Review: No Ordinary Family 1×1

No Ordinary Family

In the US: Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC
In the UK: Yet to be acquired

Brace yourself: this is the first of not one but two superhero shows on network US TV coming this Fall, with NBC’s The Cape due some time soon (presumably as soon as NBC cancels another show, since there’s no actual airdate yet).

But of the two, this is the most family-friendly. Family, incidentally, is the operative word here. Since ABC scored big last year with Modern Family, it must have seemed natural enough to go for family with the drama as well. Here we have an “ordinary family” – which apparently means “family doing regular stuff but with deep seated emotional issues and resentments, but nothing too dramatic” – whose plane crash-lands in the Amazon. Exposed to some weird green stuff in the river, when they return to the US, they soon discover they have super-powers, which in traditional Heroes style are exactly what they need emotionally: super-strength for the father who wants to fight crime, super-speed for the mother who has too little time, super-brains for the learning disabled son and the ability to read minds for the girl who can’t fit in.

It’s not as adult as Heroes, it’s not as kid-oriented as Kyle XY, it’s not as good as The Incredibles and it’s not as “ordinary” as Misfits – but it’s got Julie Benz (Buffy, Angel, Dexter) and Michael Chiklis (The Shield, Fantastic Four), it does have some really cool special effects and the stories are something the whole family can enjoy. Basically, it’s Merlin for Americans – but better, obviously

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Review: Blue Bloods 1×1

Blue Bloods

In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, CBS
In the UK: Not yet acquired

In the neverending quest for new ways to do cop and legal dramas, the concept of the “super-format” has emerged (I just made up that name so don’t go looking for it anywhere else. It’s mine). So you want to do cop shows, but you also quite like the whole lawyer thing as well? Well, how about Law & Order, where you get both cops and lawyers: a twofer super-format. Or maybe you quite like stories about guys on patrol, rookie cops and detectives? Well, how about Southland, then? That’s a threefer super-format. Or perhaps you even like the mix of politics that you get at the top of the police hierarchy with the day-to-day police work of the rank and file as well as lawyers? Well, how about The Wire then?

Indeed, The Wire was perhaps the first of the “super-super format” shows: a format that tries to amalgamate everything to do with the legal system and look at it all equally. But post The Wire, what new super-super format can you have?

Blue Bloods rather cunningly does the very American thing of making it all about family. In this case, the Reagans, a New York Irish family of cops and lawyers. We have Tom Selleck, complete with his old Magnum PI moustache, as the New York chief of police. His dad is the former chief of police. He has two sons, one a detective (Donnie Wahlberg), the other a beat cop. He had another son, who was also a beat cop, but who died in the line of duty. And he has a daughter (Bridget Moynahan) who is an assistant district attorney.

The result is a show in which you get to see all aspects of New York policing, from the politics at the top to the investigations by detectives to the day-to-day issues of the average beat cop to the problems of the legal system – all while the politics of torture are discussed over Sunday lunch. For a while, it actually seems pretty good – and then six minutes before the end, we get the Blue Templars and everything falls apart.

Here’s a trailer:

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Question of the week: should Britain make longer running dramas?

So Ben Stephenson, the BBC’s controller of drama commissioning, yesterday rejected calls by Paul Abbott among others for longer, US style series of 13 or so episodes. Now apart from being massively inaccurate, in how it portrays US drama production (eg they have these things called mini-series, Ben. cf Generation Kill), his defence does give us the chance to ask this week’s question:

Would you prefer longer running, 13-episode seasons of British TV shows, or does the six-episode or fewer model work better for you?

As always, leave a comment with your answer or a link to your answer on your own blog