With all the new shows coming to television this fall, it is possible that a smart situation comedy might fall below the radar. Speechless seemed like a show that would be very daring and very smart, and its first episode, while a little rocky, could easily pull-off a very talked-about show. This is a review of Speechless, as well as some spoilers for its pilot and what will happen for the rest of the season.
Speechless has a premise that has been done on television before, as it is about a family with a child who has special needs. Shows like Life Goes On and Breaking Bad have done this, but Speechless really centralizes on how the mother deals with the situation.
Acting veteran Minnie Driver plays Maya Dimeo, who has decided to move to a new neighborhood because the school is willing to provide an assistant for her son JJ. The actor portraying JJ Dimeo actually has cerebral palsy in real life, and he communicates with a laser pointer affixed to his head that point to a board with words and letters. I have heard that is a common communication tool for special-needs children, and it definitely makes the show more interesting.
Maya is very dedicated to giving JJ a good life, but it is apparent that she is overdoing it. The show clearly states that she has tried several different schools, and her family has got tired of constantly moving.
Conflict occurs at this new school where Maya criticizes the fact there is no wheelchair ramp at the front entrance. Maya goes into such a tirade, that it is very obvious why cops do not pull her over anymore. In fact, there is a very great laugh-out-loud moment as it is revealed that Maya a license plate which reads "SHE NUTZ". It's not a vanity plate, but a "gift" from the DMV who was probably given the Maya treatment.
Maya has two other kids Ray (Mason Cook) and Dylan (Kyla Kenedy), but they were not developed much on the pilot. Ray meets a girl who he likes at the astronomy club, and wants to stay at the school so he can be with her. However he feels that they will move again, and the vocal coach for JJ doesn't appear to work out.
Instead, it looks like JJ's new helper will be Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough) who is also a janitor at school. He looks like a good enough character to hold several episodes. It seems like the family is here to stay, for as long as TV audiences will allow them to.
This show puts this high school in the spotlight. It seems that JJ's high school is very pleased to have JJ there, and his first class gives him a standing ovation, and they seem to want him to be student council president.
They also go out of their way to show a coach who encourages kids, even though their physical performance is not good at all. It's like they are commenting on that whole "give trophies to kids who show up" mentality.
It also looks like Speechless is some sort of commentary on how we perceive special-needs people, and if it makes the audience uncomfortable, maybe we deserve it. That's probably the highest praise that I can give this show, which didn't impress me all that much on its pilot. It currently rates a 7.4 on imdb, which isn't too high.
I noticed that this show ended with a rendition of "The Middle", which was also done at the end of the pilot of The Middle. For some reason, I can't help but think these shows will have a serious crossover.
If Speechless sounds good to you, you can catch it Wednesdays on ABC this fall.