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.
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).
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.
THE STAND/ABC/1994 TV-Miniseries (Deaf-Mute)
Nick Andros (Rob Lowe) , a deaf-mute from Stephen King’s THE STAND, on ABC’s eight-hour miniseries version of his blockbuster novel.
Nick is one of the survivors of a weaponized version of influenza (called Project Blue) accidentally released in California. This super flu killed 99% of the world’s population.
At the time of the outbreak, Nick, a drifter, is traveling through the town of Shoyo, Arkansas. Nick was born in Pennsylvania (Caslin, Nebraska in the novel).
Eventually, Nick’s and other survivors reach Mother Abagail’s farm in Hemingford Home, Nebraska where she (Ruby Dee) tells them a great conflict is imminent, and they must all travel on to Boulder, Colorado to a new community founded on Mother Abagail’s teachings.
Nick is later killed in an explosion, but reappears in dreams where he actually speaks and hears as he counsels Tom Cullen (Bill Fagerbakke) , a mentally challenged survivor of the flu outbreak.
Note: In real life, Rob Lowe is completely deaf in his right ear — from an ear infection when he was five months old.
Lowe commented on his condition, saying, “The thing that really concerns me more than anything is that people think I’m rude because I don’t respond. If I’m at a sporting event, and somebody’s on the right side of me, and they go, ‘Well, how about that basket — And I just…nothing. I know there are people who think I’m the most arrogant son-of-a-bitch, but they don’t know that I just didn’t hear what they said.”
SPORTS NIGHT/ABC/1998-2000 (Deaf)
Louise (mentioned but not seen), the deaf sister of Jeremy Goodwin, Associate Producer & Research Analyst on a cable show broadcast from Rockefeller Center in New York City on the Continental Sports Channel (CSC), a unit of Continental Corp. Louise is a sophomore at Amherst College.
Her character was first mentioned on episode entitled “Dear Louise” (Season #1 Episode #7 aired November 10, 1998) when Jeremy Goodwin (Joshua Malina) wrote a letter to Louise discussing his new job at “Sports Night” and his impending romance with a fellow worker Natalie Hurley (Sabrina Lloyd), Senior Associate Producer.
“Dear Louise. It is a little after midnight on Thursday in the middle of the main news room at Sports Night. I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this place. I’ve only been here three months but it feels like home to me. Some of the guys asked me to go out with them after the show. That’s never happened before. I’d kind of like to join them so I am going to make this a short one (email). In your last letter, your asked me what Dan and Casey were like. And I can’t wait to tell you all about them in person but for now I will say is that as impressive as they are on the air, the thing that constantly amazes me is that the pressure of writing and performing a live show every night never gets to them…You’ve probably notice I haven’t said anything about Natalie Hurley in this letter. I’m sure you are reading in the newspapers about the incident in the locker room. Things have calmed down considerable since then. I fell asleep one night whole making her dinner but that’s a whole other story. But since that night, it seems like things have been awkward between us. It’s hard to resist the urge to ask her out but I doubt would do much to lessen the awkwardness.
While I was writing this just now. Something kind of cool happened. I was sitting here at 1:00am when I heard music coming from the studio. (drunken coworkers return from a bar and start to dance, then Natale kisses Jeremy). One last thing, Dan finally go over his writer’s block. He met Stacey Curd of The Smoking Dogs. Stacy plays on the professional beach volley ball tour. Turns out that Stacey is a fan of Dan and was particularly taken by his writing. And in that moment, Dan was reminded why he want to write in the first place. The same reason anyone does anything. To impress women. Stay out of trouble, Louise. Love, Jeremy”
On episode “Louise Revisited” (Season #2 Episode #4 aired October 26, 1999) we discover that Jeremy is nervous when he finds out Natalie is writing to Louise.
SPIN CITY/ABC/1996-2002 (Hysterical Deafness)
Paul Thomas Lassiter (Richard Kind), a neurotic employee at the Mayor’s Office in New York City who suffers from hysterical deafness. As he told his coworkers, “Under intense competition I lose my hearing.”
On episode No. 107 “Lost and Found” Paul competes with coworkers Carter Heywood and Stuart Bondek for a chance to be chosen by the Mayor to go to a conference in New Orleans.
After Stuart is no longer in the running, Carter realized Paul’s affliction was real and he bowed out gracefully so that the Mayor would choose Paul.
Paul is thrilled at being selected until the Mayor announced that while in Louisiana, Paul was to play in a friendly game of golf against some other politicos [and that there was a monetary wager involved]. Of course. Paul went deaf at the thought of the seemingly friendly competition.