This week, the DiMeos found themselves in a quite typical DiMeos scenario: the kids in mostly petty conflict (but with deeper reasoning, as is later explained), the parents mostly staying out of (and slightly enabling, for comic purpose) said conflict, and the other adults behaving goofily, as is again, relatively standard. While long-form comedy series like “Speechless” can often trail into uninspired territory, this show is generally able to avoid it. This week, it couldn’t. It’s excusable, but only within reason before viewers begin to lose patience or interest.
The emotional heart of this week’s story was predicated largely on the Ray and JJ brotherhood and its depth and was the “warm fuzzy” spot that each episode at least hits in some way. At the start of the show, Ray is hurt that JJ doesn’t automatically choose him to go to the latest Star Wars premiere. After all, they’ve always gone together–they are the resident Star War nerds of the family. (To prove this, J.J. conducts a brief trivia quiz; when asked to fill in the blank of “May the ____ be with you,” Maya’s response, without missing a beat, is “Star Wars.” Cue blank Maya face.) Instead, JJ seeks out an international model who goes to his school and just happens to be a Star Wars nerd herself, to replace Ray. As revenge, Ray decides to bring J.J.’s archnemesis, Logan–thankfully, his character hasn’t been tokenized and tossed away, and may appear in a few more episodes this season–just to get under J.J.’s skin. When it’s revealed that of course, India, aka J.J.’s arm candy, can’t do a bathroom transfer, Ray realizes he needs to be there for his brother. At the episode’s conclusion, the two are seen having a rambunctious light saber fight in the living room, which Maya and Jimmy watch lovingly (only after technology gets hammered across the room do they decide to intervene).
A few other subplots that just felt particularly tired this week included the impish Kenneth engaging in immature acts at school (leaving the school’s froyo machine–how much money does this school have?!–on overnight to eventually ruin the floor), and of course, Dr. Miller (Marin Hinkle)’s overdramatic, obnoxiously fragile reaction to the vandalism. Yes, the adults acted within their character, but their antics felt more patience-testing than average in this week’s episode. Hapless adults and clever kids often an entertaining sitcom make, but there’s always a limit to what’s plausible; if those boundaries are pushed too far, the writing just seems lazy.
A Star Wars themed episode could have certainly been more creative, too; the obligatory BB8, lightsaber, Chewbacca, etc. references felt just that–obligatory. With a family sitcom like “Speechless” that often operates like a brand, it can often feel like episodes may “sponsor” franchises from time to time. This isn’t necessarily bad, but the writers gave in so easily to the most common of Star Wars nods, adding a snooze-worthy element more than intergalactic charm.
With the holiday approaching, themed episodes are sure to abound–we’ll see if this edgy family show can err back on the side of witty and bold during the most important time for family of the year.
Season 2, Episode 9 (S02E09)
Speechless airs Wednesday 830 PM on ABC
Emily Nuncio Schick | Contributor