Atypical is one of the most underrated shows currently streaming on Netflix. If you have watched it you will know it's a hidden gem. Everything about it is incredibly refreshing and engaging.
It follows the Gardner family through the trials and tribulations of having a child on the autistic spectrum. Sam Gardner, played by Keir Gilchrist (It's Kind of a Funny Story), is an 18-year-old boy who is obsessed with Antarctica. He has high-functioning autism, attends high school and has his own very specific character.
Casey, played by Brigette Lundy-Paine is his younger sister. While being very protective of him she also doesn't cut him any slack or treat him differently. Parents Elsa and Doug are played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rapaport and they make up the four members of the family.
The Gardner family are normal in every single way. Elsa and Doug struggle with a bit with their marriage and Casey and Sam fight like siblings always do. Neither particularly like going to school, they struggle with dating and behave pretty much like all teenagers. But where Atypical excels is capturing a family right in the midst of some major transitions and how they deal with them.
Elsa has spent her entire life immersed in the world of autism. From support groups to making Sam's path through the world easier, she has almost lost sense of who she is without it. Now Sam is 18 and wants a girlfriend. He has a job, wants to go out and have more control over his own life. Helped along by his therapist Julia, Sam is growing up and Elsa is struggling to let go.
Casey is also maturing and having lived in Sam's shadow all of her life she too wants freedom from the family dependency on her. She receives an athletic scholarship to a prestigious but distant high school. Although she wants to go, she struggles with the decision and what leaving will mean for Sam.
The characters in Atypical are well crafted and wonderfully cast. And while the show is pretty dramatic, it is also very very funny and avoids falling into the sad and maudlin trap of other similarly themed shows.
Atypical concentrates far more on family dynamics and is laugh out loud funny in places. Creating a programme that normalises autism and mainstreams it without being condescending should be applauded. That and it is hilariously funny!
If you like dysfunctional families then the equally dramatic and funny Sisters is now streaming on Netflix.