Pilot Perception: Speechless

Speechless

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show – here Speechless – in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Speechless, ABC in the U.S., Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c

The Pedigree: Speechless was created and written by Scott Silveri (Friends), who executive produces with Jake Kasdan and Melvin Mar (Fresh Off the Boat). Christine Gernon (New Girl) directed the pilot.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The show stars Minnie Driver (About a Boy), John Ross Bowie (The Big Bang Theory), Mason Cook (The Goldbergs), Micah Fowler (Labor Day), Kyla Kenedy (The Walking Dead), and Cedric Yarbrough (The Soul Man).

The Premise: Maya DiMeo will do anything for her family — but has to learn to balance the needs of her son with cerebral palsy with those of her husband and other kids.

A Taste:

 

What Works: Pretty much everything! This is definitely my favorite new show of the season so far. The writing is smart and funny but warm, with jokes stemming from family tensions clearly coming from a place of love rather than meanness. Particularly hilarious is the way the show skewers the idea of people focusing on meaningless feel-good “inclusivity” without actually paying attention to things like disabled access. The cast is great and has believable family chemistry, and I’m happy to see that they cast an actor with cerebral palsy as JJ.

What Doesn’t: Such a specific premise like this always runs a risk of getting repetitive — the jokes can’t always come down to “People think they’re being solicitous of JJ but aren’t actually giving him what he needs” or even “A mom is crazy in advocating for her kid.” The characters all need to grow and evolve, but the pilot suggests that the show understands that, so I’m not too worried.

Our Favorite Line: “Oh my God. I get to be right and you get to be lazy. Those are our favorite things.”

You Might Like This if you like smart, warm, diverse family comedies like ABC has been doing such a good job with recently. It especially reminded me of The Real O’Neals as well as NBC’s late lamented About a Boy, which also starred Minnie Driver.

If You’re Interested: Catch the pilot on demand or on the ABC site, then set your DVR for Wednesday at 8:30/7:30c.

(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

About Kate

Kate Linnea Welsh is a New Hampshire-based writer and taxonomist. (No, that doesn't involve dead animals.) She keeps us up to date on TV news in her weekly column "Caffeine." She writes about other TV shows, books, and more at her blog and her site Read the Screen. She'd love to talk to you on Twitter: @katelinnea