Maybe you don’t have a Hulu account. I would allow that, but really, Hulu has enough network shows that you should dump your cable TV subscription and replace it with $7.99 a month at Hulu. No, I wasn’t paid to say that [although if someone at Hulu does want to pay me to shill for them, you can reach me on Twitter @adversioned].
If you do have a Hulu account though, no excuses. You should be watching Casual.
It’s by turns romantic comedy, family drama, roommate sitcom, and high school dramedy, and each of those perspectives feels both full explored and richly relevant to the others. “You’ll laugh; you’ll cry” is the tritest thing one can say about an emotionally-aware piece of film or literature, but at least in this case, it’s literally true.
I struggle to find apt comparisons for the show, which is partly because I don’t watch enough sitcoms, but also because very few sitcoms build relationships with this much delicacy. Alex (Tommy Dewey) and Valerie (Michaela Watkins) are a newly cohabitating brother and sister in their late 30’s, and Laura (Tara Lynne Barr) Valerie’s daughter, so I guess technically the relationships have the same shape (genders aside) as Two and a Half Men, but… I can’t even express how insulting that comparison is. Forget I said anything.
New Girl comes to mind a bit, as it is (or at least was…) a similarly smart show about roommates and dating in LA [Ed. note: just saw the first episode of Season 6 of New Girl. Definitely sticking with “was”], but family is strictly an arc-by-arc concern for New Girl, rather than being tied to the heart of the show.
Modern Family is much too broad (both in humor and in number of characters) to really match… I think the best I can do for a near-ish neighbor is Gilmore Girls, which did get hour-long episodes, but was a similarly pitched dramedy, and spent nearly as much time negotiating relationships that were a bit fine in their family/friend distinctions.
Even You’re The Worst, a show that seems comparable at least in its bitterness, plays that bitterness much more broadly. Every episode of YTW seems like it has the same structure: “Let’s take ten minutes of a romantic comedy, and then see how it would pan out if everyone involved were the worst,” whereas the “episodic” gene in Casual is heavily suppressed. There are a few episodes where Alex, Valerie, and Laura find themselves negotiating similar sections of their other relationships, but there’s no Zach Braff voiceover at the end, and the parallelism is usually violently disrupted by the end of the episode. [Nerdy Spice: Yeah, it’s totally a binge-watching show, and if you do binge-watch it, you will easily forget you’re watching a half-hour show at all, because it will feel like a prestige drama with a particularly caustic wit.]
Alex, as we discover in the pilot, cofounded “Snooger,” which is meant to be an OkCupid-like app in-universe; in particular, he is responsible for designing the matching algorithm. A succinct mark of the show’s elegant awareness and self-awareness is how thoroughly the implications of that career are explored in the pilot alone. He programmed the algorithm, so he’s something of a nerd, and might struggle to relate to people for that reason: check. He maintains the algorithm, so he has access to manipulate it or exploit it for cynical reasons: check. He thought of the algorithm, so he’s philosophical about what begets attraction and superficial attraction, and discusses both: check. And, I promise, this is only one aspect of his character. Just the first of these sentences represents pretty much all of the thematic content of Big Bang Theory’s entire run to date—admittedly, another shallow comparison, but sometimes it’s easy to ignore how little depth we get from most 30-minute shows, even in this renaissance of TV in general.
I feel sure we’ll have more to say about Casual, (and about You’re The Worst, which by itself is another reason you should have a Hulu subscription), but for now go watch the pilot. Go. I’ll wait. It’s 30 minutes out of your life that you were going to waste anyway.