August 11th, 2017
A Netflix original, Robia Rashid’s (How I Met Your Mother) new comedy, Atypical, explores the life of eighteen-year-old Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist, United States of Tara), as he navigates the world of dating while on the autism spectrum.
The first episode, “Antarctica”, involves Sam’s pursuit of a date, his sessions with therapist Julia (Amy Okuda, The Guild), and the relationships of his mother Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Weeds), father Doug (Michael Rapaport, The War at Home) and sister Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine, Margot vs. Lilly).
Sam introduces us to his life through his conversations in therapy. We learn that as well as being fascinated with Antarctica and loving penguins, Sam has recently realised he would like to start dating. He speaks to his family, therapist and workmate, Zahid (Nik Dodani, Kevin from Work), about how he might go about it and does plenty of independent research.
Through voiceover we hear Sam’s thoughts on his school and home life, and we quickly see him experimenting with flirting and online dating. While not entirely successful initially, Sam’s progress is a hot topic of debate for all the characters. Alongside Sam’s endeavours, we spend quite a lot of time getting to know his family, and understanding how being on the spectrum affects his mother, father and sister.
Though clearly outlined as a comedy, the first episode of Atypical certainly wasn’t all laughs and contained more than a few darker moments. The better term to describe the mood of the show would be light hearted—without any gags or one-liners, the show approaches significant issues in an upbeat way.
There was clearly a great deal of research and consideration in the production of Atypical and I am interested to see how the show deals with honest portrayals versus entertainment value.