Once in a while you find a little gem between the plenitude of things to watch on Netflix. Last week, when we were talking about the series we watch, Desirée talked about a series she binged. When she talked about it, I immediately knew I should watch it. Well I did...and I binged. I watched all the episodes of season 1 within the 24 hours. I am talking about: "Atypical". I absolutely loved it and I when I watched the last episode, I just wanted to watch more. Luckily, season 2 of this lovely show will premiere on September 7th....and that is today...Whoohoo!
What is it about?
"Atypical" tells the story of the 18-year-old Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist). Sam is on the spectrum, which means he has autism spectrum disorder. Although he is pretty high functioning, it is difficult for Sam to understand the world around him. His honesty is disarming and can be very harsh. He takes things very literally. He also loves Antarctica and everything about it. His family is very protective of Sam, especially his mother Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). When he is at school, this role is taken over by his little sister Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine). She is also very protective of her big brother and Sam kind of depends on her. But Sam and Casey are still brother and sister, so she also teases him sometimes and tries to treat him as she treats everyone else. And then there is Sam and Casey's father: Doug (Michael Rapaport). He has struggled to connect with Sam, ever since he was diagnosed with autism. It's not that he doesn't want to, but he finds it very difficult to deal with Sam's distinct look on life. Casey, however, is a real tomboy and she is a very talented athlete. Because of this shared interest in sports, Casey and Doug have a very strong bond, something which cannot be said of the bond between Casey and her mother.
Other than his family, Sam has two people that he trusts and opens up to: his best friend and colleague Zahid (Nik Dodani) and his therapist Julia (Amy Okuda).
One day, at the dinner table Sam informs his family that he wants to get a girlfriend and this seems to mark the beginning of the biggest challenge Sam and his family have faced so far. After a period of research (Sam loves doing research), Sam decides that he is in love with Julia and he turns to his father for advice. When Doug finds out that Sam is in love with his older therapist, he advises him to search a girl of his own age. Sam then decides he wants a "practice girlfriend" to learn how to be a good boyfriend for Julia. While Sam is growing more independent and seems to be growing closer to Doug, Elsa struggles to find some new meaning to her life and the free time she gains. She takes up a dance class and ends up in a bar with a very free-spirited bartender...
The cast of "Atypical" is excellent and the absolute star of the show is Keir Gilchrist. I had never heard of Keir before I started watching "Atypical", but I certainly want to watch more of his work now. He is truly outstanding in the role of the autistic Sam. Keir Gilchrist is an English born Canadian actor. Although he has been playing the roles of teenagers for years now, the actor is 25-years-old at the moment. In interviews he states he is done playing teenagers after "Atypical", but he really wanted the role of Sam. He said he was immediately hooked, when he read the script for "Atypical". He said he did a lot of research for the role of Sam. Keir and the show's producer Robia Rashid talked about the character for hours and he read a lot of books. He read the book "The Journal of Best Practices" (which is also featured in the show). Rashid used it a lot, when writing the script and she gave it to Keir. He says it is a great book to get in the mind of someone "on the spectrum". Keir watched a lot of movies about the subject. There were also experts involved in the making of the show. He says that he constantly had to go against his instincts while he was working on the show.
Besides Sam, one of my favorite characters is Casey. She is played by 26-year-old American actress and fashion icon Brigette Lundy-Paine and plays Sam's protective younger sister. Casey loves sports and she is a very talented athlete. She is on the radar of many great prep schools for a sports-scholarship. Casey is also very straight-forward and she can't stand injustice. At one point in the show she sees a couple of girls bullying the somewhat stocky Beth. Without thinking about the consequences, Casey sticks up for Beth and punches one of the girls in the face. Because of this she gets to know Beth's big brother Evan (played by Graham Rogers). Evan immediately falls in love with Casey, but at first Casey tries to ignore him. Evan, however, is very lovable and eventually she falls for him. The character of Evan is another great addition to the show. I really like the scenes between Casey and Evan. I also love the scenes between Evan and Doug.
So let's talk about Elsa and Doug, portrayed by acting veterans Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rapaport. The last one is very solid in a role that suits him best: the one of the good-hearted, somewhat simple guy. Doug does his best to connect to his son and reconnect to to his wife, who only seems to live for Sam at some times. Elsa is played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. I remember Leigh best for her role in "Single White Female" opposite Bridget Fonda, but the woman played in tons of great movies and television shows. It's good to see her in a leading role again. Elsa lives to see Sam happy and in doing this she sometimes forgets the rest of her family, especially her daughter Casey. She also forgot what it is like to be Elsa, besides being Sam's mom and guardian. When she is not at home, she's doing things for the support group she is in. When Sam gets closer to Doug, Elsa doesn't know what to do with this "free time", she is not used to having some time for herself. She attends a dance class and afterwards she ends up in a bar. At the bar she meets bartender Nick (Rául Castillo). Nick is a lot younger and has no one or nothing to answer to, so he is very free spirited. Elsa feels very attracted to him, because of his life without responsibilities.
As I already mentioned I really think "Atypical" has an excellent cast and it is impossible to talk about them all. But there is one more character I would like to highlight and that is the character of Zahid, played by Nick Dodani. I mean, the guy is hilarious! Although he can be very annoying for the people around him, he means the best for Sam. They both work in an electronics shop. When Zahid is helping a customer and Sam storms in, because he has a problem; Zahid imediately drops his work and tends to Sam. Zahid is also a real ladies man. He loves girls and suprisingly enough, they love him too!
I love everything about this show. The cast is great, the subject is great. There is a lot of humor in it, but it's also serious at certain points. It is not that autism is being brought as a funny subject, but "Atypical" succeeds in finding a great balance between humor and the reality of struggling with life. There really is only one thing I don't like and that is the small amount of episodes (only 8 in season 1). Luckily, season two (10 episodes) is being brought by Netflix in its entirety today. So see ya later...I'm going in full binge-mode!