Atypical is a comedy that follows the lives of 18-year-old Sam Gardner, who is on the autism spectrum, and his family as he dives into the world of dating.
Through Sam’s sessions with his therapist, viewers are able to understand what life can be like for some people with autism (not everyone experiences the same challenges). Sam in particular has sensory sensitivity and has difficulties picking up on social cues. His mother, Elsa, is struggling with Sam’s decision to pursue dating and that he is becoming less dependent on her. She sees it as a challenge to her identity because she doesn’t know who she is when she’s not acting as her son’s primary caregiver and advocate. His younger sister, Casey, acts as Sam’s first line of defense at school, but the two have a typical sibling relationship marked by teasing and the occasional spat. Sam’s father, Doug, tries to understand him, but seems to be excluded from the bubble Elsa and Sam have created.
While the show focuses on some of the stereotypical depictions of autism and has been criticized by some for not utilizing more actors on the spectrum, it excels at depicting familial relationships. The way the siblings alternate from gentle jibing and fighting to Casey’s fierce instinct to protect Sam touch on the complex sibling dynamic. Atypical also notes the anxiety and awkwardness of teen dating, seen through Sam’s efforts to find a girlfriend, his attraction to his therapist and through Casey’s relationship with her boyfriend.
Keir Gilchrist gives a convincing performance as Sam, whoese notable comedic timing adds punches of humor to the show. Brigette Lundy-Paine’s role as the sarcastic and protective teenage Casey makes the family dynamic more believable.
Atypical is a Netflix series with eight half-hour episodes. The show is rated TV-MA. The series has also been renewed for a second season. Fans of Atypical might enjoy Fuller House, a light-hearted spin-off of the 90s classic Full House.