Thursday night the CBS hit sit-com Mom ended its third season, which included a short arc of the story line in which one of the two main characters, Bonnie, dated Adam--a rare prime time character living with a disability. Adam was injured while doing his job as a stuntman, and now uses a wheelchair.
If I'm not careful, I could start gushing about Adam. He was inserted almost seamlessly into what I imagine is one of the raunchiest shows on network television that's actually funny and has a story line. (Consider that my dig at Two Broke Girls, which probably has more crass lines per episode than any other show. But since piling on one-liners seems to be the only goal of that show, it doesn't really count. And, not for nothing, but how did they mess up The Odd Couple? Remember when Matthew Perry was funny as Chandler on Friends?)
I love the fact that the character of Adam is portrayed in the no-holds-barred manner that the rest of the show has been built on. Mom manages to tackle the issue of substance abuse on a weekly basis with blunt humor that can actually offer belly laughs, while showing characters relapse, reject Alcoholics Anonymous, and even die from an overdose of drugs. Adam is one of the only characters not dealing with addiction in the show.
Yet, he's a real character who . . . wait for it . . . has sex. He's funny, intelligent, and independent. In fact, I thought the only misstep by writers so far was when Adam, who is introduced to the show and Bonnie (Allison Janney) in several phone conversations that started with a wrong number, stands up Bonnie on their first date because he gets cold feet and doesn't want to reveal his disability. I just didn't quite buy that a character who is otherwise quite confident, would suddenly fear revealing his own disability at the last second.
Aside from one or two forgivable but clichéd lines in which Bonnie's friends question Adam's ability to perform in bed and a couple predictable jokes, my only other complaint was that the character was gone too fast. But at least he left because he found employment, something he had been struggling with since his injury and a major issue for many people with disabilities. He took a job as stunt coordinator for a film shooting overseas, in an episode that saw him deal with more anxiety over his disability--a little more genuinely this time--when he hesitated to reconnect with some of his buddies who are also stuntmen. Hopefully, the exit really is temporary as the actor is working on a film, Krystal, according to IMDB.com.
The biggest surprise about Adam (played by William Fichtner) for me has been the almost complete lack of interest from Twitter land, where pretty much everything gets a reaction. In fact, even the most remote link to disability generally garners over analysis and usually criticism from the corner of the disability blogosphere / Twitterati that I follow. Though some results may have eluded me as "mom" is such a frequently used word, searches for the official Twitter handle of the show, @MomCBS, plus "disability," along with a couple variations and several google searches around the sitcom, turned up little.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the lack of response from the so-called disability community is that there's little to criticize with Adam. If you don't have anything negative to say, don't say anything at all, seems to be the rule at times. To be fair, that's a code not exactly unique to the disability community on Twitter. And maybe I just follow the wrong people as my own mentality on some issues seems to be changing. No doubt I've done my share of complaining.
Of course, I did manage to find one criticism of Adam on Twitter. He's not played by an actor who is disabled. It's an argument that I understand, and agree has some merit, but as with many things in the ongoing disability conversation on social media, I think it goes a little too far. It is acting after all.
Hopefully, we'll see more of Adam on Mom next season. Realistic, and especially fun, portrayals of characters with disabilities are desperately needed on television.
Originally published on the blog of Rob J. Quinn, author of The Birth of Super Crip.