Networks rejected Marlee Matlin’s show about 15-year-old and his deaf family; it’s now online

The pilot episode for My Deaf Family, a reality series about a 15-year-old who’s hearing but has a deaf family, has been posted to YouTube by executive producer Marlee Matlin, who created the show after being approached about doing a docudrama about her life.

Matlin told the L.A. Times that “network executives loved it. The reaction couldn’t have been more positive. But as is the case with me and a lot of ideas that I’ve pitched over the years involving story lines with deaf characters, they didn’t quite know if they could pull it off or even how” because “they had no idea how an audience would react to characters signing with voice-overs and occasional subtitles.”

“I didn’t want to wait for the networks to warm up to the idea of whether the show would be a hit or not with audiences. So I decided to put it out there on my own terms. YouTube is akin to having my own [TV] network,” Matlin said, adding that she hopes a network will still pick it up.

The pilot was directed by Real World and Dr. 90210 producer Donald Bull, and came about because, Matlin said, after her time on Dancing with the Stars, “several networks approached me about doing a reality show about my family because I’m a crazy deaf mom. Unfortunately, my husband works in law enforcement and we were concerned about security, so we set out to find another compelling deaf/hearing family to do a documentary reality show about. We found the family we wanted, on a fluke, from a friend of Jack’s who also grew up with deaf parents.”

Here’s the 10-minute episode about Jared Firls and his family:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.