My Take On…ABC’s SPEECHLESS
In Scot Silveri’s SPEECHLESS, premiering tonight between THE GOLDBERGS and MODERN FAMILY on ABC, Minnie Driver heads back to TV, playing a kindred spirit to the most recent overbearing mother we saw her play. Here, Driver is playing Maya DiMeo, a mother who wants nothing more than to fight for the inclusion and acceptance of her nonverbal son JJ (he has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, left to rely on his computer or others to do the talking for him). While fighting the battles she, more often than not, instigates, she also has to worry about the toll it takes on her other kids Max (a very good Mason Cook) and Dylan (Kyla Kenedy), and her supportive (to a fault) husband Jimmy (John Ross Bowie).
Minnie Driver is doing great work with Maya who, having moved the family 6 times now in order to give JJ the best chance at a great education (in this case, having an aide by his side to help in through the day), simply wants her son to be treated like any other kid in the neighborhood. She rails as much against political incorrectness as she does against overt political CORRECTness, and the lengths people go to take it too far.
The pilot follows the course of their adjustment period, giving Driver time to shine with passionate monologues and an incredible Cold War with Marin Hinkle’s Dr Miller (school principal). Of course the family rebels, but slowly begin to come around to what will work best for them all. Stand out performances abound, most notably young Micah Fowler, himself afflicted with cerebral palsy, bringing great depth and expression to his speechless character, able to stand up in a scene with mom’s histrionics. Cedric Yarbrough is great here, too, as Kenneth, one of the only people in town not afraid to stand up to Maya. Great stuff between him and Driver / him and Fowler.
Ultimately, SPEECHLESS is what ABC has been doing best, and what they’ve cultivated into back to back nights of 2 hours of family comedy: telling a story about a faction of the population that we might not know a lot about, and showing how they support each other, fight battles for each other, and come together as a family at the end of the day.
A good show that has the potential to be great, SPEECHLESS is one to watch this Fall!