Comedy television series “Atypical” recently released its second season on Netflix. Created by Robia Rashid, the show follows the life of Sam Gardner, an 18-year-old boy living with autism, played by Keir Gilchrist. The series also includes members of his family such as his mother, played by Jennifer Leigh, his younger sister, played by Brigette Lundy-Paine and father, played by Michael Rapaport. The series focuses on Gardner’s journey towards independence, as he tries to make new relationships and learn what life is like without his overprotective mother at his side.
The series definitely carries a heavy burden, since there are a limited number of television shows that accurately depict people on the autism spectrum. That being said, I applaud “Atypical” for its effort. The show is aimed towards giving the audience a new perspective in regards to the disorder and the day to day life of an autistic teenager. It’s filled with compassion and empathy towards Gardner, as well as his efforts to be “normal.” The series is warmhearted and sincere, but at times inaccurate.
Gilchrist, the actor playing Gardner, is not autistic himself. I’m not saying that because of this the show was destined to be misinformed, but the casting may have played a role. Also, no autistic actors or writers were consulted for the series. As each episode progressed, I was able to notice that the series relied heavily on typical stereotypes when it comes to kids with autism. Gardner missed every social cue, is inherently selfish and continuously talks about his obsession with penguins. Almost every line of dialogue the character had contained some kind of social misinformation.
I did like that in the series Gardner was employed in an electronics store, because often times people on the spectrum are not represented in the workplace. The show also includes a friend of Gardner that happens to be outside of his family, Zahid. Zahid, played by Nik Dodani, is a teenage boy who befriended Gardner while working at the same electronics store. The two mainly discuss Gardner’s love life, an element that I appreciated.
“Atypical” itself is a lighthearted comedy, aiming towards spreading awareness on what it’s like for those on the autism spectrum. Although the show was great in educating viewers who do not know much about the condition, it relied a little too heavily on stereotypical depictions in my opinion.