his power revealed in the final moments of the premiere episode, and it’s unclear: Either he becomes super-smart, knowing all the answers to a test; or he can picture all the answers to the test (without actually knowing why they are the correct answer). This will hopefully be clarified in the next episode.
4. Back to Panabaker’s mind-reading. In a third-season “Buffy” episode, Buffy goes crazy because everyone’s thoughts are bouncing around in her head (the writers took the “What if it really happened?” approach). On “True Blood,” Sookie’s mind-reading kicks in when the plot requires it (the writers take a more practical approach to dealing with this power). It’s too early to say how the “NOF” writers will approach mind-reading (so far, she’s just found out her boyfriend is cheating on her), but here’s an idea. I’ve often thought that a person would immediately gain a lot of self-confidence if they could hear other people’s thoughts and know that everyone else is just as messed up as they are. If that’s how the writers play it, Panabaker’s high-schooler could develop the best superpower of all: Self-confidence.
5. The pilot episode isn’t original, but it’s still fun, and I’m glad the writers got almost all the exposition out of the way. This family has superpowers. Their friends know about it. There are other people with superpowers (including the villain in this episode, who has a Nightcrawler-esque teleporting ability). And, basically, the show is up to speed and ready to make great episodes. Granted, we’ll probably have to go through more “Wow, you have superpowers!” moments as the show progresses, but I get the sense that the writers don’t want “NOF” to become “Ghost Whisperer” (with its obligatory “Yes, I see ghosts” explanation in every single episode). Episode two will tell us a lot about whether this is a progressive superhero show or just another superhero show.
6. Forget the “Heroes” comparisons. “Heroes” was pretty good at first, but even at its best, it was a cold, scientific-type show. “NOF” has a much warmer feel to it. It’s probably not as cool, but it’s definitely easier to like.
7. Between “NOF” and “Heroes,” and “Dark Angel” and “Mutant X” before that, there have been a fair number of superhero shows since “X-Men” hit movie theaters 10 years ago. It makes me wonder why a network doesn’t just launch a live-action “X-Men” series instead of all these shows that are kind of like “X-Men.”
Verdict: I’m on board. I love the cast and the characters. Although the first episode’s plot and character arcs are ordinary, the groundwork is in place for “No Ordinary Family” to become an extraordinary superhero show if it wants to be. We’ll learn a lot about the show’s ambitions next week.