With “As We See It,” creator Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”) has clear objectives: to let people on the autism spectrum be at the centers of their own stories, and to tell those stories with the kind of care they’re otherwise rarely afforded on TV. Whereas a comedy like Josh Thomas’ “Everything’s Going to Be Okay” — which also gave people with autism the spotlight — largely focused on the intersection between the absurd and sublime, “As We See It” follows in the Katims tradition of heartfelt family drama. It’s a lot to ask of a show to handle all the above with both sensitivity and a clear eye for narrative, but Katims and company continually find a way to thread this particularly tricky needle.
The new eight-episode series, out today on Amazon Prime Video, focuses on a trio of roommates on the autism spectrum (and each of which, it should be said, are also played by neurodiverse actors). Programmer Jack (Rick Glassman), sweetheart Harrison (Albert Rutecki), and frustrated Violet (Sue Ann Pien) are all doing their best, with the help of their shared aide (Sosie Bacon) to navigate the world at varying levels of success. Jack briefly crashes out at his job when he tells his boss exactly what he thinks of his intelligence, while Harrison befriends a shy kid in their building only to have the kid’s mother immediately disapprove. In some of the show’s most fraught and complex moments, Violet and her brother Van (Chris Pang) struggle to see eye to eye on how much Violet can handle. The writing is sound, and the simultaneously stark and intimate directing — as established in the pilot by Jesse Peretz — keep “As We See It” engrossing enough. But more than anything, across the board, it’s the acting that makes it so easy to fall into the show, and feel such sharp pangs of sympathy for its vulnerable characters.
As the two neurotypical characters doing their best to look out for the rest, Bacon and Pang have an easy chemistry with the trio, and each other. Glassman more than holds his own as the apartment’s wry center of gravity, especially when he gets to play scenes opposite Joe Mantegna as his father and Délé Ogundiran as an intrigued nurse. Rutecki, who routinely has to handle scenes entirely on his own, makes Harrison a full character even (especially) when he’s not speaking at all. And as the turbulent Violet, who so often charges into scenes headfirst like a willful tornado of emotion, Pien is an immediate standout. There’s not a whole lot that Glassman, Rutecki, and Pien’s characters have in common beyond their experiences on the spectrum, but each actor embodies them so completely that it hardly matters. It’s fair to say that by entrusting these stories to actors who know the experiences they’re portraying, “As We See It’ succeeds where too many others have failed.
“As We See It” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.