The new Netflix original series, Special, chronicles the budding social life of a gay man with cerebral palsy (CP) living in Los Angeles. The show is a situational dramedy with quirky characters who have very exaggerated personalities.
The series is based on a book titled, I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, written by Ryan O’Connell who produces the show and plays the main character. O’Connell himself has cerebral palsy.
At the beginning of the show the main character, Ryan Hayes, gets hit by a car. The car did not hit him hard enough to seriously injure him. All Ryan got was a bruised arm. Ryan then gets an internship at a blogging site where his boss entices him to write articles about his deeply personal experiences.
Due to his CP, Ryan walks with a limp and does not have complete motor function in his right arm and has trouble doing certain tasks such as opening letters and tying his shoes. Noticing this, his boss asks him why he maneuvers the way he does. Instead of telling people he has CP, Ryan tells everyone it is because of his car accident. Ryan does not tell anyone about his CP because he is tired of being defined by his disability, so he takes the fact that he was struck by a car as an opportunity to reinvent himself. One of the main premises of the show is Ryan keeping this secret.
The other main premise of the show is Ryan looking for love. One of the show’s weird and exaggerated characters is Ryan’s coworker. She is a writer at his job named Kim who encourages him non-stop and constantly pushes him out of his comfort zone.
The show tackles body insecurity when Ryan and Kim are at a pool party and Ryan does not want to take off his clothes. Because of his CP, Ryan is ashamed of how his body looks in comparison to all of the other chiseled men at the party. To combat this, Kim encourages Ryan to take off his clothes and make him say everything that he loves about the way his body looks.
Another exaggerated character is Ryan’s boss, who is extremely rude, and has no sense of personal boundaries or privacy when it comes to others’ personal information. When someone tells her something in confidence she either spills the beans or she gathers the entire office to listen to someone, which is hilarious but also awkward and random.
One of the other more complex and serious arcs is the relationship between Ryan and his mother. His mother, Karen, is very overprotective of Ryan even in his adult years. At the start of the series Ryan still lived with Karen, but immediately decided to move out, which Karen was not on board with because she did not think he could live on his own.
Karen and Ryan’s relationship takes a rocky turn as you see her struggling to help Ryan with things, such as unclogging his toilet because he could not properly grip the plunger, and starting to have her own social life. The series showed viewers another side of the coin, what the parents of people with disabilities feel. In an argument with Ryan, Karen brings up all of the physical therapies and leg brace fittings she took Ryan too. She basically felt she could not have her own life because she always had to make sacrifices to be there for her son.
Overall, this series tells a fun, touching and hilarious story that has many angles and pieces to it. It diverges from the usual coming of age shows and movies by telling the story of someone with CP. The show has a unique way of letting the viewer see more of the main character than just how he walks.