As a Netflix binge-watcher myself, there are many shows which are less-than-perfect that I can easily sit through. I’ve watched all of Gossip Girl, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Desperate Housewives, you name it. But when I sat down to watch “Atypical,” a comedy about an autistic teenager, I found myself cringing as I anticipated the next line.
Don’t get me wrong, “Atypical” was a good attempt for a TV show. I think it’s important that Netflix and major TV outlets recognize that not everyone lives like the Kardashians do or acts as Serena Vanderwoodsen does. But, while the protagonist was atypical himself, about everything else in the show was what you’d expect from Hollywood.
Sam, the high school student protagonist, has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which causes him to stand out from other kids at his school and in his family. The show portrays someone with autism as being insensitive to other’s feelings. They are also unable to be in large crowds and become easily triggered by loud noises. In one instance, Sam breaks up with his girlfriend Paige in front of her entire family at Olive Garden by telling her that he doesn’t love her and he needs to go.
While this may sound funny, someone with ASD may find this offensive. In a way, the show was making fun of the protagonist, as he later doesn’t know why he was in the wrong by breaking up with Paige in front of her parents. His parents have to tell him why Paige was upset with him as if he were a kindergartener having to get a lesson about hitting and kicking.
In retrospect, the show gives a brief idea of what the disorder is and what someone with autism may go through, but it does not delve deep enough into these aspects. Instead, it simplifies a very serious disorder through cliche plot lines.
Throughout the show, Sam becomes obsessed with having a girlfriend, falling in love and having sex. He constantly writes pros and cons about different girls at his school, dreams about dating his therapist and wishes that he’ll see boobs one day.
“Atypical” sends the message that romance is all that an autistic person needs in their life to be able to live normally, putting a Hollywood twist on a severe disorder. Even his own therapist gives Sam advice that he should start dating.
Despite its many flaws, “Atypical” included a few lines that managed to make me laugh once or twice, even though they were still a little cheesy or insensitive. Towards the beginning of the show, Sam is attempting to learn how to communicate with girls through his extremely promiscuous friend Zahid. Zahid tells Sam that a girl at the technology store where they work was “giving him eyes.” So, taking Zahid’s advice, Sam tries to smile at the girl. The smile backfired; to say the least.
Rather than focusing on Sam and accurately portraying someone who has ASD, “Atypical” includes so many other corny storylines on the side, that I lost track of the show’s focus. You have the sister who has the older boyfriend that was expelled from their high school. She fights with her mom when she catches her cheating on her dad. Then you have the mean girls who steal the sister’s clothes because they’re jealous of her track scholarship. And if you’re getting overwhelmed, you should be. So was I.
What started out as a good idea turned into a show involving typical plot lines that detracted from its focus, which I thought would and should be Sam. As ironic as it is, “Atypical” was just way too typical.