“Speechless” appears to be ABC’s answer to Freeform’s “Switched at Birth.” The award winning series (SaB won no less than eight awards, including the Peabody Award twice) was cancelled by the sister network and 2017 will be its last season. ABC have taken a page from Freeform’s book and decided to up the stakes. Call us cynical, but it seems that the 2014 Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything” may have influenced this newest addition to the network.
This is not a bad thing, but it does feel just a little too much. It is though the network decided that if a hearing problem was interesting, than something bit more debilitating would be an instant winner. Not to say that the pilot does not have a lot going for it. The cast gel brilliantly and the magnificent Minnie Driver ditches her “American” accent and reverts to her London roots and her natural mode of delivery.
Driver plays the matriarch of a small family where one of her offspring is wheelchair bound and cannot speak. It is never made clear just what the lad’s malady is, presumably it is the same thing affecting Stephen Hawking. Maya Dimeo (Driver) is the strong figure in the family who is not afraid to stand up for her son’s rights.
Newcomer Micah Fowler plays JJ Dimeo. He is a capable young actor who manages to exude a sort of cheerful aggression, where he is not afraid to tell it like it is but not in a bad way.
John Ross Bowie is Maya’s husband Jimmy and “The Big Bang Theory” actor is the perfect choice as a man who blithely follows his wife’s overly assertive push for her family’s needs to be met. No Wilbur Milquetoast, he is more of a positive reinforcement for his wife’s drive, a spiritual and physical cheerleader with a wonderfully relaxed attitude.
Mason Cook is Ray. The brother who agonizes over his mother’s aggressive, yet positive, attitude. Ray really does not want to rock the boat and while he accepts the force of nature that mom Maya is, one gets the impression he would like things to be that little less fraught.
Kyla Kennedy is Dylan, the youngest, and she is a chip off the old English block. Ready to take on all transgressors with a verbal tirade that may lack her mother’s finesse, but is impressive nonetheless. This little acorn is ready to stand up not only for her wheelchair-bound brother JJ, but anyone who raises her mother’s hackles.
Added to this mix is a “progressive” (another “I’m okay, you’re okay” facility that is more liberal than most schools) school where the head wants to do things right even when being berated by Driver’s character.
Despite the show feeling like it was that bit too manufactured the pilot is amusing and fans of Driver will adore her performance. The children are all very capable performers and Dr. Ken actor Jonathan Slavin has a role as an overly enthusiastic teacher.
“Speechless” looks interesting and Ms. Driver does very well in the pilot. She has proven that comedy is, in fact, her medium and her performance is spot on. Minnie gives this role her all and clearly is in her element here. While in real life, one gets the feeling that dealing with Maya would require copious amounts of valium, on screen, she is delightfully pushy.
ABC have a number of new shows in their proposed lineup and thus far “Speechless” and “Designated Survivor” seem to be the cream of the crop. Have a look at the trailer for “Speechless” and see what you think.