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How ABC’s ‘Speechless’ plans to avoid the ‘very special episode’ syndrome

Disabled characters have been few and far between on the networks. Will ABC's irreverent take make room for more?

From Campaign US: For the most part, ABC’s new “Speechless,” debuting on Wednesdays this fall, follows the cookie-cutter template of a wacky family sitcom. There’s the take-charge mom, portrayed by Oscar-nominee Minnie Driver, and the clueless (or is he?) dad, played by “The Big Bang Theory’s” John Ross Bowie (minus the Elmer Fudd speech-impediment). There is an athletic daughter (Kyla Kenedy) and a precocious middle child (Mason Cook).

The character that sets “Speechless” apart is the oldest son, J.J, played by Micah Fowler, an actor who has cerebral palsy. The show begins when the family moves to a new town in search of a more opportunities, including a better education for wheelchair-bound J.J., who struggles to communicate, and hilarity (hopefully) ensues.

Though “Speechless is not the first network show to feature a recurring character with cerebral palsy, it does represent a new take on disability in general, a topic broadcast TV has never been exactly comfortable with. For more at Campaign US, click here

Written by Marc Berman

Marc Berman

Marc Berman has been writing professionally since 1999 and is the author of weekly column “Mr. Television” for Campaign US ( Most recently, Berman was the creator and Editor-in-Chief of website and newsletter TV Media Insights for Cross MediaWorks. From 1999-2011, he was the Senior Editor for Mediaweek and has also written for The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Emmy Magazine, among others. Berman has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” “Inside Edition,” “The CBS Evening News,” E!, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

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