Created by Ryan O’Connell, Special has one of the best depictions of living with a disability without sugar-coating or glorifying the not-so-pretty parts of it.
A significantly autobiographical show about a twenty-something gay man with cerebral palsy, Special is adapted from Ryan O’Connell’s 2015 memoir ‘I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves’ and at its core, it’s really a TV series about finding yourself. It’s filled with tons of goodies across both seasons but its shockingly frank portrayal of gay sex, your disability being reduced to a fetish, and losing your virginity to a sex worker is handled so tastefully that it’s beautiful.
Cast – Ryan O’Connell loosely plays himself in Special as Ryan Hayes, a twenty-eight-year-old man living with his mother who finally wants to make it on his own. Jessica Hecht owns the screen as Karen Hayes, full-time caretaker of Ryan, her son, and her mother, and also a nurse. Punam Patel as Kim Laghari, Ryan’s best friend is pretty unexplored.
Storyline – A 28-year-old gay man with cerebral palsy, Ryan Hayes lives with his co-dependent and overprotective mother, Karen and after he gets hit by a car, he’s forced to think about what he’s doing with his life. In an attempt to find himself, Ryan decides to move out of home and live by himself and takes up an unpaid internship with Eggwoke, a lifestyle website, where he meets Kim, who soon becomes his go-to person. Having been someone who doesn’t want to be defined by his disability, Ryan lets everyone at work believe that his recent accident is the reason behind his disability, while he decides to explore dating as a gay man.
Watch the trailer here!
What I liked – Taking care of a disabled person can really be all-consuming especially when they’re your own child and this is depicted so well in Special by showing us Karen’s frustration, guilt, and struggle with allowing herself to prioritize herself for a change. This comedy-drama shows you a plethora of human emotions that are otherwise never depicted in such a real manner onscreen. The appeal of this TV show also lies in Ryan’s raw honesty about his imperfections. Special is a comedy where disability is a meaningful but singular slice of Ryan’s rich life and that’s what makes it such a wholesome watch!
What I didn’t quite like – The depiction of Indian culture feels rather forced in Special with words like ‘dikri’ being used unnecessarily. Scenes about Eggwoke and Ryan’s boss feel extremely unnatural in an unpleasant way! Kim Laghari’s character deserved a lot more depth!