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We finished watching Netflix's Atypical

We finished watching (8 episodes) of Atypical the other night. We watched over the past few weeks as a family. Me, hubby, 16 year old with autism HS junior, and 14 year old neurotypical little bro HS freshman.

So here are my thoughts...

But first a warning. I wouldn't let younger than highschoolers watch this. It's an adult show and not intended for younger viewers. You know your own kids best so use your judgement. Our kids mostly stick to PG-13 but we have watched a couple R films and we let them watch John Oliver which overuse of Fbombs is tempered with some actually interesting information and encourages critical thinking. We gave in a few years ago on Big Bang Theory but had not let them watch younger because of the high amount of sexual content. Our kids are on the 'innocent' side but I'm fine with these adult themes and we can discuss them as a family. So that's our head space.

Atypical as a show focuses a lot on dating and sexuality, but also family dynamics and yes, the life of and with a young man somewhere on the high functioning side of the autism spectrum.

Overall, I thought the production value (as with most Netflix originals) was pretty decent quality. The acting and direction are good. I like the casting. At first I wasn't sure about Rappaport, but he grew on me. I got a kick out of Jennifer Jason Leigh being the parent of two teenagers exploring sexuality, because I best remember her from my teenage days from that quintessential teenage sexuality movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Which as an aside, I don't think my kids are mature enough to watch yet. LOL, how's that for irony.

All four of us were entertained and drawn into the characters and story line. By the end of episode 2 we were all compelled to watch the remaining 6 episodes in a short time. So just that quick acid test of 'is this an entertaining show?' the answer is 'yes!' It's a family drama/comedy at heart. The family dynamics are the key driving forces behind the plotlines. The main one being that Sam decides he's interested in girls and would like to date. I like the fact that he doesn't come to some great epiphany, it's just that when presented with the idea, it sounds like a logical thing for him to do.

There are your basic character and plot tropes going on but they're done well and have a spark of originality by having a POV character with autism. Leigh's mom character is a bit cliche but very relatable not just as a special needs mom but also a stay at home mom who has been living a bit too much as a part of her children's lives and not enough of her own. Rappaport's Dad is your all around nice simple guy, who feels a little left out. It makes me think of my own kids who relate to me as the 'primary care giver' and my husband gets double checked with me by the kids. As in, he gives permission to Ethan to watch TV, but Ethan will immediately call to me "Mom, dad says I can watch tv, is that ok?"

There's the 16 year old neurotypical sister Casey. She's a track star and a pistol. My youngest son liked and related to her character.

And finally, there's Sam, high functioning and seemingly fully included senior. Ethan liked the character and that he had autism, but I'm not sure he fully related to him, but I'd say he related to him more than Temple Grandin (which we watched this summer). Autism is a spectrum and everyone is different, but there were definitely moments when I saw Ethan in Sam. One such moment was Sam was monologuing in his head at started to laugh out loud at his thoughts in the school hallway. Ethan does that a lot by playing movies/tv shows in his head - it's his self stim behavior. Ethan will just smile our laugh (even in class) at his own little show in his head. Ethan is also very literal and doesn't pick up on social cues - verbal or nonverbal. It was a good opportunity to discuss these with Ethan and get him to think about them. The plotlines are focussed on Sam's dating interest and sexual interest. My husband really wished that as a fall Senior in high school they'd at least mention more about what Sam might be thinking to do after graduation. College applications? Thoughts on if he'd live at home vs go away to school. We're starting to think about that and taking the SATs and it seemed logically like it should fit in somehow and would be a major issue for them. Maybe next season?

There are some really awesome fun moments, that I won't spoil. Just know that the writers did a great job of working in Sam's obsession with Antartica and penguins throughout the season. There's also a scene between Sam and another kid on the spectrum (who's mom is friends with his mom) that feels spot on. Having autism in common doesn't really make for a good relationship, there's double the social and communication issues.

There's a number of solid supporting characters. They provide good contrast and some comic relief. Another aside: Techtropolis is the worst name for a fictional Best Buy ever. (Sam works part time there) It's like it was a place holder in the early scripts and the writers said 'don't worry will come up with something before we shoot' but then they didn't. I cringed every time they said it.

So yes, I'd reccommend this as an entertaining series. Definitely high school age or older. Interesting look at one example of a teen with autism, realize there is no such thing as full representation. It's just a character, and he's a good one. The show is narrowly focussed on family dynamics and sexuality - it's a 1/2 hour comedy (dramedy?) and there isn't much room for much else.


https://www.netflix.com/title/80117540