Hit or Sh**: Hulu’s CASUAL
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
Anyone who remembers seeing others’ best friends on Snapchat can tell you that post-internet society has drastically changed traditional courting rituals. Suggestive glances and fathers’ blessings have been dutifully replaced by right swipes and the occasional blurry dick pic. Up-and-coming writer Zander Lehmann, who first approached the series as a drama, and modern director extraordinaire Jason Reitman explore these aspects of 21st century sexuality in their Hulu exclusive CASUAL.
Ohhhhh baby, lemme lay on a couch and tell you why I have trouble with eye contact
The series focuses on a newly divorced psychiatrist named Valerie (Michaela Watkins), who has no other option but to stay at her brother Alex’s (Tommy Dewey) lavish abode (a result of his internet-dating-site-creator fortune) with her young daughter Laura (Tara Lynne Barr) as they desperately try to be intimately string-less with other people. The hook of the show is the three’s somewhat unusual dynamic in that they are all incredibly open and honest about their love lives and keep tabs on each other accordingly. The writing is fun and snappy enough to keep CASUAL from being a baseless softcore sex romp, and several questions about single life come up to make for some interesting glimpses at human nature.
It’s also awesome to see Watkins do something other than telling Seth Meyers “BIIITCH PLEEEZ” in a nasally voice. Her back and forth with Dewey and Barr really shows the trio’s comedic acting chops, exceptional timing, and skilled delivery, even if the other two can be a bit insufferable on their own. The schtick that Alex takes on gets old really fast. He puts Valerie in compromising situations for seemingly no reason and obviously thinks with his other head first and foremost. As a character he’s bound to learn and go through some sort of arc, but his wannabe cynicism makes his constant belittling unwarranted and mostly unfunny – almost edging into DIFFICULT PEOPLE territory. Laura is a bit more tolerable, if only for the fact that being in a sexually-charged school environment brings up unique problems for her to deal with and shunts her Alex-like tendencies. Both are at their very best when with Valerie, strengthening her character and providing her with insight into the new dating sphere.
The morning after, if it was a stab instead of a poke
Of course, we get points of tension within divorce court settlements that are most likely bits of Lehmann’s dramatic writing falling through the cracks, but they never seem cliche, shoehorned, or out of place. Dialogue stays sharp as a whip and in tandem with the show’s melancholic sense of humor – a testament to his writing, as well as Reitman’s take on it coming off of MEN, WOMEN, & CHILDREN. The audience can’t help but care about Valerie and the future of her relationships.
Though it might not have the gusto of MASTERS OF SEX, CASUAL tackles the subject matter with a more relatable outlook. Not all of the jokes are hits, but the show provides a much needed commentary on dating and hookup culture today without taking itself too seriously or reducing itself to pornography, so if you were hoping for pornography then you better pop on over to sexfreehdxxx as you won’t find any in Casual. If the show continues to ask the interesting questions about intimacy and sexual relations while retaining an endearing female lead, then CASUAL will stand tall as one of the reasons to definitely subscribe to Hulu.
Verdict: Sh** Probation
CASUAL is available to watch in its entirety on Hulu