Extraordinary review – help, my butt has become a 3D printer! | Science fiction television
Extraordinary (Disney+) is Disney’s Encanto for adults. Or the Derry Girls with superpowers. There’s a bit of The Boys’ cynicism in there too, and a dash of Sex Education’s youthful exuberance. Twenty-five-year-old Jen (Máiréad Tyers) is powerless—literally—in a world where everyone acquires a superhero ability upon turning 18. Sure, some are more impressive than others—you might get the gift of flight, invisibility, or superspeed, but then again, you can get the ability to turn “absolutely anything” into a PDF, or a bum who’s also a 3D printer – but everyone has an ability. Except for our hero. Not only that, but she’s grieving, has a crappy job (at a costume rental shop run by an ancient throne who hasn’t yet turned 12) and a disastrous love life. And in this world, when a random hookup wants to leave, they can just fly out the window while you’re on the toilet.
Jen has a good, if dripping, friend – her flatmate Carrie (Sofia Oxenham). Although this means her other flatmate is Carrie’s useless, boisterous boyfriend Kash (Bilal Hasna) – a drain on both their resources, except for the odd occasion when his power to turn back time comes in handy. Carrie herself can channel the dead. But in this version of reality, where the background of every walk down the street is pleasantly filled with the sight of spontaneous fires, telekinesis at work and so on, her gift does not suit her for anything better than a job at a local lawyer. firm that helps settle inheritance claims via posthumous testimony between making the bosses’ tea and coffee. “I’m basically an appliance.” There are quarter life crises all the way.
Extraordinary is a fun, effortless watch – and while there are some worn-out scenes, like a regrettable call to the non-boyfriend while on pre-dental Valium, there are some good set pieces. One of the highlights of the first episode is Jen’s negotiations with another hookup, this time one with the power to make anyone come with a single touch, and who discovered this when he shook hands with his father on his 18th birthday. He kisses her through cling film and puts on rubber gloves before they go to bed, determined to do things the old fashioned way. Thirteen diligent minutes later, she has to fake it, because heroic efforts are no match for superhero powers.
Added to the mix are Siobhán McSweeney as Jen’s chaotic mother (she can supposedly control the technology, but since she doesn’t understand how it works, the results are mixed), her smug half-sister (who gets her power right on schedule at her 18th birthday party and juggling soon with couches to entertain their guests), and the arrival of Jizzlord (Luke Rollason), a homeless cat who turns out to be just one of those things. More supporting artists are added after Kash is robbed and decides to assemble a team of vigilantes (including 3D printing bum man and one who can pass through walls but tends to get stuck halfway through). Most of Jen’s adventures and misadventures are connected with the need to raise the thousands of pounds needed for the Discovery Clinic, which promises to unlock the powers of late starters. “Maybe the real power is being yourself?” says Carrie, a suggestion to which Jen takes robust exception, allowing us all to let go of our fears that Disney has demanded its usual pound of schmaltz from the creator.
Extraordinary is fun, but it starts to feel undercooked once the initial game in the premise has worn off. It seems happy to deliver a reasonable amount of gags and to leave it all as a metaphor for the insecurities of your 20s and the common experience of feeling like everyone around you is ahead of you and has been given the key to a secret cache of life mastery and/ or maturity that you have not been given, but without really digging in and finding help. The series is largely driven by Jen’s fury and Tyer’s energy, and when she’s off screen a flatness (aggravated by a couple of lackluster performances) creeps in.
But it has just enough heart and good, unexpected one-liners (under the spell of a job interviewer who can make people tell the truth, Jen admits “I’m sitting funny because my tampon is falling out”) to keep you coming back for more and to highlight 28-year-old debut author Emma Moran as one to watch, and wait for her to deliver something truly extraordinary.