What can you do?
OK, not much. No Ordinary Family's ratings have been dropping. Interestingly, they've dropped primarily after their worst episodes—during the handful of crappy ones after the pilot, and after the half-season premiere this January. If that's the case, maybe it'll be cancelled in a week, because this episode was rubbish. Absolute shit.
I mean, we've had episodes which start with dumb premises and turn into something interesting by the end. That's kind of the No Ordinary Family form, for better or for much, much, much worse. But I'm on to them, now. They've gotten away with tossing serialization onto the end of episodes in order to purify their sins for far too long. The last few weeks of apparent self-awareness and intensity were replaced with an offensive, monumentally annoying “Battle of the Sexes” premise.
For the past few weeks, my girlfriend has been urging me to write on the gender politics of No Ordinary Family because, well, she's got a Masters in English and that's kind of what they do. I've written about the episodes at hand because they've been interesting for other purposes, but this episode took No Ordinary Family's regressive gender politics and shoved them in the viewer's faces. While making them worse. And adding the ABC “aren't we so wacky!” music.
The plot is that Stephanie has a friend from the company who visits her for drinks. The friend gets attacked in her apartment by a mysterious assailant. Stephanie wants to find the person who did it and tells Jim so, but he dismisses her, because he's totally an expert vigilante and she has cooties. Then, Daphne and JJ, who have both been asked out by their apparently senior friends from the last episode say that they have dates. Jim forbids Daphne to see her senior boy because GENDER!, but he praises JJ for scoring with his senior girl date because GENDER! Both Daphne and Stephanie say that's unfair, yet apparently it still stands because PATRIARCHY!
This all triggers the incredibly boring “battle of the sexes.” Jim & George compete with Katie & Stephanie to find the criminal first. You can tell this because there's one of those No Ordinary Family intercutting edits between the two conversations that shows the parallels. First Katie starts saying, “We gotta be firsties!” or whatever, then George finishes the line by saying “Firsties are the best! In vigilante justice!” or something. It's obvious, terrible, and underscored by the ghastly “comic scene!” music. My notes for this section simply say “TERRIBLE.”
Unfortunately, it gets worse. Jim and George, having a manly background in police work, seem to get the upper hand on the girls. So they decide to turn the tables on the boys by using their feminine deceptive wiles. This involves them pretending like sexy morons, so that they can make me fucking angry. And, I guess, move the plot along. But it does by resorting to the laziest of gender stereotypes, that women get ahead by lying and parasitically attaching themselves to men with their sexy sexiness. Katie goes to George's house to hack into his stuff, and the scene between the show's two funniest actors is fairly good, but it's based on such terrible gender constructions that even when she says lines like “George, I had no idea you had such impressive equipment,” and then describes his RAM specs, it still does nothing for me. It says something that the kids' sideplot of vague competition is by far the most tolerable aspect of the episode.
Unfortunately, it gets EVEN worse, if only briefly. Once Jim and Stephanie converge, separately, on the criminal breaking into a house (or maybe it's his house, it's kind of unclear), Stephanie tells Katie via phone that she's scared to bust into the house to confront him on the grounds that “What good is super speed without super strength?” In other words, the woman needs her man! No mention of the fact that super speed IS super strength, because fast muscles mean that you can hit people REALLY FUCKING HARD. Fast running means that you can get away from danger REALLY FUCKING QUICKLY. But, she needs to learn the lesson that she needs her damn man, so that's the lesson she gets, as he shows up to help her out of danger not once, not twice, but THREE FUCKING times over the course of the episode.
After 40 minutes of this idiocy, No Ordinary Family shifts gears, bringing its serialization back in a hurry. The criminal attacker is some kind of smoke monster, who's been attacking people associated with GlobalTech because they injected him with superpowers. CEO Palpatine tells Katie that her boyfriend is evil. Daphne discovers that she can't just read thoughts, but now, she can project them onto people. But you know what? It's not going to work. You can't just throw Big Drama in at the end of the episode to make what came before seem good. If you want to be a mediocre sitcom, be an insultingly mediocre sitcom that we don't watch. If you want to be a serialized superhero drama, be that. But an insultingly unbalanced mediocre superhero dramedy? I just can't care. I liked what you did the last couple of episodes. Actors and fun are your strengths, No Ordinary Family. If I wanted wildly atonal shifts and terrible gender politics, I'd watch Glee. At least they dance sometimes.
- That's unfair to Glee, and I'm an official Glee Grump.
- No Ordinary Family gets a new intro narration. It's slightly more accurate, but not a whole lot more interesting. I guess it's good that we don't hear Benz saying “Something… extraordinary has happened!” every week anymore.
- “Are you whistling? Who does that?” Kay Panabaker, when this show is cancelled, please find something worthwhile. You might be great.
- “Lairs don't have sanctity!” Autumn Reeser is really adorable, and really funny, and tries her best to redeem this episode.
- “Would you not take that facetious tone!”
- Oh wait, it gets worse. When the supposed bad guy comes to get Stephanie, she's taking a shower, so that he shows up at the point of Maximum Gendered Weakness. For no reason other than to show Julie Benz semi-nude and, well, GENDER!