For Your Summer Binge Consideration: Speechless

This is the first article in a series of articles that a few of us will be writing this summer. This is the For Your Summer Binge Consideration series. Each article will talk about a show that will be returning for its second season in 2017-18, and why you might want to watch the first season before the second season premieres. We begin with Speechless.

The first of ABC's two new family comedy successes this season was Speechless, which follows a family that includes a child with cerebral palsy. The show aired 23 episodes in its first season, and will be returning to its Wednesday at 8:30 timeslot this fall. This article explains why one might like Speechless, so you can decide if you want to give it a watch in preparation for its second season.

Speechless was one of my favorite shows this season, out of both new and returning shows. Despite this, I wasn't a big fan of the pilot episode. I felt that the show relied to heavily on Maya, the mother of the DiMeo family, who was also a bit too over-the-top. Luckily, it seemed that the show realized this as well over the course of its first few episodes. Episode two provided a modest improvement over the pilot, and episode three improved even further. In episode three, "B-O-N-BONFIRE", the daughter Dylan got to have some good funny moments, and Jimmy, the father, was developed further. This episode also put on display Speechless's style and worldview, which it would adhere to more closely in future episodes.

The episode where I fell in love with Speechless was its fourth episode, "I-N-S-INSPIRATIONS". This episode had two plots, one which involved J.J, the one with cerebral palsy, and Kenneth, his aide, and one which involved the rest of the family. This episode highlighted the relationship between J.J. and Kenneth, and it gave the other four DiMeos a chance to do something that they are unable to do with J.J. due to his disability, which leads to a wonderful serious moment near the end of the episode.

Unlike Speechless creator Scott Silveri's previous series Go On, I would not classify Speechless as a dramedy. The show has its serious moments, but it strives mainly to get laughs out of its audience. The frequency of serious moments is perfect thus far, showing real struggles that special needs families face, but not showing their lives as depressing, or anything close to that. The DiMeo family faces plenty of challenges, but they also have a great time.

So, let's get to know the DiMeo family. Maya, played by Minnie Driver, is very protective of her family. Jimmy doesn't really care what people think, he just wants his family to be happy. J.J. is popular among his classmates, but still has to overcome things due to his cerebral palsy, and due to his mother wanting to be involved in everything. Ray, the other son, is more sensitive, and definitely isn't one of the cool kids. Dylan is athletic and competitive. Kenneth isn't technically part of the family, but he really does become like a member of the family, with how much he cares about J.J. The family doesn't have all that much money, moving into the worst house in a nice neighborhood so that they can go to the school in that area, but they make the most with what they have.

So who would like Speechless? Well, do you like family comedies with heart? Do you like comedies about families who aren't exactly normal, and don't really care? This is what Speechless is. Conflict in the show frequently comes out of things like when Ray gets annoyed by his family's inability to plan or do things on time, when J.J. tries to be treated like every other kid, or when Maya struggles to accept that her kids are growing up.

If you don't have as much time, and can't watch all 23 episodes of Speechless's first season, make sure you catch the highlights: episodes 4 ("I-N-S-INSPIRATIONS"), 9 ("S-L-SLED H-O-HOCKEY"), 10 ("C-H-O-CHOIR"), 12 ("H-E-R-HERO"), 19 ("C-H-CHEATER!"), 20 ("R-U-N-RUNAWAY"), 21 ("P-R-PROM"), 22 ("M-A-MAY-JAY"), and 23 ("C-A-CAMP"). But I would recommend watching them all, considering how hard it was for me to narrow the 23 episodes down to these 9. The only episode that I found to be just okay was the pilot, and no episodes were worse than okay.

If you've seen Speechless already, do you have anything to add? If you haven't, do you plan on giving it a shot? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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