Family Guy/FOX/1999+ (Deaf Guy Character)
Greased-up Deaf Guy (Mike Henry), disabled character who lives in the town of Quahog, Rhode Island.
This slippery character likes to run around town in his underwear with his body slathered in grease. As he passes his fellow citizens, he taunts them with the phrase “You never gonna catch me.”
He first appeared on the episode “The Thin White Line” at the Happy-Go-Lucky Toy Factory company picnic during a contest where the deaf guy was released from a cage and employees tried to catch him. No one does and the GUDG runs into the nearby woods.
The Greased-up Deaf Guy origin is revealed during the episode “Yug Ylimaf” (Title in reverse). Apparently, he was late for a meeting one day and was the victim of a grease truck explosion which burned off his suit and rendered him deaf.
The West Wing/NBC/1999-2006 (Deaf)
Josephine “Joey” Lucas (Marlee Matlin), a hearing-impaired California-based pollster who uses her expertise to interpret national poling data for President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his senior staff at the White House.
Born in California, Joey is deaf. She attended UCLA and Stanford. Her Sign Language interpreter is Kenny Thurman (Bill O’Brien) who had been with her for 11 years. She trusted him implicitly (“to trust her was to trust him”). Joey’s religious affiliation is Quaker.
Initially, Joey served as a campaign manager for Bill O’Dwyer in the California 46th district until President Bartlett suggested she dump his campaign and run as a Congresswoman.
When President Bartlet revealed that he was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Joey was brought on board to monitor the public’s reaction to his medical disclosure. Joey also assisted the President before several of his State of Union addresses.
Joey’s liaison at the White House was Deputy White House Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford). When Josh decided to support Congressman Matt Santos’ run for president, Joey worked as a consultant for the campaign.
Joey dated fellow pollster Al Kiefer (John de Lancie). Later, Josh Lyman became interested with Joey romantically until he discovers Joey is pregnant. Joey suggested that Josh pursue a relationship with his faithful assistant, Donna Moss (Janel Maloney). Joey and Josh’s flirtations continued for a time. But Donna gets Josh in the end.
Note: Joey Lucas first appeared on the episode “Take This Sabbath Day” (February 9, 2000) and continued on the series for another 16 episodes ending with “Requiem” (April 16, 2006).
Marlee Matlin, who played Joey on the series, is deaf in real life. She has appeared in a number of TV series including PICKET FENCES, SEINFELD (one episode), REASONABLE DOUBTS and SWITCHED AT BIRTH.
Switched at Birth/ABC Family(Freeform)/2011-2017 (Deaf)
Daphne Paloma Vasquez (Katie Leclerc) a hearing-impaired teenager who attends Carlton School for the Deaf in Kansas City, Missouri. Born October 22, 1995, she lives with her single mother Regina (Constance Marie) and grandmother Adriana (Ivonne Coll) in the low-income, working-class neighborhood of East Riverside, Missouri.
Daphne lost her hearing at the age of three by contracting meningitis. Her dad Angelo Sorrento left her when she lost her hearing. Daphne speaks with a deaf accent.
Now here is the twist. Daphne is actually the biological daughter of John and Kathryn Kennish. She was switched at birth due to a hospital error. The mistake was discovered by Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano), the other switched baby who conducted a genetic blood type test during a school lab assignment. The results confirmed her AB blood did not belong to her parents.
After the discovery, the Kennishes, who live in the wealthy Kansas City suburb of Mission Hills, Kansas, invite Daphne, their true biological daughter, and her family to move into a guest house on their estate so the two polar-opposite groups can become acquainted with each and allow their two teenage girls to bond.
Other hearing-impaired friends and acquaintances include:
- Emmett Bledsoe (Sean Berdy), Daphne’s friend who is deaf. They have been best friends since the age of eight.
- Melody Bledsoe (Marlee Maitlin), Emmett’s mother and Regina’s friend who is also deaf. She is a guidance counselor and Deaf Studies teacher at Carlton.
- Noah (Max Lloyd-Jones), a new student in the pilot hearing program at Carlton. He is suffering from Ménière’s disease and slowly losing his hearing . His uncle is also deaf. For a time, he was Bay’s boyfriend until he went to Canada for the summer.
- Travis Barnes (Ryan Lane), another of Daphne’s deaf friends. He lives with Emmett and Melody Bledsoe. He is Daphne’s ex-boyfriend. A former janitor, he works at Kennish Car Wash.
- Garrett Banducci (Nyle DiMarco), a student at the Carlton who takes a romantic interest in Bay.
- Matthew (Daniel Durant), a gay, deaf boy at Carlton who is interested in Emmett.
For a time, Daphne dates Campbell Bingman (RJ Mitte), a pre-med student in a wheelchair who volunteers at the free clinic where Daphne is serving her community service hours.
Note: According to ABC Family, SWITCHED AT BIRTH was “the first mainstream television series to have multiple deaf and hard-of-hearing series regulars and scenes shot entirely in American Sign Language (ASL).
