Jason Reitman’s Casual — a dark comedy about a brother, sister, and said sister’s teenage daughter living together and struggling through the dating world — concluded its captivating first season Wednesday, and was renewed for a second after just four episodes. Between its stellar cast led by Michaela Watkins, one-time The Mindy Project love interest Tommy Dewey, and Aquarius’ Tara Lynne Barr and its moody, relatable atmosphere, Casual became one of the quiet standouts of the fall — and below are five reasons why you should log into Hulu and binge all 10 episodes stat.
1. Michaela Watkins finally gets the project she deserves
Watkins is the rainbow sprinkles of the television world, adding an extra bit of magic wherever she goes — the only problem is that it’s rare that she sticks around: Her stint on Saturday Night Live was sadly short-lived, then the delightful Trophy Wife — a sitcom she starred on alongside Malin Åkerman and Marcia Gay Harden — was canceled after one season, and other than that, her television presence has been confined to a handful of episodes or one-off appearances on a variety of beloved series including Modern Family, Enlightened, and Transparent. In Casual, though, Watkins is the main attraction and would be enough of a reason to watch even if nothing else in the show worked thanks to her capacity to powerfully combine comedy and sadness and her empathetic portrayal of a flawed but caring mother and sister.
2. The guest stars are first-rate
One of the worst parts of Happy Endings getting canceled in 2013 — and there were a lot of bad parts about that — was that viewers could no longer get a weekly dose of Eliza Coupe’s charming turn as the comedy’s resident perfectionist, Jane. She’s kept busy since then on the since-canceled Benched (a USA drama that Watkins co-created) and in guest roles on shows like The Mindy Project and House of Lies, and Casual is the latest series to nab Coupe in a limited role — one that can be considered one of her best: Coupe gives the free-spirited Emmy a sense of carelessness that’s both enviable and an obvious omen of bad things to come. Somehow, however, she comes off as one of the more stable characters even in her most messed-up moments. The same cannot be said for Alex and Valerie’s parents, who are each terribly irritating and greatly amusing partly because of Frances Conroy and Fred Melamed’s characteristically spectacular performances.
3. It’s a show about dating, but its most interesting relationship is one between siblings
Relationships between siblings can be loving, significant, and extremely messy — the latter quality one that sometimes gets overlooked in television shows that prefer romantic tension to the familial sort. Not on Casual, though: Rarely do onscreen sibling relationships feel as natural as they do on the show, where believable and complicated disagreements are as commonplace as affectionate moments that show just how deep their love for each other goes.
4. The music
Mateo Messina, whose past credits include Juno and Butter, composed Casual’s playful and occasionally hopeful score, one that prevents the show from getting too bleak even in its more tense moments and that, perhaps most importantly, allows the accompanying scenes to breathe. The non-score musical moments are strong, too, like when Sufjan Stevens’ haunting “Should Have Known Better” calmly closes out the especially eventful fifth episode.
Leon (played masterfully by Nyasha Hatendi) enters the show as a potential love interest for Valerie, and remains as an unlikely friend to Alex: He’s a wounded man whose social awkwardness is simultaneously painful and painfully endearing. Although he starts as a pet project for Alex, who tries to get Leon out of his comfort zone after a dry spell, he ends up being Alex’s savior of sorts. The pair’s dynamic shouldn’t work, but it does, and their glaring differences make their scenes together all the more affecting.
The first season of Casual is now available to stream on Hulu Plus. Watch the trailer above.