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Deaf main characters on television programs.

Of the large cast of main characters on my Science-Fiction series (Show 1), one of the characters is deaf. This is extra-ordinarily rare to have a main character on a television program who is deaf. Only three are known to exist. These are Guiding Light, Reasonable Doubts and Sesame Street.

Reasonable Doubts

Mark Harmon & Marlee Matlin
Reasonable Doubts.

Marlee Matlin
Marlee Matlin.

Reasonable Doubts.
Reasonable Doubts lasted two seasons and 44 episodes from 1991 to 1993 on NBC. It starred Mark Harmon and Marlee Matlin.

Taking place in Chicago, Illinois, the series followed ex-Chicago police detective Dicky Cobb and Assistant D.A. Tess Kaufman. After Dicky Cobb was thrown around the department because he turned in some crooked cops, he eventually was reassigned as an investigator for assistant D.A. Tess Kaufman due to the fact that she is deaf and he can sign. Dicky investigates her cases while Tess is assisted by her faithful translator, Ben Douglass.

Actress Marlee Matlin became deaf at 18 months old through a case of roseola infantum. But that didn't stop her from acting. By age 7 she was in the children's theatre company, where she eventually became Dorothy in their version of "The Wizard of Oz". Discovered while doing the play version of "Children of a Lesser God", Marlee's career got started when she appeared in the 1986 movie version of it.

Marlee is also a spokesperson for the National Captioning Institute, and in 1995 testified at a Capitol Hill hearing that resulted in all television sets 13 inches and larger to be manufactured with built-in closed captioning chips.

Rick and Abby
Abby & Rick on Guiding Light.
Guiding Light.
Guiding Light is the longest running soap opera in existance. It began on Radio before it carried over onto television by featuring the radio cast on the first television seasons. It airs on CBS.

In 1995 Amy Ecklund, who became deaf when she was 6 years old, joined the cast as Abigail Blume. Later, Abby married Rick Bauer on the series. The Daytime Emmy nominated Ecklund left the series in 2000.

In 1998, Amy won a Daytime Webbie Award for "outstanding supporting actress in a drama series", receiving 6 times the votes than the actress received who had actually won the television Emmy for the same category. Amy has also been named one of the 50 most beautiful people by Soap Opera Weekly.

In 1999 Amy received a cochlear ear implant which now allows her to hear. Shortly after, her character Abby received one, too.

Linda Bove
Linda from
Sesame Street.
Sesame Street.
Two years after it premiered in 1969, Linda Bove joined the cast of Sesame Street in 1971.

Because of the lack of roles for the deaf on television, Linda's television resume is extremely short once you remove Sesame Street out of the picture. In 1973 Linda did a short turn on the soap opera "Search for Tomorrow", and in 1980 Linda guest-starred on an episode of Happy Days. In 1986 she appeared in the movie "Children of a Lesser God" which started the career of Marlee Matlin. And yet throughout all of this Linda still had to deal with truckloads of muppets as Sesame Street never went away, including an appearance in 1985's "Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird".

Linda and her husband Ed Waterstreet have been involved with theatre heavily. Linda is a founding member of Deaf West Theater Company in Los Angeles.

Linda can still be seen periodically on Sesame Street today, as the librarian. Still changing with the times to accomodate the ever increasing technology that children are growing up with, one recent episode revealed Linda was Elmo's (or Telley's) secret e-mail friend.

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