I’ve started collecting shows that depict main characters with autism/asperger’s, without resorting to awkward cardboard stereotypes. I’m only recommending shows where I’ve seen at least a handful of episodes. Each show here confirms onscreen or off (in interviews) that the character(s) are autistic.
The main character is a young man working as a CIA analyst. He’s never called autistic on screen, but the actor clearly states that the character is autistic (interview). There are enough hints in the character and portrayal (he stims, for example), and in how the other characters interact with him. There’s even an Autism Speaks puzzle piece as set dressing in the parents’ home, which politics aside, was a clear confirmation to me. I actually think this was really natural – it would feel forced to have a “coming out” scene.
There’s only 1 season, but I really enjoyed it.
The main character here is a female detective, Saga Norén. Apparently the show producers don’t want to label her, but it’s so obvious from watching that googling “Saga Noren autism” gets a number of results like Saga Noren, the Autistic Superwoman Of ‘The Bridge’, and How The Bridge’s heroine became a role model for women with autism.
There are 3 seasons, though I’ve only watched 1 and half the second – but I do want to go back and finish it eventually. (I’ll admit that I couldn’t really get into the US version, but Sonya (Saga’s American counterpart) is portrayed as autistic here too)
The Code (AUS)
The main characters here are a pair of brothers. One of the brothers, Jesse, is an autistic computer hacker. It sounds like a stereotype, but I think they managed to not fall into a trope by actually showing the difficulties he has with the world, while also not making it seem like he’s an utter failure. And throughout the show, he grows as a person and has his own successes, which are not framed as inspirational.
I’ve watched this one twice. There are only 6 episodes per season (but they’re a full hour long), and the second season is currently on-air (in Australia, I haven’t seen any of it). It’s very “edge of your seat”, and a little confusing (esp for an American who didn’t really know anything about Australian politics). This is probably my favorite show on this list.
Most people have heard of this show 🙂 A group of misfit students at community college, one of whom is Abed. I’m not sure if he’s been diagnosed onscreen (if so, it was probably a joke – the show frequently pokes fun at pop culture tropes). He’s another character that is clearly coded autistic, but it’s done respectfully – which is rare for a comedy.
I haven’t watched this one in a while, I fell off after season 5. The storyline is sometimes continuous, but you can probably watch episodes one-off to see if you’re into the humor. (Most comedies are not my thing, but I do like Community.)
Strange Empire (CA)
There are a handful of main characters (almost all women). The show takes place before ASD was a diagnosis, so it’s never really said onscreen, but one of the characters (Rebecca) is autistic. She was previously institutionalized, and her early storyline is a little… strange, but this is another show that manages both the difficulties and unique view that being autistic brings her character.
Once again, a show cancelled after 1 season. I think I never finished this, but it is enjoyable.