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REVIEW: Speechless Is The Best Comedy Of The Fall

ReviewMerrill Barr

Cedric Yarbrough, Micah Fowler, John Ross Bowie, Mason Cook - Speechless
Image - ABC

So much time’s been spent with “not funny” and “bleak” comedy on television lately that it’s become special when a show is actively funny. Heading into the fall, there’s a fair amount of new offerings from the big four (NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox), but only one is a real standout.

It’s also the only one that doesn’t try to go “crazy” like Son of Zorn or The Good Place. It exists in the real world with real people tackling a real problem. The comedy comes from their reaction to the problem, and that’s why it’s works.

This show is SPEECHLESS.

Created by Scott Silveri and starring Minnie Driver, Speechless follows the adventures of the DiMeo family, a normal suburban family except for one thing - their oldest son, J.J., is wheelchair bound without an ability to speak. In hopes of bettering J.J.’s life, the family uproots (again) to a new town with a school that can meet his needs. However, not everything goes according to plan.

Speechless is a wonderfully sweet show with more heart than any other comedy coming this year. However, that doesn’t mean it’s family friendly. In the first episode, the show manages to strike a balance between crass humor and sweet family comedy. Like many ABC shows, it finds this balance through the fantastical reactions of the characters living in their outlandish hyper-reality where cops let the crazy town mom pull 63 in a 30 with zero repercussion.

Ever since Modern Family broke out as the hit it is, ABC has been looking for ways to portray differing types of families on television. From African Americans in the 2000s to Asians in the 1990s to Jews in the 1980s, a wide array of minorities are being represented. However, the network is making a bold statement with Speechless that work is far from done.

Despite the idea being so obvious after execution, it wasn’t until now we got a comedy focused around the struggles of a physically disabled character that has legitimate problems functioning in the real world (compared to characters like Dr. House, who were only slightly limited by their handicap).

What we have in Speechless a show that wears its heart on its sleeve. A show that’s aiming to make an audience laugh and smile while also doing something vitally important: humanizing the handicap. The pilot pulls no punches. It takes the age of P.C., “everyone gets a trophy” world to task, and as long as that trend continues over the course of the series, we’re in for a real treat.

Speechless premieres in the US - Wednesday, September 21st at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.

Australian airdate to be advised.