ABC Cancels TV Series "Speechless" in Blow to Disability Representation
On Friday, ABC canceled the TV series “Speechless,” which featured Micah Fowler, an actor with cerebral palsy, as JJ DiMeo, a character with cerebral palsy. The family sitcom aired on the network for three seasons.
“Speechless” centered on the DiMeo family. JJ is nonverbal, and the show follows how he and his family navigate his disability as he finds his way in the world through school, relationships and his future. JJ’s journey has been hailed by advocates for its positive representation of disability onscreen. In addition, it was one of the few TV roles that featured a disabled person playing a disabled character.
Mighty contributor Daniel Smrokowski shared why “Speechless” struck a chord in the disability community in his article, “How ‘Speechless’ Is Breaking New Ground in TV Disability Representation.” He wrote:
This show is not meant to be an ‘after school special’ but rather a funny and honest television sitcom show. Micah Fowler’s family, and others in the disability community, do consult on the television show to make sure that there is a realistic portrayal of disability. In many of the episodes, it takes on disability issues but does so in a light, comedic tone. Many in the disability community can laugh at scenes on ‘Speechless’ while also finding the show autobiographical to their own life.
According to Variety, after “Speechless” was moved to Friday nights for its third season, the ratings began to drop. Its cancellation was announced along with other ABC comedies “Splitting Up Together” and “The Kids Are Alright.”
The cast responded to the cancellation on Twitter, highlighting that regardless of its cancellation, “Speechless” started an important conversation about disability.
Thank you to all the fans, cast and crew who made this show so special. It was the greatest three years of my life. I hope we changed the world a little bit. I am so honored I got to do this. #Speechless #heartbroken#Thebestfans https://t.co/V9bpfyOFRb
— Micah Fowler (@micahdfowler) May 10, 2019
Well now listen. Speechless has been cancelled and it feels rather sad. However, I truly believe we have left this conversation about family, disability and love in a better place than we found it. I love all the people I worked with on it, and all of you who loved our show too x
— Minnie Driver (@driverminnie) May 10, 2019
— Jonathan Slavin (@slavin_jonathan) May 10, 2019
Wow. Thank you. ???????????? https://t.co/OTvwhnPzwA
— Cedric Yarbrough (@cedricyarbrough) May 10, 2019
Header image via “Speechless” Facebook page