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ABC Cancels TV Series "Speechless" in Blow to Disability Representation

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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.

Header image via “Speechless” Facebook page

Originally published: May 10, 2019
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