Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Thundermans (Season 1–2)

The Thundermans; fantasy comedy series, USA, 2013, 2014; D: Jonathan Judge, Robbie Countryman, Shannon Flynn, S: Kira Kosarin, Jack Griffo, Chris Tallman, Rosa Blasi, Diego Velazquez, Addison Riecke, Audrey Whitby

The Thundermans are a family of superheroes with superpowers who moved to a small town to live incognito as an ordinary family. Their parents, Barb and Hank, retired as superheroes, while their kids are an uneven lot: Phoebe and her brother Max, who have telekinetic powers, constantly argue, while the younger siblings, Nora and Billy, have the powers of shooting lasers from eyes or running superfast. They struggle through numerous misadventures to keep their powers a secret.

Against all expectations which predicted another standard TV sitcom, Jed Spingarn delivered a surprisingly fun and fresh superhero comedy show with "The Thundermans" that has just enough spark to carry the premise, at least in the first two seasons. One of the reasons lies in the sometimes deliciously ironic, contagiously fun, untypically shrill or otherwise inspired writing of comic dialogues, some of which are simply funny to crunch down: for instance, in one episode Billy brought an artifact from the museum to bid it for an auction, much to Phoebe's shock, upon which he obliviously says that he thought it "wasn't worth that much" since the price tag on it said "priceless". In another, Phoebe writes cute things about Link in her diary, which causes Max to comment: "The tree that died to make that diary dies a little bit more every time you write something in it"; whereas there is even a moment when Hank runs for cover in the open from bad weather and thunder ("Why does my own birth-day hate me?!"). The comic chemistry between Max and Phoebe reaches its Zenith in the episode where they have to cooperate to work in Mrs. Wong's pizzeria, resulting in too many good jokes to name them all, though their random 'labor-singing' is one of the highlights.

Though there are indeed a certain number of routine, schematic or bland episodes, whereas it seems the storyline somehow naturally longs for a villain absent from the picture, since the family are a bunch of superheroes, after all. Congruently, the finale in season 2 is both the best and the worst episode: the best because it conjures up a cause and (conditional) suspense, with Phoebe's cool 'backflip entrance' to save the day - the worst because it capitulated before the mainstream norm and arbitrarily included a new baby in the family, which disrupted the focus of what the show was originally about. However, as it is often the case with TV shows, even here there is at least one episode that is simply perfection or at least close to perfection: the enchanting, magical "Shred it Go", written by Sasha Stroman, which culminates in a private MKTO concert for a delighted Phoebe, which is beautifully romantic. Another decisive plus point for "The Thundermans" is Phoebe's actress, Kira Kosarin, Nickelodeon's discovery of the decade. Kosarin is simply excellent and irresistibly sweet in the story, and carries 90% of the show's charm, which reaches such a level that she is deserving of the title of "Audrey Hepburn of Nickelodeon".


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