Nina should get on well with Ross Geller, after all they both have a passion for paleontology. Both indulge their passion in exhibitions of fossils at museums but for Ross it is a job, for Nina the consuming fascination with bones is one sign of her undiagnosed autism.
Nina, beautifully portrayed by Ashley Storrie, who is actually autistic, knows she is ‘different’ and her family also know it. She exhibits many of the classic signs associated with being on the spectrum – social awkwardness; not understanding the nuance of sarcasm; expecting people to do as they say; reliance on routine, finding it sometimes difficult to form friendships and it all comes out in this charming sitcom.
So when her sister Evie (Bebe Cave) asks Nina to be maid-of-honour at her wedding. It increases Nina’s anxiety levels. Nevertheless Nina decides to step out of her comfort zone and embrace the opportunity. She takes to using a dating app to find a date to take to the wedding and in the longer term to hopefully experience the ’love’ that others feel. Within minutes she gets a positive response from Lee (Will Merrick) and they meet up. Over a beer and peanuts the pair discover a common love of fan fiction, another of Nina’s intense interests. She agrees to send Lee her latest effort and as the date ends he enthusiastically agrees to read the article.
Nina emails the article the moment she gets home and, because of her condition, expects him to read it and respond immediately. But he doesn’t: despite the frequent texts that she sends him. Nina becomes increasingly frustrated so, when, a few days later, she bumps into him on a late-night bus when travelling home from her sister’s engagement party, she takes him to task.
Thus we feel for her anxiety and confusion. She has opened herself up to being hurt and is feeling the pain. Her mind is clear: people should do what they say they will do.
This is a promising sitcom. It deals with Nina’s condition sympathetically. Unlike Jim Bell, the Goodman’s next door neighbour in Friday Night Dinner, who is clearly on the spectrum and becomes the butt of the jokes. The laughs are at his expense. In Dinosaur we laugh with Nina, not at her.
Hopefully the BBC will commission a full series so that we can see how Nina’s life develops.