When it was originally on: 2015-2018
Original Network: Hulu
Where you can stream it now: Hulu
Had I seen it before: Yes! I’d seen the first 3ish seasons and previously blogged about them in my Streaming Exclusive series. I don’t really remember any overarching plots, but according to Hulu, that’s what I’ve seen.
What IMDb says: A comedy series about a bachelor brother and his newly divorced sister living under one roof again. Together, they coach each other through the crazy world of dating while raising her teenage daughter.
Why I picked it: This is one of the first Hulu Originals I remember hearing about, and frankly I think it could’ve been a bigger hit if it made its debut now, when more people have Hulu subscriptions than it was in 2015, when Hulu was still living in Netflix’s shadow. However, I remember really liking it. I thought it would help make sure that I had a good array of streaming originals from a variety of different platforms.
What I liked: Casual finds a way to put a fresh spin on family sitcoms without trying too hard: instead a of a mother and father raising their daughter together, it’s the mother and HER brother. Alex being Laura’s uncle means they can have a more, well casual relationship than any teen would have with their actual parent, and that helps this show feel like something I haven’t seen before. It also leaves the door open for tension between Alex and Laura’s actual father later, which is a fun thing to look forward to.
We also get another family dynamic that makes the show interesting: a brother trying to teach his sister how to be single again. In the pilot, Alex sets up a double date via a dating website that he designed. We get to see him and his sister, Valerie, go on terrible dates separately, but in the same restaurant. The way these two speak so candidly about their dating and sex lives not only helps us learn about their sex life. It also helps show that Alex and Val are super close and probably willing to talk to each other about almost anything.
I also love how Laura is unlike any teenager I’ve seen on television before. She’s in control in a way most television teens aren’t, and so there’s a lot of potential to explore conflicts outside of “But Mom, I want to go to the party!” or. “but the boy I like doesn’t like me back!” I think a large part of what’s going to make this family interesting is the very fact that Laura is as adult as she is. At times, she talks to Alex more like a roommate of the same age than a teenage niece. Alex doesn’t seem to mind this. How long can that status quo go on? Is Laura’s father going to challenge Valerie/Alex’s parenting methods? Is Laura’s immaturity ever going to come back to bite everyone in the ass?
I think one of the biggest lessons to be learned from Casual is that you don’t really NEED that much to make a pilot work. All you need is a small handful of characters that the audience would spend another half hour with. In the case of Valerie, Alex, and Laura, you have three people who are all likable, believable, and relatable, and I don’t need much more than that.
What I didn’t like: As much as Laura intrigues me, and yes I do love how she isn’t like any other high schooler I’ve seen on television before, I wish she had a little bit more characterization outside of being 16 and sexually active. While this isn’t a huge dealbreaker for me because I think the time we’re not learning about Laura is still well-spent on developing Alex and Val’s dynamic, I still wish they would’ve done more with Laura.
She plays soccer, but only to get out of gym class. Other than that, she doesn’t seem to have any extracurriculars outside of sex. And yes, she’s 16, so it makes sense for her to be horny, but still. We don’t know anything about her ambitions for after high school or if she even has any. We don’t really get any sense for how her parents’ divorce has affected her. Does she miss her dad? Is she glad to be rid of him? Is she actually in a relationship with the dude she’s having sex with or is it more of a friends with benefits scenario? Again, she’s likable enough and I like how she strays from the norms of TV teens, but there has to be more to her than her horniness. I wish more of those questions had been answered in the pilot.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes! I remember why I loved this show as much as I did even though I was limited to one episode. The characters are charming, the humor is dry and never heavy handed, and I can definitely see myself watching more.