Recently, I blogged about Born This Way, the docu-series on A&E that follows the lives of seven young adults with Down syndrome. The show has since won an Emmy – well deserved, in my opinion – and I hope that means we’ll be able to follow the lives of the cast for some time to come. As I said at the time, “the reality of my son with Down syndrome is that he is both the same as his peers and very different, and Born This Way is a good window into that reality.” Born This Way often makes me laugh, but it’s not a comedy, it’s real life.
Before Born This Way premiered last year, I was “excited, nervous, and hopeful” about how it would portray people with Down syndrome (and those who love them), and I wasn’t disappointed. This week, I’m once again “excited, nervous, and hopeful” about a new fall series, this time featuring a family with a nonverbal teenager with cerebral palsy, Speechless.
From what I’ve seen in the trailer below and elsewhere, there’s a lot to love (and a little to fear) in this new series. I’m optimistic because the creator is Scott Silveri, best known for his work as a producer and writer on the hit comedy Friends. He has a history of success in comedy, but more importantly for this series, he’s a man who grew up with a brother with cerebral palsy. Silveri’s life experiences undoubtedly give him a window into the world of special needs families – the good, the bad, the ugly…and the comedic.
Check out the show’s official trailer for a taste:
Minnie Driver plays the mom, Maya, and she’s a little, um…intense. 🙂 She’s Mama-Bear intense, and I don’t mean sweet-children’s-story Mama-Bear, but you-don’t-want-to-meet-her-in-the-woods Mama-Bear. The dad, Jimmy, is played by John Ross Bowie (Barry Kripke of The Big Bang Theory) and appears to be the stabilizing alternative to Maya’s ferocity (thankfully, the tired “dumb dad” trope doesn’t seem to be employed here). Best of all, the character of J.J., the nonverbal son with cerebral palsy, is played by Micah Fowler, an actor who actually has cerebral palsy. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s shamefully common to cast able-bodied actors as disabled characters.
The one thing I fear is whether the show will be able to have Maya’s character be funny without being annoying. I’ve definitely known moms like her (and I’m afraid that at times I’ve been her!) I’ve never wanted to be the mom who causes the office staff to suddenly need to take a break when they see my car pull into the school lot; Maya is That Mom and more, so I hope her antics are real enough to be relatable but humorous enough that people don’t change the channel. The best comedy is based in reality, and with Scott Silveri running the show it should be an entertaining half-hour.
I hope so, anyway, and I’m sure lots of other special needs families will be, too.
Speechless premieres Wednesday, September 21, at 8:30 ET/7:30 CT on ABC.