Recently I watched a show on Netflix my ex-husband and girls have been telling me to watch for a couple of years now. I kept putting it off ’cause I don’t watch a whole lot of TV shows or movies; my attention span is pretty short these days, so I’m usually just watching YouTube or TikToks. However, I finally watched the show they’ve been telling me I needed to watch, and I’m so sad I didn’t watch it sooner because I absolutely fell in love with it!
The show is called “Atypical“, which ran for 4 seasons from 2017-2021, and it’s about an autistic boy named Sam and his family and friends. Sam is 18 when the show starts, and navigating high school and dating. It’s a comedy, although there are some serious topics covered in the show, as well. From IMDB:
“Atypical” is a coming-of-age story that follows Sam, an 18-year-old on the autistic spectrum, as he searches for love and independence. While Sam is on his funny yet emotional quest of self-discovery, the rest of his family must grapple with change in their own lives as they all struggle with the central theme: what does being normal really mean?https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6315640/
I was hooked after the very first episode. Not only is the show fantastic, with an amazing cast and wonderful writing, Sam reminds me so much of Sawyer it’s incredible. Of course, Sawyer is quite a bit younger than Sam is, but watching Sam’s mannerisms and listening to the cadence of how he speaks and interacts with others is so much like Sawyer it was scary at times. Keir Gilchrist, the actor who plays Sam, is not on the autism spectrum, but he absolutely nails it in this role; I was absolutely amazed at his portrayal and how real he was in the role. A lot of times, people playing someone with autism overdo it for the sake of comedic appeal (I’m looking at you, Jim Parsons!), but Keir Gilchrist doesn’t seem like he’s acting at all, which makes Sam so much more loveable, and the show much more appealing than one that makes autistic traits nothing but the brunt of a joke.
Another thing I absolutely love about “Atypical” is that some of the actors on the show actually have autism; in the second season we are introduced to a peer support group for Sam, and a lot of the characters are represented by those who are actually autistic, which is wonderful and refreshing. Another aspect of the show I absolutely love is Sam’s friendship with his best friend, Zahid, who never treats Sam as if he’s any different than anyone else. He does advocate and speak up for Sam in a couple of situations they encounter where Sam’s autistic traits make the situation difficult, but overall he never handles Sam with “kid gloves”, and I find that to be amazing and beautiful. People with autism just want to be accepted for who they are and this show gets that absolutely right.
The show doesn’t get it completely perfect, although it’s pretty damn close, in my opinion. As great as “Atypical” is, it doesn’t really show what living with autism is like for girls, although there are autistic female characters in the show. There are also a couple of scenarios that I found pretty unbelievable, but it is a TV show, after all- it’s not meant to be completely realistic all the time.
I do want to stress that this show is not a show for children; there is a lot of talk about sex in the show, and a couple of jokes/lines that I definitely wouldn’t want Sawyer to hear. If you want to watch it with older kids, that would probably be ok, depending on how open you are with discussing or joking about sex with your kids.
The fact that the show is not about autism itself, but about a boy who happens to have autism, is wonderful to me. The show covers topics like stimming, meltdowns, and more with a fresh realism that a lot of others don’t. It not only shows what life is like for Sam, but for his loved ones. I saw a lot of my daughters in Casey, Sam’s sister in the show. Her fierce love and protective nature for Sam are portrayed beautifully, and I definitely found myself identifying with a lot of things that happened with Sam’s parents and how they deal with parenting not only their special needs child but their neurotypical child, as well. The entire cast did an incredible job bringing these characters to life in such a beautiful, nuanced way, and overall, this has become a new Top 3 contender in my favorite TV shows of all time.
If you haven’t heard of or seen “Atypical”, I highly encourage you to check it out! Even if you don’t care about the portrayal of autism in the show, the characters are great and the plot is addicting. All 4 seasons are available on Netflix.
Have you seen “Atypical”? If so, who are your favorite characters and/or moments from the show?