The Carlton School for the Deaf seen on the program was inspired by the real life Marlton School in Los Angeles.
Actress Katie Leclerc is hard of hearing rather than deaf as portrayed on the program. She learned to use American Sign Language (ASL) at age 17. Three years later she was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease (an inner ear disorder) which runs in her family.
On episode No. 9 Daphne dreams she was not switched at birth and was raised as Bay Kennish who could hear. Episode 15 of season 2, “Ecce Mono” featured an an alternative reality Daphne who was raised by the Kennishes from age three. They arranged to get a cochlear implant to improve her hearing.
The episode “Uprising” (aired March 4, 2013) featured a student-led protest surrounding the closure of Carlton School for the Deaf. The program, which echoed a real life “Deaf President Now” protests at Gallaudet University 25 years earlier, was produced almost entirely in sign language.
HAPPY DAYS/ABC/1974-1984 (Deaf)
Allison (Linda Bove), a hearing-impaired woman who worked as a receptionist at the electric company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who becomes the love interest of Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) on the episode “Allison” (Season #7 Episode #19 aired February 12, 1980).
The Fonz first meets Allison when he attempts to straighten out an electric company billing error for his friend Howard “Mr. C” Cunningham (Tom Bosley).
Allison is unaffected by the Fonz’s “Charisma” (like most of the ladies), so he feels that Allison may be the “one.” His friend Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) thinks that the Fonz may be giving the woman false hopes about a relationship, that is “leading her on.”
But when Fonzie tells Allison via sign language that he holds her dear in his heart, she reveals that she just accepted a proposal from a man with whom she worked. It was the Fonz dating the woman that made her coworker (who was not disabled) realize how special Allison was and that he wanted to marry her.
Note: Earlier episodes of HAPPY DAYS dealing with the topic of disabilities appeared on “The Mechanic” (Season #7 Episode #12 aired December 12, 1979) as Fonzie hires a new assistant at his garage who is confined to a wheelchair; and on the episode “Fonzie’s Blindness” (Season #6 Episode #4 aired September 26, 1978) when the Fonz is temporary blinded by a blow to the head and becomes filled with self-pity until his friend, Richie Cunningham helps Arthur face up to his fears.
See also: Sesame Street
Laura (Marlee Matlin), a deaf woman named Laura who goes to dinner with Jerry Seinfeld and his friend, George Costanza (Jason Alexander) on the 1993 episode “The Lip Reader.”
Earlier in the episode, Jerry and George become uncomfortable when they realize Laurie can read their lips and begin to cover their mouths (raising a glass to their face or rubbing their eyes) to prevent Laura from gleaning what they were saying.
Now aware that Laura can read lips, George asks Jerry to invite her to a party so Laura can read the lips of George’s ex-girlfriend, Gwen to find out what she is saying about him since their breakup.
At first, a hesitant Jerry tells George,”She’s not a novelty act, George, where you hire her out for weddings and bar mitzvahs.” But Jerry caves and asks Laura to the party. When Jerry asks if he can pick up Laura at six (“How about six?”), she misinterprets “six” as “sex” and leaves in a huff.
Laura does go to the party and reads Gwen’s lip as she speaks to a fellow named Todd who asks Gwen if she would like to stay after the party to clean up and help “sweep” with him. Of course, the message gets misinterpreted as “sleep” with him. and George begins to rant and rage and spoils the party.
Laura had communicated Gwen’s conversation via sign language to Jerry’s friend. Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) who was across the room. Kramer learned sign language while living with a deaf cousin for a year. It was Kramer who misread Laura’s sign for “Sweep” to be “Sleep” which sent George into a frenzy.
JOHN DOE/FOX/2002-2003 (Amnesia / Colorblindness)
John Doe (Dominic Purcell), a mysterious stranger with amnesia who surfaces in Seattle. John has an encyclopedic knowledge on seemingly every known fact, but is colorblind.
His visual condition is apparently psychological because when he sees certain objects or persons, he perceives them in color. Are these objects clues to whom he really is and from whence he came?
The Phoenix Organization, a mysterious international cabal whose silent members use sign language to communicate, believe that John Doe is some sort of a Messiah.
Note: To simulate John’s colorblind condition, objects and persons are seen in grainy black and white when seen through his eyes. Otherwise, the show is filmed in color.
ZORRO/ABC/1957-59 (Deaf & Mute)
Bernardo (Gene Sheldon/costar), the deaf mute manservant of Don Diego De La Vega (Guy Williams) alias the masked swordsman, Zorro.
The mute Bernardo, the only other person who knew of Don Diego’s dual identity, faked his deafness to aid his master in thwarting the evil politicians of early California. He communicated with hand signs.
Bill Dana played Bernardo on the spoof of the original series ZORRO AND SON/CBS/1983.
In 1990, Zorro returned to television on the western series ZORRO/FAM/1990-93 starring Duncan Regehr. This time around Zorro’s mute aide was named Felipe (Juan Diego Botto).
TWIN PEAKS/ABC/1990-91 (Hard of Hearing)
Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch), Deputy Director of the FBI, formerly a Regional Bureau Chief.
