The heart-warming story behind the TV show 'Speechless' #WriteBravely

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan
Would you watch a comedy that revolves around a disabled character?

I can see you frown already. Yes, the thought gave me certain misgivings too when I first heard of it simply because there is so much potential for things to go wrong in portraying disabled characters on the screen even under normal circumstances without adding the tag of a comedy sitcom to it.

And yet, ABC's show Speechless does not just work but pulls it off so brilliantly that I found it to be one of the best sitcoms in years (since Brooklyn Nine Nine, and definitely far lighter than Black-ish, which I also adore).


In Speechless, we follow the (barely) middle class DiMeo family as they navigate through life with their three children, the eldest of whom has cerebral palsy. With a bossy British mom (played excellently by Minnie Driver) who subsequently forces the new school of her children to give her their groundskeeper to use as her son's caretaker (!) and a fun, subservient dad (played by John Bowie, whom you know better as Barry Kripke on The Big Bang Theory) running the house, the rules tend to change often, much to the annoyance of the middle child (the sane one) who also gets bossed around by his young sister.

Trivia: Creator Scott Silveri grew up in a family exactly like the show Speechless, with an older brother with cerebral palsy and parents who did everything possible to make the best of what life had given them, infusing humour into reality.

The title Speechless refers to the disability of the eldest brother, J.J. DiMeo who communicates via a laser pointer attached to his spectacles that he uses to 'write' on a board filled with letters, words and alphabets placed on wheelchair so that others can read as he points.

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So how does such a show come into existence, you wonder? Who thought it was a great idea to make a comedy about a kid with cerebral palsy?

Well, the creator and executive producer of this show is Scott Silveri, who decades ago wrote for shows like 'Friends' no less. But that isn't the reason why he is the right person to make this show. For that, you need to enter his home.

Creator Scott Silveri grew up in a family exactly like the show Speechless, with an older brother with cerebral palsy and parents who did everything possible to make the best of what life had given them, infusing humour into reality.

Much like some of the best comedy sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond, Speechless too is based on real life incidents and people (I have a whole list here of such shows!), infused with both humour and poignancy.

But the kid who plays the disabled J.J. DiMeo is so good. How does he manage to act out such a realistic portrayal of cerebral palsy?

He doesn't. You see, Micah Fowler is not acting. He really does have cerebral palsy!

In the show Speechless,  Micah Fowler is not acting. He really does have cerebral palsy!

One of the key decisions taken during casting by Scott Silveri was that the person playing his brother should be a real person with disabilities and in Micah, they found a phenomenal character who often brings the biggest laughs in scenes with his antics. He isn't overcoming life's problems... he is just a teenager living his life the best way he can.

Why this show matters

The show doesn't shy away from the reality of the problems of cerebral palsy but instead embraces it. After an excellent Season One, Season Two hit the ground running in full gear, dealing with queries J.J. has as he grows up, including whether he can go to college or have a wife someday. These are indeed tough topics to deal with and yet, the show doesn't shy away because somewhere in the past, the creator Scott would have watched his own parents deal with it.

I honestly would not have known anything about this had it not been for a visual on the screen in the last second of the season 2 finale.

The Tv sitcom Speechless is based on the real life stories of creator Scott Silveri and his brother Gregory who suffered from cerebral palsy.

It was Scott telling goodbye to his brother, Gregory Silveri who had died earlier this year. The same Gregory who got to see himself immortalized on screen as JJ DiMeo before he passed away.

Final thoughts -

Watch this show. You will be pleasantly surprised by how excellent the team dynamic is in Speechless between the insane parents, the quirky children, the hilarious new caretaker and the unique circumstances.

Do you know the true heart-warming story behind the tv show Speechless?
Don't forget to pin this so that others find out the lovely truth about Speechless!

Micah Fowler is unique in today's world, being possibly the only person with cerebral palsy who has become a part of mainstream television. In doing so, he has broken down a huge boundary and proved to the world that nothing is impossible.

You can listen to the interview of the main cast, including Micah and Scott, here.

Authors note:

This is my take on the prompt “You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul.” – Ratatouille set by WriteTribe for their Festival of Words June 2018. 

This is my take on the Picture Prompt provided for Day 2 of the Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018.
You can see entries by other bloggers for the prompts of Day 4 here.

My other entries for this festival are:
In My Defense (Short Story)

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Let me know what you think.

  1. Wow! Will never be able to watch Speechless the same way again, now. Thanks for this post, Roshan :)

  2. wow . I am surely gonna watch it.

  3. I did not know about this show.
    Nice theme. Looks interesting.
    Imagine getting an 'actor' for the central character, who knows his part too well!
    - Anita

  4. I must watch this show now!

  5. You know I come to your page daily to learn about something new and you never disappoint me. Your perspective is always so humanitarian and inclusive. I'm definitely bookmarking this as the next series to be watched.

  6. Wow! I'm amazed to read about this show! I'd love to watch this now and see for myself what wonderful things are happening around in this world that we so easily take for granted. Thanks Doc for bringing us this story.

  7. I watched the interview. It's so amazing. He really has cerebral palsy.Truly nothing is impossible. Inspiring. And I'll make sure to watch this comedy drama series now.

  8. I would have never really believed to see a comedy around disabled, somehow . But after reading this I understood that such disabilities can also be take on a light mode far away from just sympathy. Micah Fowler is a CP patient delivering such an incredible performance, I'll watch this sitcom for him

  9. It is not easy to make a show on real life experiences and specially situations like Cerebral Palsy. But here Scott is brave enough to do so. I will watch this show once to see how they have created so well?

  10. Your perspective is always very unique and the way you present it makes it even more interesting. U ahvwnt watched this series. Penning it down in my list.

  11. The 'SPEECHLESS' a TV SHOW shows the plight of handicapped brother and sentiments of whole family that touches the emotional cords by filling all with empathy and love.

  12. Beautiful! The other day I had a conversation with my child about disabilities and I was at a loss of words to explain in such a way as to not arouse much pity but more empathy and respect. I guess this serial might help me in that.

  13. Wow! A person with cerebral palsy is on the show!! I am keen to watch it now. Which channel is it aired on? Will check it out.

  14. I need to watch this show . I have heard so much more about it.

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