Extraordinary (Disney+) is Disney’s Encanto for adults. Or Derry Girls with super powers. There’s also a bit of cynicism from The Boys, and a dash of youthful exuberance from Sex Education. 25-year-old Jen (Máiréad Tyers) is literally powerless in a world where everyone acquires a super heroic ability by the age of 18. or super speed, but then again you might get the ability to turn “absolutely anything” into a PDF, or a bum who’s also a 3D printer – but everyone has one skill. Except our hero. Not only that, but she’s also grieving, has a lousy job (at a costume rental company run by an old crone who’s not even 12 years old), and a disastrous love life. And in this world, if a casual date wants to leave, they can just fly out the window while you sit on the toilet.
Jen has one good, if drippy, boyfriend: her roommate Carrie (Sofia Oxenham). Though this means her other roommate is Carrie’s useless spongy friend Kash (Bilal Hasna) – a drain on both of their resources, except on the rare occasion when his ability to turn back time comes in handy. Carrie can channel the dead herself. But in this version of reality, where the background of every walk on the street is pleasantly filled with the sight of spontaneous fires, telekinesis at work, and so on, nothing better suits her gift than a job at a local solicitor. company that helps settle inheritance claims via posthumous testimonials between making the bosses’ tea and coffee. “I’m actually a device.” They are quarter-life crises everywhere.
Extraordinary is a fun, effortless watch – and while there are some hackneyed scenes, such as a regrettable phone call to the non-boyfriend while he’s on pre-dentist 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 cum with a single touch and who discovered this when he shook hands with his dad on his 18th birthday. He kisses her through cling film and puts on rubber gloves before they go to bed, determined to take care of things the old fashioned way. Thirteen diligent minutes later, she has to pretend because heroic efforts are no match for superhero powers.
Adding to the mix are Siobhán McSweeney as Jen’s chaotic mother (she can supposedly control technology, but because 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 soon juggles sofas to entertain her guests), and the arrival of Jizzlord (Luke Rollason), a homeless cat who turns out to be just one of these things. More supporting artists are added after Kash is robbed and decides to assemble a team of vigilantes (including a 3D-printing hobo and one who can go through walls but tends to get stuck halfway through). Most of Jen’s adventures and misadventures are tied to the need to raise the thousands of pounds needed for the Discovery Clinic, which promises to unravel the powers of late starters. “Maybe the real power is being yourself?” says Carrie, a suggestion Jen takes a firm exception to and allows us all to let go of the fear that Disney has demanded its usual pound of schmaltz from its creator.
Extraordinary is fun, but, once the initial playfulness of the premise wears off, starts to feel underbaked. I think it would be fun to crack a fair amount of jokes and let the whole thing stand as a metaphor for the uncertainty of your 20s and the common experience of feeling like everyone around you is pulling ahead and holding the key has gotten to some secret cache of life skills and/or maturity that haven’t been handed to you, but without really digging in and finding traction. The series is largely driven by Jen’s anger and Tyers’ energy and when she’s off screen, a flatness (compounded by a few weak performances) creeps in.
But it’s got just enough heart and good, unexpected one-liners (in the spell of a job interview that can make people tell the truth, Jen admits, “I’m sitting weird because my tampon falls out”) to keep you coming back for more and to mark 28-year-old debut writer Emma Moran as someone to watch, and wait for her to deliver something truly extraordinary.