A new TV Comedy about a family with a son who has special needs hired a young actor with a disability to play the part. Speechless premieres on ABC tonight at 7:30 central time, and I’ll be watching.
You might remember my negative review of a TV comedy that debuted in 2014 about a family whose father can’t see. The actor who played the dad was not blind himself, and most of the humor in Growing up Fisher centered on the family’s response to that father’s wacky Mr. Magoo-like antics. That show didn’t last long, but if this new comedy avoids the temptation to focus on the person with a disability and just have him be one of the characters, I think Speechless could have staying power.
The 16-year-old who has cerebral palsy is just one of three children in the family comedy. J.J. can’t speak. He uses a device to communicate and a wheelchair to get around.
Minnie Driver plays his mother, Maya, who is determined not to let anything get in the way of her son, especially when it comes to him getting all the advantages of a proper education. From a review in this week’s Los Angeles Daily News:
Something of a wild woman, Maya has developed a reputation in all of her son’s school systems. Everyone knows not to get on her bad side. Her sarcastic barbs toward anyone who gets in her way take on added zing because Driver delivers them in such a politely British way.
J.J.’s siblings are played by Mason Cook and Kyla Kenedy, and they are clearly not getting the attention they need from Maya and her understanding husband, played by John Ross Bowie. The frazzled parents know it, and tensions are unavoidable.
J.J. is played by Micah Fowler, who has cerebral palsy himself. From what I’ve read, his character has a sarcastic side much like his mother. He doesn’t appreciate being called “inspirational” at school, and he gets frustrated when others treat him like an alien. Yet he’s canny enough to use his disability to his advantage when he has the chance.
Sound like anyone whose blog you read from time to time?!
The review says Speechless works most of the time because it is “aggressive like Maya, but it knows when to pull back to create some nuance.” Minnie Driver has great fun with her character, the review said. And John Ross Bowie uses deadpan humor to bring “a needed amiability” to his role as the father.
Sound like anyone who you look forward to hearing from on this blog every Monday?
The Los Angeles Daily News review claimed that the “sheer exuberance of Speechless — and the unsentimental way it approaches its premise — ultimately makes the ABC family comedy likable, funny and even touching.” It said the producers were smart to let Minnie Driver keep her accent. I’ll let you know how it sounds.