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 was not one of my top picks. A sitcom about a kid in a wheelchair who can’t even talk? Who makes a TV show about that? I mean, typically topics like special needs are not intrinsically appealing as entertainment. I 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.
We decided to give it a try. Rated PG, so we thought it suitable lunch-time fare.
By mistake, we actually clicked on the second episode first. The pilot was hiding or something – I promise we’re not as dumb as that makes us sound. But even starting from the second episode, we picked up on what was what quickly, and we were hooked.
- Minnie Driver.
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.
- The characters in general.
Characterization is definitely one of the things that makes the show so good. Besides the mom (Minnie Driver) who is a control-freak/British spaz and just very relatable (at least, she certainly speaks to my control-freak tendencies!), there’s also the dad who is a very lovable-slight-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; 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 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 his new aid, Kenneth, is great because he has an outsider’s perspective, being introduced to the family’s quirks as we are.
- Oh the frugality!
This part is really just a personal love of mine. The family feels like the people I grew up with, because they are frugal to the extreme. It is both hilarious and very real. It makes them feel like they could be friends of mine.
And of course, the pro-life-ness…
It’s a show about a handicapped guy, people. And it actually works! And they talk about it! How he has dignity, how people write him off because he’s physically imperfect. 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.
Let’s talk about the rating
So far so good. There’s been nothing that our three-year-old could lose innocence over. A kid a few years older might pick up on the couple of suggestive jokes, which have been few and far between:
There was one episode where a character pretended he’d been sent a sext. Nothing was ever shown (and it really wasn’t a sext at all on his phone, but something very different indeed…)
A couple jokes along the lines of, “Don’t go getting any girls pregnant now…”
A couple brief references to porn/strip-club type things.
Some hints about the parents’ sex life – very hinty, nothing shown. Hardly more descriptive than, say, the parents on “Happy Days.”
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.
And when I call it a family show, don’t think it’s silly, kiddish, non-adult-friendly. Because Luke and I both are seriously loving it.