There’s a new genre in comedy that seems to be making quite the splash. I don’t know if we’re calling it disaffected comedy, deconstructed comedy or simply “difficult to locate the comedy” comedy. But, whatever the label, there have been several shows cropping up recently that fall into this. Transparent on Amazon is one of the progenitors here in that it’s a comedy technically (or billed that way) but it’s not funny. It’s good, and well-acted and written but it’s not comedic in any sense of the word. It’s not even a dramedy in that it’s missing the comedic aspect of that term. Making things more complicated is this years’ new Emmy rules defining anything 30 minutes or less as a comedy no matter what. This means shows like Showtime’s Happyish HBO’s Togetherness and Netflix’s Grace and Frankie are now considered comedies despite the fact that they are, at best poignant. Which bring me to Hulu’s Casual which at first glance falls into this burgeoning genre save one factor: it’s pretty hilarious.
I should mention, from the outset, that this is not an easy show to watch. It’s darkly emotional, comically twisted, and in
many ways filthy. Hulu doesn’t make them shy away from strong language, sexual situations and nudity. However, unlike an HBO show it doesn’t feel gratuitous or forced so much as it just feels like a reflection of reality.
Ultimately Casual is a show about a woman (Michaela Watkins) who is freshly divorced and trying to get back on her feet in every way. She’s distant and damaged but trying to appear strong for her teen daughter (Tara Lynne Barr). Her equally damaged best friend/brother (Tommy Dewey) is her enabler. All three are a total mess in every way. And they get each other, and care for each other. The easy banter the three exhibit in the opening scene of the pilot speaks to how well these actors get along.
Creator Zander Lehmann does a great job at portraying a sad story and mining it for the gallows comedy that everyone uses to get through the bad times. These are not people you would want to hang out with, but they may be people that you have been at various points. And, this isn’t one of those series that bends over backwards to create a sense of fake reality that comes off as forced. Casual creates a world that is both heightened and real enough to resonate.
That’s not to say that they don’t fall into sitcom tropes. But, what makes it fun is that they sort of lean in to how ridiculous the situation is without directly calling attention to it.
Casual isn’t a series for everyone, in fact I would venture to guess that most people I know wouldn’t make it through the pilot. But if you can see yourself in these cynical, snarky, broken people you’re in for a pretty fun ride. A-