Fall TV Preview

Fall TV First Impression: Speechless

The broadcast networks have nearly 20 shows debuting this fall, including Kiefer Sutherland’s term as POTUS, Michael Weatherly’s NCIS follow-up and the story of MLB’s first female player. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.

Next up on our list….

THE SHOW | ABC’s Speechless (Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c, premiering Sept. 21)

THE COMPETITION | CBS’ Survivor, NBC’s Blindspot, Fox’s Lethal Weapon (new) and The CW’s Arrow

THE CAST | Minnie Driver (The Riches), John Ross Bowie (The Big Bang Theory), Mason Cook (The Goldbergs), Micah Fowler (Labor Day), Kyla Kenedy (The Walking Dead) and Cedric Yarbrough (Reno 911!)

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THE SET-UP | The DiMeo family, headed by Driver and Bowie, is (again) on the move, having (again) found the “perfect” school/situation for their eldest son JJ (Fowler), who lives with cerebral palsy and has longed to have a “voice.”

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THE FIRST IMPRESSION | Sharing the same sense of “pluck in the face of adversity” as The Middle’s Tuesday-bound Hecks, the DiMeos are a perfect neighbor for the Goldbergs, Dunphys and Johnsons. Tonally, the pilot makes its points about inclusion without being preachy and, more importantly, does so very comedically (in part thanks to Yarbrough’s portrayal of the new school’s lone black employee).

Driver brings just the right amount of zing as a notoriously demanding mother, while Fowler (who has CP in real life) and Cook are standouts in the pilot, conveying JJ and his brother Ray’s distinct needs and wants. (Kenedy plays the youngest DiMeo, who in the pilot is merely established as highly competitive.) This stands poised to be the kind of sitcom about relatable, imperfect, occasionally abrasive people that nonetheless tugs at your heart in the end.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | With The Middle on the move, Speechless should give Wednesday’s 8 o’clock comedy block just the refresh it needs, where it will pair nicely with The Goldbergs and do precisely as well as any ABC sitcom does versus Survivor and three dramas.

MORE FIRST IMPRESSIONS  NBC’s The Good Place, The CW’s Frequency, ABC’s Conviction, Fox’s Pitch, Fox’s Lethal Weapon, NBC’s This Is Us, ABC’s Designated Survivor, NBC’s Timeless, CBS’ Bull and ABC’s Notorious

Watch the trailer for ABC’s Speechless, then vote in our poll.