I recently binge-watched a show about young people with superpowers in one day — but it wasn't made by Marvel or DC. It's not on Netflix, either, where it would sit alongside Stranger Things and Wednesday.
The series is a British comedy called Extraordinary, and all eight episodes are streaming right now on Hulu in the U.S. (and on Disney Plus Star in the U.K. and other regions). You're excused about not having heard about it: Extraordinary has flown under the radar for the most part. I even neglected to include in my what to watch this weekend column when it premiered on January 25.
Word of mouth from a couple of friends (with impeccable TV taste) and a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes convinced me to try Extraordinary. And it was so good that I watched it straight through, while some kind of big game was happening. So now that Super Bowl 2023 is over, make time for this super show.
What is Extraordinary about?
Created by relative newcomer Emma Moran, Extraordinary is set in a world where everyone gets a superpower on or around their 18th birthday. The abilities range from the typical kind you see in comics (strength, speed, flying, shapeshifting, teleporting) to unique, downright weird ones (summoning fish, 3D printing out of your butt).
Unfortunately for Jen (Máiréad Tyers), she still doesn't have a power at the age of 25. The lack of a power has made her resentful, bitter and self-absorbed. She's got a dead-end job at a costume store and has few to no skills, which doesn't help earn the thousands of dollars she needs to go to a power-discovery clinic.
She leans heavily on her sweet doormat of a best friend/roommate Carrie (Sofia Oxenham), who can channel the dead but can't seem to make her own voice heard. Then, there's Carrie's loafing boyfriend, Kash (Bilal Hansa), who is capable of rewinding time by 10 seconds. His dreams (more like delusions) of superhero grandeur lead him to assemble a vigilante group that will save nothing.
Plus, Jen takes in a stray cat, who turns out not to be a cat at all, but a shapeshifting man with no memory of his previous life (Luke Rollason).
Why I love Extraordinary
As I said, I binged Extraordinary in one four-hour session. (Its eight episodes run about a half hour each.) The premise is interesting and leaves a lot of room for exploration. Also, jokes. So many jokes. So many raunchy jokes. I can't even mention some of the superpowers because they are NSFW. The writing is often witty, and some of the sight gags are really clever.
The characters are well-rounded. and immediately recognizable. Not all of them are likable, with protagonist Jen first on that list. But as annoying and selfish as she can be, her situation generates sympathy. Tyers does excellent work in portraying the deep pain within Jen from being powerless.
Extraordinary is essentially a coming-of-age story about the usual challenges of your 20s — working at a crappy job for little money, feeling like an underachiever compared to your peers, clashing with friends, growing apart from a significant other. The superpowers add just one more complication to trying to figure out who you are.
Extraordinary reviews: What critics think
Extraordinary has extra-positive reviews. As mentioned above, it's rocking a perfect 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. The consensus reads, "Amiable and cleverly constructed, Extraordinary grounds the fantastical and makes it all the more accessible and thrilling as a result."
Time's Judy Berman writes, "True to its title, Extraordinary combines and tweaks familiar tropes into something genuinely unique. That it also makes Deadpool look about as audacious as The Incredibles is just a bonus."
Lucy Mangan of The Guardian calls it "a fun, effortless watch."
The Daily Beast's Kyndall Cunningham says the show is "a delightful journey of self-discovery that reveals some funny and heartbreaking truths about friendship, grief, loneliness and self-victimization."
Mike Hale at The New York Times writes, "The show coasts along on the power of Moran’s comic imagination and on her ability to bring the jokes, whether verbal, visual or conceptual."
Should you stream Extraordinary?
The short answer: Yes, don't miss out on one of the best shows on Hulu and any streaming service. Is there anyone who shouldn't watch Extraordinary?
Well, if you're not ready to laugh or be charmed, then it's probably not a good fit. Older audiences should get ready for extremely mortifying flashbacks, too. Just don't watch with your parents or children! Seriously, this show is profane and bawdy AF.