Speechless: Meet the DiMeo, a family that goes to extreme ends to ensure their disabled son is treated equally (and gets in trouble while doing so).
In A Nutshell
Speechless follows the DiMeo, a peculiar family that moves frequently in an attempt to find a good educational environment for their disabled son. The story begins when they discover a school that prides itself on being inclusive. However, the family members have a tendency to create new problems for themselves.
Meet the Characters
Maya is the take-charge of the family. Unlike the rest of the family members, she speaks with a British accent. Maya has a tendency to be a bit overbearing at times, although it comes from a place of love. She’s especially devoted to their oldest son, J.J., and goes to extreme ends to ensure he’s treated equally. Sometimes this results in her not respecting J.J’s privacy as a teenager, or even neglecting her other two kids.
Jimmy is a lot more laid-back and carefree than Maya. He’s the typical funny, cool dad. Jimmy is also a bit mischievous at times, and can be a bit a jerk towards others in order to save money. Since Maya is so focused on J.J, Jimmy is usually paired with their other two kids: Dylan and Ray. Jimmy is also often the one to calm Maya down or to make her see the errors in her ways when she goes too far.
J.J is Maya and Jimmy’s oldest son and the main character of the series. J.J has cerebral palsy, and much of the focus of the series is put on Maya making sure that he’s being treated fairly. J.J is very witty, determined, and has a sense of humor very similar to his father’s. J.J wants to have the same experience as the rest of kids his age and he often gets annoyed at his mother not respecting his freedom as a teenager.
Ray is the middle child. He often acts as the “brains” in the family and the only one with a bit of common sense. He’s not afraid to call out his mother for her obsession with J.J, and also disagrees with his father when he’s doing something immoral. A a preteen, Ray is currently obsessed with girls and with having other boys like him and respect him. Just like J.J, Ray wants his mother to give him some space.
Dylan is a very athletic girl and is part of the running team, even though she’s not exactly sure why. Dylan has a no-nonsense attitude and often bickers with her brother Ryan. Because she’s quite mischievous and has issues with following rules, she often gets in trouble at school. Jimmy is always there to make her see that, even though it’s OK to be herself, she has to do it in a way that it wont’ get her in trouble with others.
Kenneth is a social worker at the kids’s new school. Even though he started on the wrong foot with Maya due to her attitude, Kenneth ends up being a very good friend of the family. He starts working as J.J’s interpreter and both of them quickly become very good friends. Even though Kenneth truly cares for J.J, sometimes there’s conflict between them when he gets overly excited with the unexpected benefits of being in a wheelchair, such as not having to queue.
A Brief History of Speechless: The When, Where and How
Speechless is an American sitcom television series created by Scott Silveri. The series premiered in September 2016 on ABC. Each episode is 30 minutes long, and the first season has been green-lit for 22 episodes. The series has received critical acclaim for the representation of a disabled person as a main character, and for the way it treats such a sensitive topic in a light way, yet without being offensive.
Why It’s Awesome
Speechless is everything a sitcom should be: it’s funny, entertaining, and has a lot of heart.
The series had a remarkable pilot that makes it very clear from the beginning what the show is about, while introducing all the side-characters and their motivations. And while following episodes might not be as good as the pilot, it slowly gets better as the characters keep growing on you. All performances are spot-on, especially Minnie Driver (Maya), Micah Fowler (J.J) and Cedric Yarbrough (Kenneth). All the member of the families are entertaining to watch in their own way, but the root of their quirkiness is all rooted in their family bonds. Even Kenneth, who at first seemed to only be there to help J.J, is proving to also have an interesting background with his family.
It still soon to make a final statement on the series as it’s still very early in the season. But so far, Speechless is doing a great job at putting the spotlight on what society can do to improve accessibility, and writing J.J as an individual who’s not defined by his disability.