Dec 31, 2016
Speechless (2016-) seems to be doing it right.
It's a nuclear family sitcom with Mom, Dad, and three kids, one of whom, the teenage JJ (Micah Fowler), is confined to a wheelchair and "speechless" due to cerebral palsy. He uses a communication board to spell out words and phrases.
18-year old Micah Fowler has cerebral palsy but can speak. He notes that it's difficult to adapt to a non-speaking role. There's a lot of eye-rolling and grimacing involved. .
The rest of the family is filled in by a nebbish dad (John Ross Bowie, the bully Kripke on Big Bang Theory), a fiercely protective Mom (Minnie Driver), the conniving little brother Ray (Mason Cook), and a sarcastic sister, whose name I didn't catch (Kyla Kenedy).
Plus Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough), JJ's assistant.
The A plot of each episode involves JJ's push for independence (he plays hockey, joins the choir, gets drunk at a party), with Ray's conniving in the B.
Speechless is smartly written, with few moments of gag-inducing smarm. My only complaint is that heterosexism reigns supreme. Plotlines involve what boy is interested in what girl. No gay people exist, unless Kenneth happens to be gay (he hasn't mentioned any romantic interests of any sort).
No beefcake, either. Although Cedric Yarbrough has a nice physique, it's under wraps.
There are occasionally cute guys in guest roles, like Joseph John Schirle as Ben (one episode).
The only gay connection I could find was Emerson Collins, who plays teacher Mr. Powell. He played half of a gay couple with Jonathan Slavin (left) in The Boomerang Effect.