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Channel Surfing | November 2016

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ABC/ADAM TAYLOR

Speechless

Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m., ABC

Minnie Driver is a formidable talent who has struggled to find a series that can accommodate her skills. FX’s brooding The Riches (2007-2008) showcased her dramatic prowess. The equally short-lived About a Boy (2014-2015), NBC’s underrated comedy with Driver at the helm, never caught on with audiences.

ABC’s Speechless, about a family trying to navigate its way in the world, might be her best television role to date.

Driver plays Maya, a mother of three, whose 16-year-old son, JJ, has cerebral palsy. She and her long-suffering husband, Jimmy, lead a vagabond life—uprooting their kids frequently in search of the perfect community.
Fiercely protective of her disabled son, who cannot speak, Maya picks fights with bullies and gawkers the way others pick laundry detergents. This leads to cringe-worthy moments that are heartfelt and hilarious. Maya is tough and loving, even as those outside her family see her as a monster—and Driver is pitch-perfect.

In truth, not everything about the series works. The supporting players are underwritten, and sensitive channel surfers will chafe at some flyby sexual references. But those are distractions from the bigger picture. Ultimately,
Speechless gives a voice to young disabled men and women—and to the mothers who love them.


11channel-surfingLove It or List It

Thursdays, 9 p.m., HGTV

The reason why this pseudo reality series has remained a staple on HGTV is that it has never wandered from its core formula. Part real-estate hunt, part renovation experimentation, Love It or List It is a fan favorite because of its witty hosts, the playfully combative interior designer Hilary Farr and real-estate agent David Visentin.

In each episode, Hilary and David vie for the affections of a couple in crisis: one spouse wants to move out of their dysfunctional house; the other wants to stay. Hilary and her ragtag team of carpenters, engineers, and designers work to make the couple’s current home more functional, while David tries to find a new home that will better meet their needs. At the end of each episode, the homeowners choose to stay or leave.

Longtime fans of the series have cried foul on social media and the blogosphere at how real this reality series is, but they’re missing the point. The fun of Love It or List It isn’t how rooted in reality it is. The hook is how Hilary and David nearly lose sight of their clients in order to win the “competition.”

Though there is a genuine fondness and respect between the two hosts, they are in it to win it, and their caustic banter—very much like a sibling rivalry—is too fun to resist. And the work they do, particularly how Farr reimagines a livable space, is inspired.