Earlier this year a poll was conducted on OUCH!, a Web site devoted to disability-related content in BBC programming (www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/). Users were invited to cast their votes for “The Greatest Disabled TV Character,” and for regular viewers of South Park, the results offered a pleasant surprise: By a considerable margin, the winner was TIMMY!
Now, it’s astonishing enough that the BBC has the foresight to offer such a Web site, and fascinating to discover that British television offers a variety of disabled characters, most of them unfamiliar to all but the most devoted American anglophiles. But what’s equally interesting from the OUCH! poll is that the all-American Timmy was even more popular among disabled than nondisabled voters, and there were telling differences in the total-vote breakdown.
For example, while disabled voters chose Timmy as their number one favorite (Dr. Kerry Weaver from ER placed a distant second), the number one choice among nondisabled voters was Brian Potter from the popular Brit-com Phoenix Nights, a character (played by nondisabled actor Peter Kay) described as “bad tempered, stingy, bitter, mean-spirited and calculating, who uses charity boxes to raise money for himself, and is a wheelchair user with a terrible taste in patterned sweaters.” (Phoenix Nights ceased production in 2002, and is not currently available on BBC America.)
Some interesting conclusions could be drawn from the poll results, but fo