Casual: New Hulu Comedy is Formally Bad


Valerie, Alex and Laura in Casual

Hulu cannot seem to get it right in terms of comedic offerings. Casual, the new comedy from the site is just plain bad, formally or informally, nothing works here.  It should, any show about sexual “freedom”  has the potential to be a winner, but despite a 7.8 on IMDb, the series is,  thus far,  a clunker.  Presumably the higher rating on IMDb is down to the subject matter and the hot-tub scene with a “16 year-old” character having sex with her boyfriend.

*Sidenote* For the record, Tara Lynne Barr is 22 years-old and not 16. It is the character of Laura who is “underage.”

Casual stars Michaela Watkins (Wanderlust, In a World…), Tommy Dewey (The Escort, Step Up Revolution) and Tara Lynne Barr (God Bless America, Dawn) as dysfunctional family who all live together.  Dewey is Alex; a single 30-something man who develops his own website dating service, in order to have a constant stream of women at his beck and call. 

Watkins is his sister  Valerie. She is going through divorce proceedings with Laura’s (Barr) father.  Mom and her daughter share a home with Alex who encourages his psychoanalyst sister to start dating and turns a blind eye to his nieces “underage” sexual relations with her boyfriend.  Valerie also supports her child’s sexual freedom while maintaining a somewhat uneasy relationship with both her brother and Laura.

The show should work, but unlike Hulu’s other new comedy Difficult People (which was an abysmal attempt at humor that was painful to watch) Casual lacks the desperation and overplaying that seems to plague most of  American television’s “comedic” offerings. In fact the new series is so “laid-back” as to be comatose.

Lines are delivered with all the enthusiasm of a wet bagel, if it could talk, that is.  Intentionally (or perhaps unintentionally) each bit of dialogue is so underplayed that the participants seem bored to death.  Part of the problem could be with casting, the part of Alex screams for Ryan Reynolds who, unfortunately has left his Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza days  long behind him.

Tommy Dewey may be a fine actor, but Ryan Reynolds he is not,  and while Dewey may be in fine company with the other two leads in the show (as in being miscast) the man lacks what is needed for his character.  Were the show not a comedy, but more of a dramedy, things might work better, but it is doubtful.

Tara Lynne Barr, who was beyond brilliant in God Bless America has been put into a role that calls for funny versus acting straight in a funny film. While the latter is a must for a character to bring the comedy to the table, the  part Barr has been placed in requires more.

Watkins is a fine performer as well,  but like the other two protagonists in the show,  has been placed in an bad position.  Her character is just annoying and whiny, there is no comedy in her performance at all, while this could be on purpose it is not delivered in a fashion conducive to humorous entertainment.

The series’  pilot started out fairly creative, the funeral dream was at least interesting, but once Alex wakes up it loses that little tiny spark of “what could have been.”  Watching the first two episodes proved that,  unlike one other offering this season,  this comedy is not going to find its footing.

The lines are bland.  It does not help that the sound, whether this is down to poorly recorded ADR or some other reason, is muffled.  It feels like the actors were either recorded in a rehearsal or the director insisted that each line be delivered quietly into the microphone with a massive emphasis on downplaying each..and…every…syllable.

Thankfully, there is no laugh track; to help the audience find the humor, if there were it would only point out just how unfunny the show is.

Experimentation in comedy is a good thing, without it we would never have gotten past the 1950s and ’60s style of sitcoms like Mister Ed and Leave it to Beaver.   There is comedic gold in them thar hills, just not in Hulu’s latest attempt at humor.

Casual “airs” Wednesdays on Hulu and unless the viewer is a rabid fan of any of the performers,  give this one a miss.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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