What would you do if everyone in the world had a superpower except you? That’s the premise of Hulu’s new comedy series Extraordinary.
Created and written by Emma Moran, Extraordinary is set in contemporary London and focuses on Jen (new comer Máiréad Tyers), an exasperated and cynical 25 year old who works in a costume shop, barely scrapes by financially and can’t maintain an adult relationship. In that capacity, the character is a pretty standard rom-com lead, though Tyers does a great job of making Jen and her various struggles relatable.
There is one thing that distinguishes Jen: she’s the only person who doesn’t have a super power. In the world of Extraordinary, the powers range from good/conventional (flight, strength, speed) to minuscule/shitty (literally: one character can poop anything he can think off with enough concentration).
A large portion of the show’s comedy comes from the diverse range of weird powers, though Moran and the other writers are careful not to let them overwhelm the narrative. If anything, the show is more interested in how all of these powers have barely changed the world: most people still work crappy, mundane jobs and struggle with the same old life problems.
Most episodes (I’ve seen three of eight) follow Jen and her roommates, Carrie (Sofia Oxenham) and Carrie’s unemployed boyfriend, Kash (Bilal Hasna) in a series of mild misadventures. In episode one “Have Not,” for example, Jen attends the 18th birthday of her half-sister, Andy (Safia Oakley-Green). Naturally Jen resents Andy’s youth, beauty and seemingly perfect life with parents Mary (The Great Pottery Throwdown‘s Siobhan McSweeney) and stepdad, Ian (Robbie Gee) and, to no one’s surprise, Andy immediately gets a great superpower during the party, much to Jen’s chagrin.
Like most comedies, the humour is both situational and dialogue-driven. In episode two, “Magic Bullets,” Carrie and Kash faux-kidnap Jen and lock her in the trunk of a car in an effort to induce her powers through fear and anxiety. As expected, the situation snowballs: Jen is high on medication from a recent trip to the dentist, the car gets towed to the impound lot, and Jen begins leaving confessional messages for her disinterested fuck buddy Luke (Ned Porteous), resulting in an amusing series of cringe-worthy exchanges with both Andy and her mum post-rescue.
The key word here is “amusing.” Despite the show’s fantastic hook and game cast, the series is content to be charming and pleasant. It’s enjoyable enough, but considering the potential of its high concept premise, Extraordinary is surprisingly lacking in big laughs or heartfelt moments.
Worst of all, there’s a tendency to confuse which storylines are most interesting. This results in too much screen time dedicated to ho-hum characters and plots like Jizzlord (Luke Rollason), the stray cat Jen adopts who is actually a man. The reveal isn’t surprising, and watching the character, who has been in feline form so long he’s forgotten how to function as a human, isn’t particularly funny or interesting.
Compare this with the dentist’s ability to create personal soundtracks based on people’s emotions or Carrie’s capacity to channel the dead, which are fun, weird and fresh (Episode three focuses more on Carrie and Jen and it’s more fun, but there’s still an entire subplot with Jizzlord being overwhelmed by a pharmacy which…isn’t).
The series has good ideas, and occasionally very witty and hilarious moments, but too often it feels like a missed opportunity. Extraordinary is safe and familiar, which is a bit of a shame because it could have been weird and groundbreaking.
Extraordinary S01 is now available in its entirety on Hulu and Disney+ in Canada