Casual's Quiet Family Drama Avoids the Usual Clichés

Gregory E. Miller
15-40-2108
Courtesy of Hulu

Michaela Watkins is best known for turns on SNL and as Jackie Fisher, the wonky granola mom on the short-lived ABC sitcom Trophy Wife. But her latest role in Casual, the new Hulu dramedy produced by Juno and Up in the Air director Jason Reitman, is far more subtle. (The first two episodes begin streaming today, with new episodes bowing every Wednesday.)

Watkins stars as Valerie, a recently divorced therapist who moves in with her lothario brother (The Mindy Project’s Tommy Dewey). Starting life over, she juggles raising her teenage daughter (Tara Lynne Barr) while dipping her toe in the dating pool. You won’t see any over-the-top histrionics here. The quiet comedy takes a darker tone, with Valerie’s sardonic melancholy bringing the laughs. “This is more in line with what I enjoy watching myself,” Watkins says. “I love doing broad comedy—I came up through sketch comedy. [But] it’s like improv. I love doing it, but I’d never go see a show.”

While this may be new territory for Watkins, fans of Reitman’s canon know what to expect. “We basically made a five-hour independent film,” Watkins says. “It slowly invites the viewer into these rich characters’ world.” Thankfully, that rich world leaves the clichés behind.“It sounds like such a stupid TV logline to be like, ‘She’s a therapist but not great at taking her own advice!’” Watkins says, laughing. “But it’s not really about her giving advice or taking advice. You just see that she’s good at what she does. And just like therapists, I’m sure, it doesn’t mean that life doesn’t hand you a bag of crap.”

Casual, Series premiere, Wednesday, Oct. 7, Hulu