Do you know anybody on the spectrum?
Then you will be unable to turn off “Atypical.” Not because they get it so right, not because Keir Gilchrist embodies an autistic kid perfectly, but because they made this show at all!
It’s your own private hell. Oh, I know parents will talk about the benefits, and they are there. But I’ve come to learn having a normal kid, a “neurotypical” as they say in this series, is a great blessing, because…
I’m not talking about a scion with ADD or ADHD. Seemingly every kid has a learning disability these days, if they’re not gifted. But kids who mean well but just don’t fit in, oftentimes don’t have friends, who struggle and unfortunately know it…
Now if you’re one of these parents, you’re probably yelling at the screen right now, saying how I got it wrong. And I probably did, but this is reflected in the scene where parent Michael Rapaport accompanies his wife to the support group and is ultimately defeated and shuts up after being interrupted time and again for not getting the nomenclature right. He means well, but he just can’t play by the rules, which frustrates him since he’s so frustrated by his kid to begin with. But that’s America today, you’ve got to obey the rules to fit in, but every group has a separate decoder ring so we retreat into our niche or we argue, togetherness is rare.
And Rapaport is a revelation. Is this the same bozo who can’t stop ranting and raving on the Stern show? He’s soft here. The reviews say too soft. But there’s still that gulf between father and son, and daughter, how often could you have a heart to heart with your dad? I certainly couldn’t, it was rare.
But the star of the show is Brigette Lundy-Paine, she’s a revelation! She looks too old for the part, and she is, she’s 21, but she inhabits the role, you think she’s real. The track star who stands up for her brother while putting him down, whose whole life is impacted by his condition. She’s always #2, she’s always in the background, it’s her cross to bear, and it’s heavy.
As for vaunted star Jennifer Jason Leigh, you can’t stop staring at her wondering exactly what work she’s had done. I think it’s fillers, in her cheeks, but she just doesn’t look the same. Why do people do this? Is that the world we live in, where no one can get old, where we revere the youth and to show a line or a sag makes you irrelevant? I’ll tell you the truth, if you’re over 50 you ARE irrelevant, AND IT FEELS SO GOOD! You can detect the b.s. Know it’s all crap. It’s good to be ignored. And what’s so great about being young and stupid, knowing so little about how life works. He or she who believes beauty is exterior-only has not lived long enough. He’s a shallow man competing with his brethren who truly don’t care. And if all you’ve got is your looks, you didn’t do enough personal development. I always wonder what these aged men with supermodels talk to them about, or are they robots, destined to act as instructed, for the benefit of the money.
And some of the plot twists work and some of them don’t.
And I can’t say this is a great show. And I was unsure about watching it because of all the so-so reviews. But the world we live in today is one wherein we look for peaks. Those moments that resonate. Like the therapist convinced her boyfriend is cheating on her. We’re all suspicious, and can we know one another anyway?
We live in a world of television. We want to know our characters in depth. We’re less interested in plot than emotion, but story is king in America today, it links the emotions together. And where you get story is on television. And it’s not the small tube of the last century, but a large flat panel akin to a movie theatre, only in this case it starts when you want it to and there’s no talking and no overpriced snacks.
That’s one of the things I liked best about “Atypical.” That after getting hooked I could devour one episode after another. Go deep.
We all want to go deep and we all want to be known. And if they made ‘Atypical” as a film there’d be one dramatic scene where the star was flustered, or he won, there wouldn’t be the ups and downs of regular life, the boyfriend with a past wouldn’t even appear. Turns out we like our stories extended.
Ain’t that interesting in a world where we can’t stop reading about short attention spans.
Television is doing its best to capture the zeitgeist, the real experience of life. “Atypical” is just another show on the continuum. But you’ve got to watch something. You cover all the greats and then…
You dismiss all the losers.
And then you stumble on imperfection that is satisfying.