*Update: Now in its third season, this is still a darn good show! And though it ventures a little more frequently into the harder end of the PG spectrum, it’s still pretty clean over all.
When the new show season was approaching last fall, I hopped onto the Google like any good screenwriter/TV aficionado would do, and I searched to see what new offerings were to be had. And I admit, “Speechless” on ABC was not one of my top picks.
A sitcom about a kid in a wheelchair who can’t even talk? Typically, topics like special needs are not intrinsically appealing as entertainment. I have to admit that, even as a pro-life Catholic who wants to see disabled people treated with respect and love, it still didn’t sound particularly exciting to me as a show concept.
I watched the trailer anyway.
Oh. That looks kind of hilarious.
I decided to give it a try.
Minnie Driver, starring as the mother.
I did watch Good Will Hunting years ago, and honestly I barely remember what I thought of her in that. But in this show, she is freaking hilarious as a hard-core special needs Mum (she’s British) who will fight fiercely for her kids, and also to get her way.
The characters in general
Characterization is definitely one of the things that makes the show so good. Apart from mom Minnie Driver, there’s also the dad who is a very lovable almost-loser; the younger brother Ray who’s a control-freak in a completely opposite (and very conflicting) way from his mom, very smart, kind of nerdy, perpetually embarrassed by his family’s general weirdness; and Dillan, the younger sister who is a jock but also a clever schemer.
Of course there’s also JJ, the handicapped kid who can’t talk. His could have been a throwaway character, a mere gimmick to serve the show’s “Speechless” premise, but his is a well-developed character too – kind-hearted, sweet, with an unrequited desire for independence that he is realistic about.
And then JJ’s new aid, Kenneth, is great too because he has an outsider’s perspective, being introduced to the family’s quirks as we are.
Plenty of Laughs
My husband and I legit laugh out loud on a regular basis with this show. Not just once or twice an episode, but usually several times. Both the writing and execution on “Speechless” are consistently pretty solid.
And of course, the pro-life-ness…
It’s a show about a handicapped guy. And it actually works!
And the characters talk about it. How he has dignity, how people write him off because he’s physically impaired. And part of what makes us love the mom (and the other guys too, but her especially) is how she fights to stick up for him and make sure he is treated with the dignity he deserves.
So far so good. There’ve been some suggestive jokes, but few and far between. A couple brief references to porn/strip-club type things. Occasional hints about the parents’ sex life – very hinty, nothing shown.
Over all, I don’t hesitate to call it a family show, though parents of kids in the young-child-but-not-young-enough-to-miss-innuendo category might have to be discerning.
I for one am hoping this one can stick around a good few seasons!