Tagged: Mentally Challenged

Twin Peaks (5)

TWIN PEAKS/ABC/1990-91/2017 (Mentally Disabled)

Johnny Horne (Robert Bauer), the mentally disabled son of Benjamin Horne who lives in the rural Northwest town of Twin Peaks, USA. Robert Davenport played the role of Johnny in the series Pilot.


Johnny is the older brother of Audrey Horne (Sherlyn Fenn) who was allegedly the cause of Johnny’s disability when Audrey, as a toddler, pushed her nine-year-old brother down the stairs years earlier on Thanksgiving day.

His head trauma caused Johnny to labeled as “slow.” Audrey described him “as 27 years old but in the third grade?” Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, Johnny’s therapist later stated that Johnny’s condition was self-induced: a retreat to childhood as a result of an unknown emotional trauma.

Johnny likes to wear feathery Native American headdresses and shoot suction-cupped tipped arrows at a buffalo target.

For a time, Laura Palmer, a local teenager and homecoming queen, earned money by tutoring Johnny, who enjoyed hearing Laura read from his favorite story “Peter Pan.”

On February 24, 1989, Johnny repeatedly hit his head against a dollhouse, upset that Laura missed her tutoring appointment. He was unaware that Laura had been murdered the night before.


Later, Johnny attended Laura’s funeral without his Indian headdress. After a prayer, Johnny shouted “Amen!” Johnny carried a copy of his “Peter Pan” book to the service.

NOTE: In the 2017 revival of the series, Johnny (played by Eric Rondell) is 25 years older but still disabled. His mother, Sylvia Horne (Jan D’Arcy) straps a helmet on his head because he is prone to bang into things as he runs around the house. He had previously knocked himself unconscious when he ran into a wall.


Soon after, Richard Horne attacked/strangled and robbed Sylvia (his grandmother) during a home invasion. Johnny was helpless to assist his mother because she had tied her son a chair with ropes to keep him from further harming himself.

Women of the House

WOMEN OF THE HOUSE/CBS/1995 (Mentally Handicapped)

Jim Sugarbaker(Jonathan Banks), a mentally retarded man who lives with his sister Suzanne Sugarbaker (Delta Burke), a newly appointed member of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC.


Jim’s character, who always interjected naive jokes and oozed of innocence, was a cross between Forrest Gump (1994) and Dumb and Dumber (1994) movie characters.

Saturday Night Live (2)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE/NBC/1976+ (Impaired Memory)

Mr. Short Term Memory (Tom Hanks) , an amiable fellow who can’t remember what he’s talking about from one moment to the next. Mr. STM started a sentence or deed and then started it again, forgetting that he previously just said or did something.

Note: The STM theme was used in the motion picture Memento (2001) about a man named Leonard Shelby (Buy Pearce) who was bent on avenging the rape and murder of his wife. Unfortunately, he has to do all this without benefit of short-term memories, the result of a brain injury sustained in the incident.

He can still recall events before the murder, but anything in the present fades away in mere minutes. He relies on Polaroids, notepad scribbles, and cryptic clues he’s tattooed all over his body to remind him of his current situation.

See also: Saturday Night Live ; Saturday Night Live (3)


ROSEANNE/ABC/1988-1997 (Mental Illness)

Mrs. Audrey Conner (mentioned not seen) , the mother of Dan Conner, a construction worker living in Lanford, Illinois.


Dan Connor arguing with his father, Ed Connor (Ned Beatty)

For years, Dan (John Goodman) believed that his mother was abused and neglected by his salesman father, Ed Conner (Ned Beatty). Dan recalled “My mother was in a bad marriage, in and out of hospitals” because of Ed’s neglect. Dan remembered how his Dad once left for over two weeks with no word where he was.

This behavior gave Dan the ammunition to believe his dad was a bad husband. Always protective his mother, Dan fumed when his father fell behind in his financial obligations to Dan’s mom.

When Ed re-married a friend of the family named Crystal Anderson (Natalie West), Dan felt it important to let her know what a rotten father Ed had been. Drunk, he entered her house and began to break things. However, the new wife revealed to Dan the truth about his mother – that she was mentally ill, and that time to time had to spend time in the hospital (her trips were often disguised as “visits to relatives”).

As Dan struggled with this revelation, Dan’s wife Roseanne tried to convince him “a person doesn’t become mentally ill when her spouse goes away on business trips.”

In reality, Ed Conner let Dan believe that he was to blame for her condition. He figured it was easier to have a bastard for a father that a crazy person for a mother.

Apologizing for the way he handled everything Ed Conner confessed to his son Dan, “I didn’t want you to go around thinking bad things about your mother.”

In the end, it was nobody’s fault. Ed loved his wife for 33 years and handled the situation the best he could at the time.

Realizing the truth of the matter, Dan tells his wife, “I can’t take this.”

A short time later Dan and Ed reconciled. However, Ed insisted that Dan not talk about the past anymore.

The storyline of Dan coming to terms with his mother’s mental condition appeared on episodes No.142 “Past Imperfect” and “Lies My Father Told Me” that aired March 22 & 29, 1994.