Cole wears large hearing aids and shouts when he communicates with Agent Cooper who is investigating the death of Laura Palmer, a high school student found floating in water and wrapped in plastic in the town of Twin Peaks in the Northwestern USA. Chief Cole was played by David Lynch, the show’s producer.
Cole has difficulty understanding what is said to him and often replies with inappropriate responses (like “Emily Litella“). Cole’s also uses strange coded sayings which baffle his colleagues.
He once said, “Cooper, you remind me today of a small Mexican chihuahua.” Of course, Cooper never finds out what that description actually means.
SUE THOMAS: F.B.EYE/PAX/2002-2005 (Deaf)
Sue Thomas (Deanne Bray) , a tenacious but soft-hearted FBI agent who moves from the Fingerprint Analysis Division to an elite surveillance team when her keen ability to read lips comes to the attention of one of the bureau’s handsome agents.
Sue had been deaf since childhood but could speak naturally and read lips, a talent that helped her transition smoothly through her college years.
Sue’s constant companion is a hearing-ear dog named Levi, a Golden Retriever (played by Jesse the dog).
Note: The series is based on a true story about the real Sue Thomas, deaf from the age of 18 months, who overcame significant obstacles to work for the F.B.I. and later as a motivational speaker and the author of the best selling autobiography, Lip Service.
Born in Ohio, Sue Thomas also earned her degree in International Relations and has done post graduate work in Counseling.
The role of Sue Thomas is played by deaf actress Deanne Bray who is also an experienced lip reader. Severely deaf since birth, Bray is a veteran of Deaf West Theatre in California and has appeared in several films and television series.
Although she loves acting, Bray is passionate about teaching. She has taught science and math to deaf and hard-of-hearing students in East Los Angeles and has established a literacy program – the Little Bookworm Club.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION/SYN/1987-94 (Shalaft’s Syndrome)
Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart/costar), the commander of the Federation starship USS Enterprise-D first introduced on the two-part episode “Far Point” in the fall of 1987.
In the Star Trek movie spin-off Star Trek Nemesis (2002), we learn that Jean-Luc Picard suffered from Shalaft’s syndrome (hypersensitivity to sound) in his youth.
In the film, the Romulans recreate an identical image of Jean-Luc Picard with plans to substitute their copy of Picard and infiltrate the high command of the Federation.
However, with a change of government, the new Romulan officials discard the plan as well as Shinzon, the youth genetically grown to be Picard. They condemn him to the rigors of the Remian mines, but Shinzon survives and rises to power as the new and ruthless Praetor of Romulus.
Because Shinzon shares the same DNA as Jean-Luc Picard, he also experiences a nasty bout of Shalaft’s Syndrome as he develops. Shinzon also discovers that his genetic programming is breaking down and he is dying. His only hope of survival: a complete blood transfusion from the real Jean Luc Picard. Thus, his ploy to lure Picard to Romulus under the guise of peace negotiations.
At the film’s conclusion, Shinzon’s plan to harvest Picard’s vital fluids to restore his own health fails and Shinzon goes up in a blaze of glory as his predator starship Scimitar explodes in space.
Before the ship explodes Picard transports aboard the Scimitar, hunts down Shinzon, and impales him on a piece of wreckage. Dying, Shinzon disregards the shaft in his body, pulls himself closer to Picard and clasps his dying hands firmly around Picard’s throat. But Picard dematerializes and transports back to the Enterprise.
Shinzon’s last words: “I’m glad we’re together now — our destiny is complete.”
An excerpt of the film’s script follows:
Shinzon: Allow me to tell you a story that I hope will clarify my position. When I was very young I was stricken with an odd disease. I developed a hyper-sensitivity to sound. The slightest whisper caused me agony. [Picard watches him carefully]. No one knew what to do. Finally I was taken to a doctor who had some experience with Terran illnesses and I was finally diagnosed with Shalaft’s syndrome. Do you know of it, Captain?
Picard: You know I do.
Shinzon: Then you know it’s a very rare syndrome. Genetic. All the male members of my family had it. Eventually I was treated. Now I can hear as well as you can, Captain. [Shinzon steps toward Picard who holds his ground.]
I can see as well as you can. I can feel everything you feel. [He stops right before Picard] In fact, I feel exactly what you feel. Don’t I, Jean Luc? [Picard stares at him and marvels that Shinzon’s face is nearly identical to his own at that age]. Do you trust me now?
Picard: We need to talk, just you and I.
Shinzon: Come to dinner on Romulus tomorrow. Just the two of us. Or just the one of us.
Picard: You know I need to verify this .
Shinzon: I know. [Shinzon calmly pulls out a Reman knife and cuts his arm, drawing a little blood. He hands the knife to Data.] Tomorrow then, Captain. We have so much to discuss.
Picard: [Picard touches his communicator pin] Picard to Enterprise. Five to beam out. [Picard’s eyes never leave Shinzon as the transporter effect ripples around him.]
See also: Star Trek: The Next Generation (2)