Review: O’Connell memoir turned into Netflix show

“Special” is an eight- episode Netflix original that follows Ryan Hayes, a gay man with mild cerebral palsy played by Ryan O’Connell. The show is based off of O’Connell’s memoir “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves,” which closely reflects his life. With each episode only being about 15 minutes long, it’s a fun and easy watch.

I really enjoyed the show, and when it finished, I wanted there to be more. A lot happens to the point where you have to make sure what played out actually did happen. Some things I appreciated about the show was that it wasn’t afraid to hold back.

The main characters didn’t tip-toe around Ryan being gay—you get to see him try to have more of a romantic life—nor did it hush around his cerebral palsy.

He did try and hide it from his friends and co-workers, but in the end when he comes clean, they don’t treat it like it’s something bad. They listen to him and go back to their work, which might have been satirical.

It did show how his home life was affecting his social life, with his mother, played by Jessica Hecht, constantly degrading his ability to be an independent adult. It was interesting to see her be her own character, and see how Ryan leaving to be on his own would affect her. In the last episode, you can tell that the duo needed time apart to not only find themselves, but to establish a better relationship with each other.

Picking back up with how the scene of Hayes coming clean about his condition might have been satirical there were some jokes that I understood, but didn’t know if I could actually laugh and agree with.

In a way, you could say the show gets dark, especially when Ryan jokes about himself. I’m not saying they need to make all the jokes instantly relatable to everyone or it won’t be good, but it got to the point that I was kind of thrown off and wasn’t used to shows being allowed to do what they did.

For example, in most of the scenes Ryan’s boss, played by Marla Mindelle, was in, she would say things that obviously were made to get a mixed reaction from the audience, and you really have to question why the line was said at all.

In those jokes you wonder if it was made to make people kind of re-evaluate what they find funny in the first place, or if it was made to show that people talk like this normally and we just never pay attention because we want to pretend they didn’t say it. It’s an interesting line that is barely crossed, but somehow it works.

Overall I enjoyed the show and had fun watching it with my friends as a way to spend our Saturday night. It was fun to see how Ryan would be able to get himself out there and get people to look past his cerebral palsy.

There were some moments of us shouting at the screen “why would you do that,” or closing our eyes in response to secondhand embarrassment. In the end, it was a cute show that I hope to see another season of.

If you like shows that don’t shy away from what was promised along with some surprises along the way and with a cliffhanger that you didn’t think would be possible, this is the show for you.

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