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Speechless – Almost Completely

January 18, 2017

Dark humor, irreverent, cynical, biting and really quite funny, Speechless almost leaves you so.

This acerbic sitcom chronicles the non-sentimental life of a family with a special needs son. Minnie Driver is the pitbull mom out to change the world for her son (and it is Minnie at her sardonic best, working the accent and her odd intensity to the max). Her husband is a lovable, dumpster-diving slacker who takes joy in being an idiot (which he is not). JJ is the eldest son confined to a wheelchair by Cerebral Palsy who lives with his disability under no delusions, who milks it one moment and strives for normalcy in the next. The point-of-view character, Ray, is the younger son lost in his older brother’s shadow with all the insecurities to match. And Dylan, an odd name for a girl, is an odd, hyper-confident third child.

Rounding out the main cast is Kenneth, the groundskeeper-turned-assistant to JJ, who is JJ’s voice. Speechless, JJ uses a laser pointer to indicate letters and words that Kenneth reads.

This show mercilessly lampoons political correctness, victim-worship, the System, and anything else it can get its hands around to squeeeeeeeeze.

This crazy family manipulates and exploits every aspect of the system, from schools and accessibility to social events and extra-curricular activities.

I love this show for personal reasons. My brother was mentally handicapped. He wasn’t a victim, he didn’t have it easy, his issues didn’t make him a hero (his actions did) and assisting him made someone kind, not noble and heroic.

Speechless tackles the self-congratulatory aspects of our NEW, SENSITIVE SOCIETY!

Spot-on casting for the most part. The cloying school officials are great, Mom and Dad are great. JJ is good. The middle kid, Ray, is at once talented and grating. Dylan is OK.

And I’m torn about Kenneth.  He’s funny, don’t get me wrong. The first episode he was the intelligent character who saw through the societal stupidity and the family’s craziness. As the episodes continue, he becomes more and more a part of the family. I suspect they’re trying to prevent him from being the black cynic trope which he lampooned in the last episode I saw. Ray’s the POV character, Minnie’s the fountaining heart and Kenneth should be its brain.

Sometimes a trope is a trope because it’s necessary. I’m wondering if the writers, ironically, were trying to avoid the politically correct snakepit of the Smart Black Man as Conscience  trope (remember Benson from Soap? That show was forgettable, but Benson was not. Victim of trope? No way; the actor made the difference. Oddly, in the show Benson, he softened the character so he wasn’t a trope, go figure).

The show can be uneven, but at its worst, it’s better than most show’s best. Check it out.

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2017 2:27 pm

    Bob and I tried out this show for two or three episodes. He mildly liked it but bowed to my dislike of it so it has dropped off of our DVR list. Frankly, I was surprised by how the show bothered me – especially Minnie’s character because I love Minnie Driver. Perhaps it was the mother-trying-to-control-everything image or maybe it was her abrasiveness, but I found myself feeling angry with each episode. I also was proud of her for pushing forward for her son, but I didn’t like her. If I find a character that I love to hate, that’s one thing; but I just didn’t like Minnie’s character. I know of others who like this show, so I am somewhat befuddled at my strong feelings here. I hope this won’t affect our friendship! I guess that’s how things are with people – something for everyone. I would be interested in your review of This is Us. Episode #1 is brilliant (in my opinion).

  2. January 18, 2017 2:40 pm

    No worries. Lynette, Ben and Alyx wouldn’t like it either. Charli and I enjoy it as a something different. I’m impressed how there are no sacred cows. I think I like it because it strikes a cord through my brother, who didn’t have any of the advantages the nuevo-sensitive culture offers. Mom had her own kind of steel and fought them usually with weary heat.
    I have the unChristian feeling of contempt for our society which congratulates itself for not be jerks, Every time JJ expresses wanting to just be viewed as a normal kid (which every handicapped kid is — same emotions, same desires–) and not wanting simply surviving to be seen as heroic, I cheer.

    I have blipped by This is Us many times but haven’t clicked because most of today’s sitcoms are… um… immoral. Glad to watch if I have the endorsement of a trusted friend. Still need to check out Strange Things, but I know Lynette won’t like that.
    .

  3. January 18, 2017 8:05 pm

    OK! This is Us. Start watching and it starts with skin. And then a threesome. And then I’m wondering why Bonnie suggest I watch this. Fast forward through the skin (because Lynette has a habit of walking in when even the most innocent skin shot is shown and I’m suddenly in trouble.) I trust Bonnie, so I carry on. OK, interesting… good actors, interesting arcs, then WOW! I was surprised by a TV show. How wonderful! I have to ask, should I keep watching?

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