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A comedy about colonization – and superpowers. : NPR

Carrie (Sofia Oxenham), left, and Jen (Máiréad Tyers) power up in Extraordinary.


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A comedy about colonization – and superpowers. : NPR

Carrie (Sofia Oxenham), left, and Jen (Máiréad Tyers) power up in Extraordinary.


Jokes in Hulu’s Extraordinaryset in a world in which every member of the human race gains a superpower at or around age 18, gets to you fast.

And wide. And silly.

Very stupid, actually. And, not rarely, mute.

Most of the time, they come to you straddling the thin, porous line between the bawdy and the vulgar, between the intelligent and the rude.

You do not believe me ? Meet the minor character who has been gifted with a butt that acts as a 3D printer. Or the dude whose slightest touch induces orgasm (note also his vast collection of gloves, a requirement that allows the poor schlub to live in society without causing a particularly satisfying, albeit messy, degree of havoc).

The eight-episode British comedy series, the debut of creator/screenwriter Emma Moran, focuses on Jen (Máiréad Tyers), a 25-year-old Irishwoman from east London whose power has yet to manifest. She’s not happy about that, and she’s just self-obsessed enough to drag those she loves down with her.

There’s her best friend and roommate Carrie (Sofia Oxenham), whose ability to channel the dead makes her wonder if anyone cares what. she might have to say. Carrie’s lazy boyfriend, Kash (Bilal Hansa), can reverse time, but uses this power largely to save himself embarrassment by skipping seconds to erase the moments he says something stupid. There’s Jen’s mother, Mary (the great Siobhan McSweeney, Derry Girls‘ Sister Michael), who has the power to control electronics – which would be wonderful, if only she could figure out how they worked.

As Jen navigates her ordinary, underachieving existence by making a series of bad life choices (she keeps texting that aloof handsome guy who literally flies off after sex, for example) , she strives to save money for a clinic that promises to unlock her superpower once and for all.

But while all (well, most) of the superpower gags thrown in here are pretty clever, make no mistake. They’re not the ones that really drive the show.

Extraordinary asks how something as miraculous as the sudden granting of mass superpowers would change humanity. And that makes for a shrewd and sadly compelling argument for his answer:

They wouldn’t change us at all.

The series knows that humanity real the superpower is the extent to which we collectively refuse to grow and change, to answer the call of adventure. Instead, as a species, we simply acclimatize. We return to form. On each new occasion, we salute the incredible, the miraculous, the new, with a cheerful desire to make it ordinary, familiar, boring.

Extraordinary is a show about our tendency to settle down.

You see it in every picture. It’s there in the background, in the chirping slogans of public health posters that strive to reassure (“Some have visible farts! It’s just LIFE!”). It’s there in the closed Jen Street comic book store – in a world of superpowers, what good are comic book superheroes? This is where Carrie’s employer simply exploits her unique ability without compensating her fairly. And that’s where Kash’s decision to form a team of costumed crime fighters is greeted by everyone around him as ridiculous and unnecessary on the face of it.

The reason why Extraordinary works, however, goes further: this same stasis, this same tendency to settle, resides at the heart of each character. Jen talks a big game about wanting to find her power, but selfish decisions keep her from moving forward and getting there. Carrie’s friendship with self-involved Jen is as unfulfilling to her as she finds sex with Kash – but she’s also not about to take the necessary steps to change. A third housemate played by Luke Rollason suffers from powers-related amnesia and is reluctant to find out what kind of person he was (“What if…I don’t like myself?”).

In the final episode, in small ways, Jen and her friends manage to break free from their own diminished expectations, self-abnegating choices. And it’s all accomplished through something that’s been running in the background of the show since the beginning.

Beneath the flashy powers, sight gags, and broad character types, the attentive viewer will be able to discern the show’s raw heart just at the edge of the hearing, pounding steadily in scenes that touch on Jen and Carrie’s strained friendship or the strained relationship between Jenn and her mother.

That’s why these eight hugely bingeable episodes come to such a satisfying landing, underpinned by a bracing and welcome sincerity. it’s always been there, mixed in with all those fart jokes.

Entertainment Gt

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