Once and Again

ONCE AND AGAIN/ABC/1999-2002 (Schizophrenic)

Aaron Brooks (Patrick Dempsey), the “Crazy Brother” of Lily Manning Sammler (Sela Ward), a suburban soccer mom in her forties, who lives in Deerfield, Illinois.


At the age of 18, Aaron wanted to be a clown and was an excellent juggler.At the age of 19, he wanted get married to a girl, but his father protested and dragged him back to Chicago from Florida. That’s when Aaron started to change. Before the illness, Aaron was fearless and passionate.

After being brought home, Aaron’s sister Lily found him in his apartment. There was dried blood all over the place. Aaron had been cutting his skin in despair. He almost died on that occasion. After that he was put in a hospital and has been in the Board and Care ever since.

In 2002, Aaron ran away from the B&C to be with Miriam Rose Miller (Ally Sheedy), a women (the victim of rape, drugs and abuse) with similar mental problems.

In his current condition Aaron gets upset and shouts “I don’t understand!” He likes to asked before anyone sits with him.

Hoping to piece his life back together, Aaron keeps a list of wishes called “Aaron Lists of Dreams.” One of which was to get a job.

His sister Lilly fears that living on his own Aaron will burn down the apartment. But, Lily realized that Aaron will never recover. He will die a sick man but she hopes for a temporary reprieve and supports his relationship with Miriam, whom though disturbed herself, is truly in love with her brother.

L.A. Law

L.A. LAW/NBC/1986-93 (Mentally Handicapped)

Benny Stulwicz (Larry Drake), a mentally retarded office worker for a Los Angeles law firm of McKenzie, Brackman who took Benny under their wing when his mother (a cleaning lady for the firm) died.


On May 18, 1988, Benny romantically kissed his retarded girlfriend, Alice (Amanda Plummer).

Note: Larry Drake’s sensitive portrayal of a mentally retarded man is probably the finest since Cliff Robertson depiction of a mentally challenged man in the movie Charly (1968).

“People were always coming up to me and treating me like I was slow. I would have to tell them ‘I’m not really retarded, the character I play on TV is retarded.’ It was actually pretty flattering because it showed that these people thought my acting was really that convincing.”

Drake won two  Primetime Emmy Awards (1988, 1989) for his role as Benny Stulwicz. In 2002, Larry Drake reprised the role of Benny in the reunion movie L.A. Law: The Movie that aired on NBC.

Born on February 21, 1949 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA as Lawrence Richard Drake, actor Larry Drake died on March 17, 2016 in his Los Angeles home at the age of 67 from complications from a rare form of blood cancer that caused his blood to thicken, in addition to other conditions: cardiac arrest, hypertension and obesity.

Kate & Allie

KATE & ALLIE/CBS/1984-89 (Mentally Handicapped)

Louis (Michael Countryman), a slightly retarded young man befriended by Chip Lowell (Frederick Koehler) early in the 1986 season of this popular sitcom set in Greenwich Village, New York City.


Louis was found living in an abandoned building after his mother had died. He loved TV and often quoted phrases from the PRICE IS RIGHT.

Kate & Allie helped Louis find shelter at the Waverly House, a home that assisted the mentally handicapped.

Later in the series Louis found a girlfriend named Catherine (Deidre O’Connell) who worked at a ceramic shop.

The KATE & ALLIE series was honored by the Special Olympics Committee for creating an awareness of the mentally retarded.

ER (4)

ER/NBC/1994-2009 (Mentally Challenged)

Leon (Marcello Thedford),  a mentally deficient 27-year-old African-American brother of Chicago-based Dr Gregory Pratt (Mekhi Phifer). Dr. Pratt has looked after and cared for Leon since the man had a head injury on the streets of Detroit. Before the accident, Pratt’s mom had taken Leon into their house when he was only nine-years-old.

Although Leon can be as sweet and as lovely as a small child, his strength and large beefy physique can make him an ominous foe when he gets excited or becomes violent. Dr. Pratt keeps Leon a secret from his colleagues at Cook County General because he is too proud to ask for help.

Despite Pratt’s advise for Leon to stay in the apartment and out of trouble, the easily-duped Leon gets involved with street gang members who were just using Leon.

As Doctor Pratt confided to a medical colleague “I try to keep him out of trouble but he wants his own friends. He wants to be cool. But they talk him into doing things.” On one occasion, Pratt came home to find Leon knifed and seriously bleeding.

Once, Leon left the apartment and got lost. He remembered that Dr. Pratt worked at the hospital and showed up looking for him. Frantically yelling “G!”, Leon wandered the halls of the emergency department, while many onlookers, not knowing his mental condition, just thought he was a crazy guy. Security guards called to subdue Leon, soon learned what a handful he could be. Luckily, Dr. Pratt arrived in time to ease the situation and then took Leon home.

When luckless Leon was fired from his menial job for stealing, once again Dr. Pratt went to bat for him. But when Leon and a friend were involved in the shooting of cop, and Leon cried “I’m sorry ‘G’. I don’t want to go to jail,” Pratt sent Leon away to his Aunt Rose in Baltimore.

The Leon character debuted on the ninth season episode “Dead Again” that aired 10/03/2002

See also: ER ; ER (2) ; ER (3) ; ER (5) ; ER (6)