The people at ABC and/or the people from the television show Speechless asked a number of people around the country to host “watch parties” during the Oscar-themed episode this past Wednesday and then write a blog post about the episode. If you have never seen the show, in a nutshell it is about a family with three kids and the oldest has cerebral palsy who is wheelchair bound and is nonverbal. Many of the episodes are about the challenges that JJ, the kid with CP, faces both in high school and in home life. The producers have done a nice job of not completely focusing on the disability aspects and allows for other typical family-like drama to take stage so that it attracts a more diverse audience. This is a relief because in my experience, most shows or movies that are about disabilities are all about disabilities which gets old, even to me who has CP.
Unfortunately, the producers broke that streak with this Oscar-themed episode when it was jammed packed with disability related issues. First of all, I call it an Oscar-themed episode only because that is what the producers described it as. It started out with JJ’s family getting their house ready for the special needs kids and their parents who are coming over to watch the Oscars together. About five minutes into the show though, the cable TV gets knocked out and then the storyline went in about four different directions. Of these four storylines, only the one where the kids played an adapted movie trivia game had anything to do with movies. The other three storylines consisted of the fathers basically being mindless drones to JJ’s father before they realized they didn’t have to be and ended having a dance party. The mothers went through love-hate-love phases with the new mother to the group when they found out the new mother seemed to have it all together despite having a special needs child. And then perhaps the strangest storyline was when JJ’s brother and girlfriend, who he just met that night, goes to their school, that was apparently unlocked, and wanted to get into the art classroom. When the girlfriend finds the art room locked, JJ’s brother decides to throws a chair through the window so they can get into the room. This scared the girlfriend and they leave the school. And last but not least, the special needs kids get into an all-out brawl which was also adapted in various ways.
You know those little cars at the circus where a seemingly unimaginable number of clowns get out and you wonder how they all fit in there? That is kind of what this episode reminded me of. It was like the producers asked themselves how many disability-related issues can they fit into a 22 minute show and how can they make it funny. They tried to get the message that parents of special needs children have a hard life but at the same time deserve to do what other parents do. Also that special needs children want to have fun just like other children. However, it came across obvious that they were trying way too hard to get these points across and ended up being a pretty uncomfortable episode to watch!
This was a disappointing episode because up until it, I thought the show was relatively good. Of course there have been some aspects that I’ve found irritating, such as when JJ pretty much nods his head at his communication boarda couple of times and people know what he’s spelling out. But for the most part, I have found myself relating to situations presented in the show and enjoy watching it.