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Third Time’s a Charm

Rush For The Bus: TV Sitcom in Development Featuring Adults with Autism

TV ant
Old enough to remember one of these?

By Dan Burns

I’m writing a TV sitcom series, “Saving Zero,” based on my experience as a co-founder and fundraiser for a group home in Austin, Texas.  In my sitcom, Josh -- father of Benjy, a 25-year-old son with autism -- intends to establish an archipelago of group homes, ranches, and villages where teens and young adults with autism can find or create jobs. But Zero, a new arrival at Hope Ranch, has no intention of working. He intends to sabotage the ranch and pursue his destiny. 

Maybe you’ve seen “Speechless,” comedy series about a mom on a mission who will do anything for JJ, her eldest son with cerebral palsy.  Like Speechless, my series focuses on the struggles facing staff and ASD residents at the Ranch.  I’m writing the episodes with some friends on spec, which means I’m looking for a producer. 

Here’s an excerpt.  Enjoy! 



INTERIOR RANCH KITCHEN – MORNING.  The table is set with food, vitamins on a napkin. BENJY's Cookie Monster lunch box is open on the counter. This is the weekday morning dance for partners JOSH and SLOOPY.  As we open, they take turns plopping items in the lunch box.

SLOOPY: Spring water.

JOSH: Shiitake mushrooms.

SLOOPY: Rice noodles.

JOSH: Pork slices.

SLOOPY: Raisins, dates.

JOSH: Pecans.

JOSH slams the lid. SLOOPY Fastens it and puts the box on the table. JOSH starts stuffing BENJY's backpack.

Off screen we hear Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster: “Me want Cookie.” BENJY (age 29), his short sleeve T-shirt inside out and backwards over his long-sleeve shirt, walks into the kitchen holding his iPad, eyes glued on the Cookie Monster video. JOSH pulls him to the table and guides him to the chair. BENJY picks up a min-pancake with is fingers. He never takes his eyes off the iPad.  The sound of Sesame Street runs under the scene throughout.

SLOOPY: Hurry Benjy. Take your pills. Use your fork.

JOSH (checks his phone): Bus is on our street.  Benjy is not eating.

BENJY: Cookie.

Josh holds up a mini-pancake.

JOSH: Look, Benjy. It’s a big cookie.

The bus HONKS.

JOSH: She’s here. Let’s go.

BENJY: Up. Go.

SLOOPY: How many times have we waited for her. She’s early. He’s got to eat.

Josh turns off the iPad, holds up the bottle of Mexican hot sauce, and shakes it.

JOSH (to Benjy): Want that?

Benjy nods vigorously. Josh pours hot sauce on the pancakes. Benjy grabs a pancake and takes a bite.

JOSH: Hot?

BENJY: Esss. Hot.

JOSH turns his back to set the iPad on the counter and get a bottle of water from the fridge. Benjy takes a gulp of hot sauce straight out of the bottle and spews it out on his shirt.

SLOOPY: Benjy!

Josh’s phone rings.

JOSH: (looking at the phone) It's the dispatcher. (listening, then into phone) Thanks. We know. He had a rough night. He’s finishing breakfast. He’ll be out in ... one minute.

Benjy stands up. Sloopy brushes his teeth while Josh strips off the hot-sauce-stained shirt, revealing the short-sleeve short underneath.

More HONKING. Benjy slips on his shoes. Josh hands Benjy his vitamin pills and a cup of water.

JOSH: Swallow!

BENJY swallows on his way to the door. SLOOPY follows with a pancake and the backpack. JOSH is right behind them, digging his wallet out of his pocket for the bus ticket. At the door stop are BENJY's shoes and a pair of barbells. Josh hangs the ID tag on him and hands him the bus ticket. SLOOPY hands him a pancake. Benjy slips on his shoes while Josh opens the locked door. SLOOPY tucks in BENJY's shirt and zips his pants. JOSH loads the backpack on BENJY's shoulders.

BENJY (urging toward going out the door): Bus!

SLOOPY picks up barbells. The bus HONKS. Sloopy raises the barbells, demonstrating a lift.

SLOOPY: Do this! One, two, three, four. Your turn, Benjy.

