When a show tells you it’s going to be ‘heart-warming’, do you automatically think, ‘shlocky nonsense?’
Well, there’s a new TV show that is both genuinely heart-warming and smart. It’s called Speechless and you can watch it on Network Ten.
It’s about a special-needs family made up of a hilariously combative mother, an accepting and supportive father and two siblings vying for their parent’s attention next to their brother JJ who has cerebral palsy.
But it’s not sad, not even a little bit. It’s hilarious, and most of the humour centres around JJ.
Laura and Tiffany talk about Speechless on The Binge. Article continues after this podcast clip.
Cerebral palsy is a medical term that refers to a group of movement disorders that appear in early childhood. Symptoms include poor muscle tone, tremors and trouble speaking due to poor functionality in the part of the brain that controls movement.
The rest of the brain works perfectly well.
The show has an incredible cast including Minnie Driver as passionate mum Maya, John Ross Bowie as ridiculously supportive and comforting husband and father Jimmy and Micah Fowler, the 19-year-old actor who plays JJ.
Fowler actually has cerebral palsy, and this is why the show works so well, with much it based on his real-life experiences. But Fowler, like JJ in the show, is more than his cerebral palsy.
Micah Fowler has been acting since the age of five, appearing in the movie Labor Day and now Speechless. He scored the title role on his 18th birthday. He told People magazine the news he'd won the role was "the best birthday present ever".
He told Entertainment Weekly that growing up he couldn't help but notice the distinct lack of characters dealing with disabilities so got busy filling that void. Next, he'd like to appear in a Star Wars film or a Marvel movie, he told BuzzFeed.
Every spare moment he's not on set, Fowler spends working as an ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation (CPF).
And yet Fowler isn't the only reason Speechless is so special.
The dynamics of the fictional DiMeo family are extraordinary. The show highlights how differently parents cope with a special-needs child, how their relationship evolves, the competing demands of siblings who can often feel neglected and the constant challenges they face together as JJ tries to navigate a world not designed for him.
If only every single establishment in every single country in the entire world thought to construct wheel chair ramps.
Even the family's financial issues are dealt with hilariously.
Then there's the supporting cast, the hapless yet well-intentioned school principal Dr. Miller played by Marin Hinkle as well as incompetent-yet-loveable carer Kenneth played by Cedric Yarbrough.
Special-needs families around the world are sharing their love of the show:
— Revn'It (@martuttle) April 1, 2017
Hope there is a season 2 of @Speechless_ABC !!!! Story of my life! Thanks for spreading the true life of families with disabled child!
— K (@CrippledKassie) March 20, 2017
And it's not just special needs parents who are sharing their love of the show, but also those with special needs:
— Lisa❤teamErinkrakow (@WCTHErinDanfan1) March 22, 2017
You can watch Speechless on Network Ten via Tenplay.
Listen to the full episode of The Binge.
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