Atypical, for those of you who aren’t aware, is a classic coming-of-age show about a kid. One catch: he’s autistic. You’d think that, for a show that has an autistic kid (sorry, person with autism), they’d do their research and get it right. All “Atypical” serves to do is pander to its audience while desperately trying to cover up its shoddy writing and underdeveloped characters.
To top it off, everything just feels so done. Sam, our lead, blurts out anything and everything on his mind, usually to the detriment of others, making him come off as a huge jackass, and one hard protagonist to associate with. The father left and returned because he couldn’t deal with his son’s autism, and now he’s trying to redeem himself. The mother, who feels her family doesn’t need her, turns to the arms of a stranger she met at a bar. The sister is a track athlete who “just wants to get out of this town”, and is also dating a local “bad boy”.
Each episode had me rolling my eyes by the end of it, even the nicer ones. The poorly-titled “The D-Train To Bone Town” has the most emotion of them all, and it all fell apart with a cheap, trite cliffhanger about a tertiary character.
The only character worthy of any investment is not, in fact, the lead, Sam, but rather his sister, Casey. The most fleshed-out character on this show (although that isn’t saying much), Casey’s sub-plot is also the more developed of all the plots (including the main one). The show would’ve been better off with Casey as the lead and Sam as the supporting character. Not much better off, but better off.
The show does manage to end passably well enough, though.
Speaking of the main plot, which is basically Sam trying to get a date, I would just like to take a minute to point out to all the directors and writers, aspiring and otherwise, that the climax in a high-school dance is so DONE. Let it go, people. It is not a satisfying conclusion, and it only serves to aggravate what is already a badly-scripted show.
Moving on. The problem with Sam, I find, is that he comes across as kind of a jerk. Now, I don’t know a lot about the autism spectrum, and I’ve never personally met someone on the spectrum, but I did read about it online, which kinda makes me a genius on the topic, really.
That being said, I don’t think that normal people with autism behave the way Sam does. Sam is not completely incapable of social interaction, but every line given to him is him being incapable of understanding social cues. I mean, I know that’s one of the traits, but… to that extent? His whole relationship with Paige, his girlfriend in the latter half of the season, is completely forgettable. Even Casey’s relationship with her “bad boy” has more heart than Sam and Paige, even if it does take a predictable turn for the worse.
And that is the main problem with this show. Predictability. There’s no surprise to the show. It’s all so ho-hum, yawn-blink mild melodrama. Almost every story point in this show has been covered before, often by secondary characters and plot-lines. In choosing to play it safe and pander to its audience, “Atypical” loses all of its would-be charm and television value.
What the show does have, however, is great music. Both the incidental music, which appears to be some sort of ping-pong ball—esque sound combined with a classical score, and the songs used it it are so great. You can find the really good ones here.
To conclude, I’d just like to point out that, even though it’s been billed as a dramedy, there’s not much drama or comedy to this show.