Sitcom Therapists: Females on “Difficult People,” “Casual”

There are some new sitcom therapists in starring and/or recurring roles on series featured on the streaming site Hulu.

Difficult People has Andrea Martin as the therapist mom of a main character, whereas the about-to-be-released Casual is about a therapist (Michaela Watkins) and her brother, who are the offspring of therapist parents.

I. Difficult People

The eight-episode Difficult People premiered in early August and is available now in its entirety. Neil Genzlinger, New York Times, describes the series:

Julie Klausner, a comedian and writer plays Julie Kessler, ‘a New Yorker who recaps television shows and has an intermittent performing career but spends most of her time kvetching with her gay friend Billy Epstein (Billy Eichner of ‘Billy on the Street’). Billy is that most omnipresent of New York subspecies: an actor who waits tables indifferently while hoping for callbacks that rarely come.’

Rotten Tomatoes sums up the critical consensus: “Difficult People makes the unlikable likable with mean-spirited, unhappy characters who still can’t help but amuse.”

Marilyn (Julie’s mom), the first of our sitcom therapists, is apparently no exception:

  • A “grimly dismissive” parent and “both no-nonsense and unfair” (Louis Virtel, HitFix)
  • “brutally self-obsessed and nitpicking mother” (Liz Shannon Miller, Indiewire)
  • “oppressively self-involved mother” (Molly Eichel, AVClub)
  • “a therapist who is surely more screwed up than any of her patients” (Brian Lowry, Variety)
  • “apparently not a very good [shrink], from what we can tell. Her latest gimmick to enhance her practice is to add hypnotherapy to her techniques, but she is no good at it” (David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle)

The trailer below shows a myriad of well-known guest stars and just a hint of Marilyn:

II. Casual

Casual, premiering on October 7th, is “(a) new comedy series about a bachelor brother and his newly divorced sister living under one roof again. Together, they coach each other through the crazy world of dating while raising her teenage daughter” (IMDB).

Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter, states that the series is “funny, strongly realized, self-assured and a joy to watch. You want another when the last episode is over.” By the way, you can’t binge-watch this one yet as only one episode will be released per week.

A couple descriptions of Valerie, the main character and second of our sitcom therapists:

  • “a successful therapist who probably overanalyzes things” (Hollywood Reporter)
  • “…Valerie begins as a refreshing antithesis to the overbearing mother trope we see often see in sitcoms. She has a sexually liberated view on her daughter’s lifestyle, boasting that she has had her on the pill since the age of 12 and still buys her condoms. But what’s somewhat disheartening is that by the end of the second episode she’s in a more familiar place of being the uptight regulator, as her brother and daughter both need bailing out of trouble” (Benjamin Lee, The Guardian).

David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle, regarding the background of siblings Valerie (the therapist) and Alex (who were raised by shrinks):

[They’re] products of a dysfunctional upbringing, so much so that they’ve distanced themselves from their mother Dawn (Frances Conroy) for years. She doesn’t show up until a few episodes in to the 10-episode season, so it’s not clear what her presence will do to the family dynamic, but there seems little chance she’ll improve things very much. Mama slept around long before it was sugar-coated with the word ‘casual.’

Being the adult child of two therapists is a real thing, of course, for some. As Micah Toub, author of Growing Up Jung (2010), has said, though, “All parents…mess with their kids’ heads. My parents’ being psychologists only changed the language of it.

Trailer below:

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