The new Hulu comedy series Extraordinary finally acknowledges something that I bet a lot of people feel these days: Super powers have gotten to be boring. Coming from Disney, the entertainment giant whose coffers are overflowing with revenue from its Marvel division, that’s actually a very bold attitude to take.
In these days when superhero stories dominate pop culture, and just about every new movie and TV show (especially those from Disney) will feature characters who fly or have super-speed or can move objects with their minds, superhero burnout is inevitable. After a while, you can’t help feeling over it. Wouldn’t the same also hold true if super powers were real and everyone had them, except you?
|Number of Episodes:||8|
|Release Date:||Jan. 25, 2023|
Jen (Máiréad Tyers) is a late bloomer. In a world where most people develop powers as soon as they hit age 18, she’s now 25-years-old with no sign of any special abilities. She probably wouldn’t mind so much, except for the way everyone looks on her with either pity or disbelief. Is something wrong with her? How does she even get by in the world? The only thing special about her is that she’s not in any way special at all, the way everybody else is.
Jen doesn’t really care about having stupid powers, but she’s fed up with the societal pressure to conform. With every new person she meets, every form she fills out, and every date she goes on, the very first question anyone will ask is what her power is – and then express confusion when she says she doesn’t have one. That’s downright irritating.
Her London flatmates are sympathetic to her plight but don’t share it. Best friend Carrie (Sofia Oxenham) can channel the dead, which comes in handy at her job as a paralegal. Carrie’s boyfriend Kash (Bilal Hasna) can rewind time back a few minutes. He’s mostly a slacker, but harbors a fantasy of starting his own super vigilante team to clean up crime in the neighborhood. His first recruits for that are a bunch of weirdos with mostly useless powers.
Jen herself is an appealingly messy character. She’s insecure and sarcastic, often self-centered and not always a good friend, but she’s also very bright and witty and usually fun to be around. Most of the other characters are also well-drawn and amusing.
The most fun aspect of the show is the very blasé attitude it takes toward super powers. Because everybody has them, they simply aren’t a big deal in this world. They’re just another part of daily life, if not sometimes an annoyance. I don’t want to give them away here, but big laughs often come from the downright stupid powers some characters get saddled with.
At the same time, I wish the series had put a little more effort into its world-building. Aside from the sight of people flying around or walking up the sides of buildings, London looks basically like it does in reality. But in a universe where such powers are commonplace, wouldn’t cities be built differently – with walk-in or fly-in entrances on the higher floors, for example? I get that this comedy production probably didn’t have much budget for that sort of thing, but some token attempt would be appreciated.
I don’t think I’d call Extraordinary one of the best comedies I’ve ever watched, nor even the most original. The premise is a little reminiscent of NBC’s short-lived Powerless (2016), which followed a group of non-super characters living and working in the DC superhero universe. Regardless, this is a cute show with plenty of really funny, laugh-out-loud moments, and most of its characters are endearing. One major storyline seems like it’s going in an obvious direction at first, but then turns out to be very different and kind of adorable. At just eight half-hour episodes, the season is a very quick and enjoyable binge. The studio was apparently pleased enough with how it turned out that the series was already renewed for a second season before the first one even premiered.
Note that, despite being a Disney product, this is not a superhero show for kids. It’s filled with foul language, sexual references, and even brief nudity. Be sure to keep any little ones out of the room when you watch.
Extraordinary streams on Hulu in the United States and on Disney+ in other territories. I can’t speak to how Disney+ may handle it overseas, but the Hulu version is only offered in basic 1080p SDR with 5.1 audio. It’s looks and sounds… fine. That’s about all I can say for it.
The series is photographed in a standard 16:9 aspect ratio. The picture has adequate sharpness, contrast, and color. The soundtrack will occasionally feature a bass-heavy song, which can be fun, but surround activity is sporadic at best. Beyond that, nothing about the show is actually extraordinary, from a technical perspective. The video and audio are both solid and workmanlike and undistinguished. This just isn’t A/V showcase material.
Of greater concern is that the program has very obvious and intrusive ad-break points built into every episode, and they’re handled terribly. Even if watching on Hulu’s ad-free tier, playback will stop dead and pause on a black screen three to four times per episode, frequently cutting directly into the middle of dialogue or songs playing on the soundtrack. The breaks were obviously inserted by an algorithm, not a live human watching the program to find good spots for them. They’re disruptive and extremely frustrating.