In a world where everyone is special, what does it take to stand out?
That’s the loose premise of Extraordinary, a hilarious and genuinely heartfelt British comedy created by Emma Moran that’s currently available on Hulu. The series centers around Jen (newcomer Máiréad Tyers), a 25-year-old costume shop worker who is also one of the few people on Earth who doesn’t possess superpowers.
It’s a clever plot line that’s been explored in a few comic books (Ordinary, Normalman). But we’re not talking about demigods here; the powers displayed on Extraordinary are almost entirely used for comic relief and/or are semi-useless. The show is really about how one person deals with feeling different and lesser than her contemporaries while also struggling with relationships, friendships, family and housemates, the latter of which includes a shapeshifting human/cat named Jizzlord.
Note: There are a lot of jizz jokes in Extraordinary.
And yet, it’s a very sweet and grounded series. By about episode four, you may forget that the show is ostensibly centered around people with superpowers, which range from the normal (flight, teleportation) to the confusing (a dentist who casts your personal soundtrack when you enter the room; not great if you’re afraid of dentists, like Jen). Then there’s an Uber driver who can vaguely predict how you’ll die. Spoiler alert: in episode one, Jen is given her cryptic demise (“bears”).
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There’s no real direct comparison between Extraordinary to another show, but it certainly has comedic and genre elements that should appeal to fans of Community, Fleabag and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It also strikes a lighthearted comic book tone that Disney’s She-Hulk seemed to be going for but couldn’t quite land (and it’s certainly less political and shocking than The Boys).
When superpowers do take center stage, it’s not for toppling buildings or seeking vengeance. It’s usually for personal gain. Take for example Kash (Bilal Hasna), a flatmate of Jen, who has the power to rewind time by 10 seconds, which he uses to fix a litany of relationship mistakes. And he’s one of the rare powered people who actually has heroic intentions: he forms a neighborhood patrol group, but chickens out after one fight and eventually leaves. The group, meanwhile, soldiers on without him and actually succeeds in an arrest; in reporting that incident, the local paper touts the wannabe vigilantes as “local virgins.”
As a character study, there are plenty of standouts here: Carrie, Jen’s best friend, can channel the dead, which leads to a lot of hilarious old man summonings by actress Sofia Oxenham. Or Gordon, a gentle geek who can cause orgasms simply by touch, but who initially has too much of a good heart to use his powers. And, uh, PDF Man.
But this is Tyers’ showcase, and she excels: Very few decisions Jen makes are correct or even thoughtful, but the actor imbues her powerless protagonist with comedically heroic properties and emotional heft. She’s also the center of a bizarre interpretive dance number at a cat show, set to the tune of Heart’s Alone (which, sadly, I cannot find online). Outside of this bit of power balladry, the show features a killer soundtrack, ranging from Wet Leg to Wolfmother to Sia.
I was originally writing this as a plea for Hulu to save Extraordinary, as streaming services seem quick these days to cut bait on new concepts that don’t immediately enter the zeitgeist (as noted above, there are very few clips circulating around and the show only has 45 user reviews on iMDB — and yours truly completely missed the show’s January debut in our monthly culture guide). But some good news: Even before the show debuted in late January, it was renewed for season two.
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