There’s a strange – you could say extraordinary – moment early in Disney’s quirky new London-set comedy when a man in a balaclava jumps out of a car and starts shouting. “Get up, ya big English bastard,” he says. “Do as I say and I won’t kneecap ya. I’m conducting a campaign of terror on the mainland, so I am, for a United Ireland.”
The joke, a centrepiece of the second instalment of Extraordinary (Disney+, streaming from today), is that the “terrorist” is the nebbish boyfriend of one of the lead characters. The IRA costume is the cherry on top of the fake kidnapping he’s about to carry out. Trust me, it makes no more sense in the context of the episode. It’s as if Disney had a balaclava budget it urgently needed to spend before the end of the tax year.
Extraordinary is written by the 28-year-old Northern Ireland writer Emma Moran (who previously wrote for Have I Got News for You, the BBC panel show). Given her background, we must assume the IRA gag is a pithy commentary on British stereotypes of Irish people. Fair enough. But it doesn’t break the fourth wall so much as demolish it with Semtex, so it does.
It’s not the only joke that misfires. The premise of the series is that everyone in the world has a superpower, obtained upon reaching adulthood. There is one exception: a plucky heroine with a deadpan manner and no uncanny abilities. This was, of course, also the plot of Encanto. But that’s Disney, too, so at least there’s no danger of the lawyers unleashing their corporate kryptonite. And besides, if Extraordinary scores low for originality, it features a breakout performance by the Irish actor Máiréad Tyers as Jen, a harrumphing 25-year-old yet to come into her own as a miracle worker.
Tyers, who also appeared in Kenneth Branagh’s film Belfast, is fantastic: you can see big things ahead of her. There is also a solid turn by her fellow Cork actor Siobhán McSweeney as her mother. (They’re from towns 15km apart: Ballinhassig for Tyers and Aherla for McSweeney.) Her superpower is that she can control gadgets with her mind. The twist is that she is also useless at technology, in trowelled-on “Irish mammy” fashion.
But while they’re stellar, the comedy into which they have been parachuted does not always appreciate the distinction between puerile yet funny and merely juvenile. (An example is the name bestowed on the shape-shifter who turns up in Jen’s bedroom.) It also leans slightly into the young-Irishwoman-in-London archetype familiar from other recent British sitcoms. Our plucky young Celtic protagonists are always 20 per cent swearier than their English pals and unimpressed by everyone and everything. They’re essentially channelling Maura Higgins on Love Island.
So far so cliched. But Tyers is going to be a star – and, the odd misfiring IRA gag aside, she makes Extraordinary worth your time.