Author by Cathy Grant
I wanted to start off this year on a positive note, so I decided to talk about one of my favorite surprises of 2016; that being the comedy Speechless on ABC.
I’m not one to get excited at all about TV but when a staff person showed me the trailer of Speechless early in the fall last year I was intrigued.
After watching the pilot, I was hooked. Since then it had become the only ‘must watch’ TV show for me in a number of years.The reason for his high praise is two fold.
One it’s a comedy show around disabilities that doesn’t make fun of or overly sentimentalise the disabled.
Instead it makes fun of the many strange issues (exaggerated for comedic effect in only some cases) that occur in a disabled person and his ‘family’ life. The other is the shows humanity.
The DiMeos are a, somewhat, exaggerated family with a teen with a disability but they are all drawn with real flaws. It a nice and needed dose of reality for those with see disabled people, their families and their support workers as saints and not real people.
A couple of my favorite scenes may explain what I’m talking about.
In the second episode Ray DiMeo (the DiMeo’s non-physically disabled son) meets a ‘walking and posture’ expert.
In order to impress a girl, he allows the expert to examine his walk. Quickly there’s a crisis. With the expert asking Ray about his ‘long-range walking goals’ and his ‘strategic plan’ to get there.
This leads a scene of Ray trying to walk in the way that the expert suggested to improve his posture and walking gate that results is both hilarious to watch and ultimately doomed to failure. While funny this scene also twists the knife a bit.
A disabled person is expected to have a walking plan, but when an abled bodied person gets one imposed upon him it’s funny.
Another memorable scene is episode 7 when JJ (the son with CP who can’t talk) gets drunk.
The parents discuss how they should deal with their disabled son getting into ‘normal’ trouble.
The hidden joy of the normality of the problem is heartwarming and something that I imagine most parents of a disabled teen could relate to. I just wish more parents would be open to allowing their disabled kids to make these mistakes and letting the consequences fall as they may.
As well, watching the ongoing relationships grow has also been a genuine pleasure.
My staff who also watches the show, (who no surprise relates to Kenneth) talks about how the relationship between Kenneth and Maya DiMoe really rings true, and not as extreme as many casual viewers would believe.
‘She’s not as extreme as some of the Mothers I’ve had to deal with’ is one of his favorite refrains.
Kenneth exploring his own role within the family and the boundaries that have to be set is something that has sparked more than one talk between my staff and I.
I’m glad to see that Speechless is doing well in the ratings. I really enjoy watching the show and that’s a rare thing today on television.
But I’m also glad to see good rating because of the show’s many truths about being disabled in today’s society.
While some issues are played for comedic effects many more are portrayed with an honesty that losses none of its impact.
As a disabled person, I’m always looking to improve public awareness on disability issues.
Speechless does this better in a single episode than all the conferences and public meetings that I attended in the past five years.
So give the show a try, you wont be disappointed.