By Kevin McDonough
Chances are, people will be talking about "Atypical" (TV-MA). The new eight-episode comedy begins streaming today on Netflix. It features Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rapaport as Elsa and Doug, parents of smart, sweet, autistic teenager Sam (Keir Gilchrist).
Comedies and dramas from "The Big Bang Theory" to "Parenthood" have featured autistic characters. But in this case, Sam's experiences and observations are the center of the show. It may seem daring to create an autistic "star," but it can also seem gimmicky. It's as if Sam's awkward nature, his inability to make eye contact with girls and obsessive return to favorite subjects (in his case penguins and the Antarctic) are just a few quirks beyond the neurotic tics of the Woody Allen variety.
Sam's peculiar statements and outbursts work occasionally as comedy, but much of the plot unfolds like clockwork. From his parent's squabbles, to his sister's (Brigette Lundy-Paine) efforts to defend him, "Atypical" quickly and a bit mechanically establishes the strains that coping with a social outcast can make on the "normal" members of a family.
Amy Okuda stars as Sam's pleasant therapist, Julia. Too many of her lines are of the didactic variety, and sound like talking points on autism suitable for an after-school special.
Sam works at a big-box electronics store, the umpteenth television character to do so since the 2007 comedy series "Chuck" borrowed the idea from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," a 2005 Judd Apatow movie. And as in that film, the first episode of "Atypical" dwells on Sam's cringe-worthy efforts to find intimacy.
The big-box store has taken on an ominous luster in the past 10 years. Just this past week, we've seen a much darker character from "Mr. Mercedes" employed in a similar setting.
I'm no expert, so I will let autism specialists or family members of those on the spectrum judge "Atypical" for itself. But as an original comedy, it's derivative, painfully awkward and yet predictable at the same time.
• Speaking of ticking off boxes, the "CBS News Special: Son of Sam: The Killer Speaks" (10 p.m., CBS) is the latest to revisit the serial killings that terrorized New York in the mid-'70s.
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
Note: Network listings may be affected by local NFL and MLB coverage.
• The New York Giants host the Pittsburgh Steelers in preseason NFL action (7 p.m., NFL).
• The judges make cuts on "America's Got Talent" (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG).
• A past champion returns on "MasterChef" (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).
• Smartphone security on "Shark Tank" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).
• Dutch goes AWOL on "Killjoys" (8 p.m., Syfy, TV-14).
• A suave spy (Sean Connery) travels to Jamaica to thwart a rocket-launching madman in the 1962 thriller "Dr. No" (8:08 p.m., Starz Encore), the film that launched the James Bond franchise.
• Shawn faces a legal setback as "Bering Sea Gold" (9 p.m., Discovery, TV-14) enters its ninth season.
• TCM spends 24 hours with Ginger Rogers, star of musical, comedy and dramatic films, including the 1935 bauble "Top Hat" (10 p.m., TCM), co-starring Fred Astaire and Edward Everett Horton.
John Wayne stars in the 1972 Western "The Cowboys" (8 p.m., Outdoor). The film marked Robert Carradine's screen debut and featured a score by John Williams.
Kidnappers snatch a prodigy on "MacGyver" (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) * On "Masters of Illusion" (CW, TV-14), Farrell Dillon (8 p.m.), R.J. Cantu (8:30 p.m., r) * A community activist faces deportation on "Blue Bloods" (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) * Jamie Foxx hosts "Beat Shazam" (9 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG) * John Quinones hosts "What Would You Do?" (9 p.m., ABC) * Illusionists audition on "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-PG).
"The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) offers a new monologue and a glance at the week's best moments * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Naomi Watts, Andy Cohen and Jo Koy on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) * Molly Shannon, Matthew Rhys and Bleachers visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) * Ed Helms, Priyanka Chopra, Kaya Scodelario and Paramore are on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).
© 2017, United Feature Syndicate