She tries to hand the barbells to Benjy. He shoves them away and slips out the door.

JOSH: Have a great day at Workshop!

SOUND: Sesame Street closing theme.


Dan Burns is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.




I do hope the sitcom goes ahead because people have to be shown the reality of autism before they will understand.

Martha Moyer: "It's great to see an autism screenplay possibility which shows someone with very little speech/language ability. There are many out there who are like that but they are rarely mentioned because most people, I think, believe autism is a higher level person with Asperger's.... "

...probably because that is what they see in spokespeople such as autistic self-advocates Ari Ne'eman and Harvard Law School graduate Samantha Crane.

The highest functioning Aspergians have had centre stage for far too long and everyone else has been pushed aside No wonder there is discord between those of us raising disabled children (some now adults with zero true friends and zero employment opportunities) and people diagnosed in adulthood or the self-diagnosed who've managed to lead close to normal lives. How could they consider that vaccines are to blame for their own condition/autistic personality or even begin to understand the struggles of the lower-functioning with severe speech and language disorders, or how devastating it is for parents to watch their normally-developing children lose speech and eye-contact after a vaccine reaction and develop autistic behaviour?

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Dan, This is wonderful! The prose version was a great read, but a movie or TV program will reach a lot more people. It is important to contrast characters like Zero, with those who have reached adulthood with minimal language. Thank you for all your hard work on this project.


Well, a long time friend and now a doctor wrote me this week; telling me that her daughter is gay.
She says she loves her daughter and would do nothing to change her.
Well, no of course not, personality wise we would not change anything - same for my children.
But you know; I am pretty sure this mixed up about sex is all stemming from a damaged hypothalamus and it too is part of the autism epidemic. I would not mind if my sweet things were not as obsessed over zinnias, and video games and taking tons of seizure medicines. I heard that gays have trouble with depression. I am sure she does not want her daughter to have depression. No, I don't think the depression stems from social pressure - I think it is some thing real hooked up to a real biological health problem.

My friend goes on to lament about about future children.
Yeah, tell me about .
This friend worked right beside me while we were doing coal mine reclamation research. We got our "tetanus shots" at the same time - LOL- AKA DPT shots together. She already had thyroid trouble as a young woman and she immediately started having even more trouble with it. She had to up her thyroid medicine. I on the other hand and never had any trouble with anything had my first ever yeast infection.
The two of us, got out on a reclaimed mountain top and she was having her monthly, I thought I was going to have to put her on my back and carry her down the mountain.

Anyway; she went on to have a baby and could not have anymore cause the doctor said her Fallopian tubes were all crooked. I asked her how she had a baby in the first place if they were all that crooked? I told her should think endocrine axle messed up. She should think on that a bit since she did train as a OB.

Jeannette Bishop

Lots of potential I think in this idea. Hope it works out!


Two thumbs up! Just enough physical humor to let the viewer absorb the physical tragedy - a spoonful of sugar!


Big Bang THERORY!!! Has met its match! Thank you so much Mr Burns for all you do!

Martha Moyer

It's great to see an autism screenplay possibility which shows someone with very little speech/language ability. There are many out there who are like that but they are rarely mentioned because most people, I think, believe autism is a higher level person with Asperger's who could
work, live with a friend in an apartment and try to live as normal a life as possible.

There are few like my 43 year old son who lives in his own apartment with a full time home host who has to be available as a live in 24/7 because of the individuals's lack of ability to live on his own and function on his own. Just to have him work would require a full time job coach, which doesn't make sense as far as the idea being cost effective.

Donna L.

Good stuff, Dan! If anyone could engage TV viewers in real-life autism, it would be you.
Our weekday morning dance looks more like cage fighting, and we've never yet managed to graduate to riding a morning bus, but you've made me awfully glad we have no hot sauce or barbells (ouch!) involved. Best of luck to you with this project!

Angus Files

I can feel the autism tension loud and clear. Great job.Pharma for Prison.



The reader can really feel the rushed chaos of this family's morning routine, and identify with the misfortunes that occur despite one's preventive efforts. A zillion different things can, and do, go wrong!

I look forward to seeing your screenplay become an audiovisual reality.

Maurine Meleck

Fantastic. Hope it all comes to fruition.

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