September 16, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Toronto Film Festival/Series Premiere Review: “Casual”


CASUAL:  October 7 on Hulu

Hulu has included some original programming in its inventory for a while now, but it’s signaled its intention to join Netflix and Amazon in that realm in a more serious way with its order of new Mindy Project episodes, and production of a Stephen King minseries, The Way from Jason Katims, and CASUAL, a new half-hour series created by Zander Lehmann, with Jason Reitman as an Executive Producer and director of its initial 2 episodes.  Those episodes premiered in the Toronto Film Festival’s “Primetime” program of television content.

Casual takes an indie tone to tell a story of moderately dysfunctional siblings in Los Angeles.  Valerie (Michaela Watkins), a therapist who’s in the process of divorcing the husband who left her for a younger woman, lives with her brother Alex (Tommy Dewey) and her 16-year old daughter Laura (Tara Lynne Barr), and all three have their mishaps with the opposite sex.

For Reitman, Casual represents a good change of pace after the divisive Young Adult and the flat-out awful Labor Day and Men, Women and Children, all of them flops at the box office.  Based on its first two half-hours, the show’s premise could work well enough on network TV, minus some profanity and brief nudity, especially the character of Alex, who’s designed his own dating website so he could rig the algorithms and date all the hot women, a contrivance that could show up any given day on CBS.  Hot mess Valerie, who hasn’t been on a date in years and can’t handle a one-night stand, and Alex, too, (barely) wiser than her elders, are not unfamiliar figures.  What does set Casual a bit apart is its loose style and relaxed acceptance of its screwed-up characters.  The show doesn’t have a tremendous amount of forward momentum (in the version screened at Toronto, it wasn’t even clear just where the first episode ended and the second began), but the three protagonists, and the performers who play them, are pleasant and sometimes funny company who underplay their sometimes sitcommy dialogue.

Casual is unlikely to be the breakout hit for Hulu that House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black have been for Netflix, or that Transparent has been for Amazon.  Along with Mindy Project, though, it establishes the service as a friendly locale for quirky comedy, a branding that may serve Hulu in the long run.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."