Special premieres April 12th on Netflix.
[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]
By Ariba Bhuvad
Netflix continues to do it right with their originals, the latest being the autobiography of Ryan O’Connell, Special. Loosely based on his life, Special follows a central character named Ryan Kayes, a gay man with cerebral palsy, just like O’Connell–who stars, writes, and executive produces the series alongside The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons and does a phenomenal job bringing his memoir to life, “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves.”
Special goes all in with highlighting various aspects/advantages/disadvantages of being disabled and does one hell of a job doing it. It’s a raw insight into what a day in the life of someone in O’Connell’s shoes looks like, and let’s just say the series doesn’t hesitate to show the good and the bad. In fact, it’s probably one of the only shows that go and above beyond to depict a realistic sex scene for a disabled man. It’s quite rare, but Special doesn’t hesitate to put it all out there.
Through eight 15-minute episodes, Special tells the story of Ryan Kayes as he navigates through a close relationship with his slightly overbearing mother, the desire to live an independent life, and of course, find love in a hopeless place. The series does an amazing job going through the story in a fast-paced but enjoyable manner. While other shows may take longer to get to the major points, Special does it in the best of ways by reeling viewers into the heart of the story and keeping them engaged.
As Ryan attempts to live life on his own, he faces his unique set of challenges, another aspect of a disabled person’s life that has never quite been depicted on television. This is what makes Special so special, at the risk of sounding cheesy. There is an emphasis on helping others understand that life is not quite different for a disabled person, but rather it has a different version of challenges we all face. O’Connell is perhaps the best part of the series and does a heartfelt job as Ryan Kayes, and makes you feel a part of his story.
Everything about Ryan Kayes is so genuine because it’s a mirror to O’Connell’s life, which makes this type of storytelling so riveting and passionate. There is no sugarcoating the condition and O’Connell doesn’t hesitate to tell it how it is, which is so empowering and inspiring for those watching and for those who can relate. He tells it how it is, flaws and imperfections included, down to his mother’s frustration of dealing with a son that has a disability.
The truth may not always be pretty, but O’Connell tells his truth and his life–and we respect him tremendously for it.
I give Special an A.