"Speechless" is a new #ABC comedy about a family affected by cerebral palsy, will be airing on September 21st.A lot of people in the disability community are worried that this will become another "inspiration porn" festival (where the focus ends up being on portraying the character as an inspiration rather than a human). However, after watching the pilot when it was up on Facebook I'm happy to report this isn't the case. In fact it's one of the funniest shows I've seen in awhile. Here is a review of the pilot..
Success is its characters
"Speechless" could have very easily fallen into the trap of making Micah Fowler's character an angel in human form (the way so many disabled characters get portrayed). However, they haven't. J.J. Dimeo is just as flawed as any other human being. He can be thoughtless and a little crude. At the same time, he's also resourceful and isn't afraid to speak his mind (albeit in a nontraditional sense of the word "speak"). Also, Fowler, actually has cerebral palsy. Which is a change of pace.
Minnie Driver plays Maya Dimeo the matriarch of the family. She does everything she can for her son. Occasionally, this brings her into conflict with her two able-bodied kids who sometimes believe their interests get pushed aside. Ray, played by John Ross Bowie goes from playing a smug nerd on "Big Bang Theory" to a masterful turn as the more grounded father who helps keep the family matriarch grounded.
Mason Cook and Kyla Kennedy also deliver great performances.
The former as a boy who feels pushed aside by his brother. The latter as an athlete who has a few issues with the "everyone's a winner" ethos of the school. Cedric Yarbough delivers a great performance though I won't spoil his role if you haven't seen the pilot.
"Speechless" is true to life and the show we need
Even though the show is called "Speechless," it speaks to a lot of disabled people and their families. Primarily because most of it is true to some extent. Many families have lived in a worse house or even changing houses so they could keep their child in a school with better services. Many able-bodied siblings have felt like they were pushed aside when the family had to help a disabled sibling. Many parents and kids have dealt with schools saying they're inclusive, and trying to show off their "inclusiveness" by making hollow gestures (in this show's case nominating J.J. to be class President) while at the same time doing things like making the garbage ramp the wheelchair ramp.
In an age where killers of disabled people can get treated like saints by supposedly progressive media outlets and then get let off with kid gloves by the courts, "Speechless" has the potential to add more to the dialogue than just "awareness." It can show that kids with disabilities can have rich full lives.