Extraordinary review: Disney+ superhero flatshare comedy lives up to its name - and then some

Máiréad Tyers delivers a star-making turn in Extraordinary, a new superpowered flatshare sitcom from Disney+

In Extraordinary, everyone in the world gets a superpower when they turn 18. Some people can fly. Others can reverse time, run at the speed of light, or speak to the dead. More people, to be honest, have slightly useless and mundane powers, like the dentist that generates their own atmospheric music – but everyone has a superpower.

Apart from Jen.

Jen (Máiréad Tyers) is 25, long-past the point when most people have settled into their powers – being able to freeze things is cool, but it rarely comes up when you do also own a freezer – let alone when it’s still an exciting novelty. When people find out she doesn’t have a power (“you haven’t listed it on your CV?”), they tend to feel sorry for her, pitying in a patronising kind of way, and it’s left her more than a little adrift. “It could always be worse,” she says offhandedly to flatmate and best friend Carrie (Sofia Oxenham), reassuring her after a bad day at work – which Carrie immediately misunderstands as a reference to Jen’s normality, rather than the general platitude it was intended as.

What’s immediately striking about Extraordinary is that the superpowered world is… a little rubbish. It’s just as mundane and quotidian as the real world, even if in a slightly askew way, and after a while you start to get the sense that the powers have limited people more than anything else. Someone who compels people to tell the truth ends up working in Human Resources. The former teen tennis prodigy couldn’t compete anymore when he ended up with helium breath rather than super speed, and now he works in a party supply shop. Carrie, who can speak to the dead, is treated like a glorified appliance at her paralegal job, settling estate disputes by going direct to the source.

It doesn’t feel, basically, especially like an aspirational world (even as it is clearly rich with storytelling potential: see the former bully with a now-perfect memory, one of several side characters that could sustain a show of their own) – making it a stark contrast from most of the superhero genre, which is always at least a little bit built around a sort of hero worship. But then, Extraordinary isn’t really of the superhero genre, even as it displays an obvious familiarity and fluency with its conventions – instead it’s very much a typical flatshare sitcom in a completely atypical world. It’s about bad dates and worse relationships, awful jobs and annoying siblings, with more in common with the likes of Fresh Meat or Crashing than She-Hulk or WandaVision; the only difference here is that when a bad date takes off at the end of the night it’s a little more literal.

Máiréad Tyers as Jen, Luke Rollason as Jizzlord The Human, and John MacMillan as Dr Wedderburn in Extraordinary, examining Jizzlord (Credit: Laura Radford/Disney+)

Back to Jen, though, anyway. She’s desperate for a power of her own, feeling adrift and out of place – underneath it all, that’s what Extraordinary is all about, that feeling of not having your life together when everyone else seems set – and when her sister ends up with one of the most straightforwardly impressive powers of them all, Jen’s determined to finally do something about her own lack thereof. The journey from there is a fairly roundabout one, to say the least, as flatmate Kash (Bilal Hasna) is inspired to start his own vigilante group, and stray cat Jizzlord turns out to be a very disoriented human (Luke Rollaston, absolutely believable here as someone who used to be a cat, possibly also even someone who used to be a cat in real life).

Extraordinary marks each of Tyers, Oxenham, Hasna, and Rollaston’s first major leading roles, and in each case if they weren’t rising stars before they clearly are now – Oxenham is doing brilliant work in a part that’s more than just ‘the best friend’, Rollaston is a gifted physical comedian, and Hasna is just straightforwardly hilarious. As strong as the ensemble is, though, its Tyers’ show first and foremost: Jen is brilliantly selfish in the way all the best comic creations are, with Tyers proving to be a hugely charismatic lead despite (and because) of that. It’s one of the best debut comic performances in years, full stop.

Ultimately, the series is clever and funny, and always deeply watchable – past a certain point, there’s a temptation to just rattle off a list of quotes (and, tempting though it is, their delivery in the show will be better). In the end, the most important thing is simply to say that Extraordinary lives up to its name – and then some.

Extraordinary begins on Disney+ on Wednesday 25 January, with every episode available to stream at once as part of a boxset. I watched six of a total eight episodes before writing this review. You can read my interview with Extraordinary (and extraordinary) writer Emma Moran here, and find more of our TV reviews here.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter, follow NationalWorld on twitter, and listen to our Screen Babble podcast. You can also find me on twitter.