Two TV universes, in which disabled characters live and breathe, unite.
On “Friday Night Lights”, we got to know a high school football player who had a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia. I won’t say his name, in case someone reading this hasn’t seen the show and might go and watch it on Netflix, but we got to see him take an almost complete journey through rehabilitation, denial, self-loathing, discovering a new community of paralyzed athletes, and finding a new plan for his life as an adult with a disability.
On “Parenthood”, we have watched as Max Braverman’s unusual behavior is diagnosed as Asberger Syndrome, and as his parents and extended family have dealt with this, sometimes well, sometimes kind of stupidly and selfishly, but always with love an devotion to Max.
To tide “Parenthood” fans over during the Olympics, NBC has produced a series of webisodes in which one of the Braverman kids, Amber, secretly tries her hand at record producing at the music studio owned by Max’s Father Adam and Uncle Crosby. The band is Crucifictorious, the “Christian Speed Metal” band put together by Landry on “Friday Night Lights”. Max is there to comment on the proceedings and film everyone with his iPhone.
There’s tons of in-jokes and stealth references to “Friday Night Lights”, and the whole thing is a wonderful, delightful geek-out. There’s not much in the way of disability themes, apart from some light humor about Max’s absolute, total, tactless but charming honesty. But that's okay. Disability doesn't always have to be center stage on a TV show, because it isn't always center stage in life.
And seriously, anyone interested in disabled characters on television should watch at least the first season of “Friday Night Lights”, and anyone with parents of a disabled or autistic child should check out “Parenthood”. Those back episodes are also available on Netflix.