If the US was to remake Please Like Me, it might be something a little bit like Special.
The series about a young gay man with cerebral palsy is semi-autobiographical, stars its creator Ryan O’Connell and is a sweet in its wry, self-empowering humour.
Ryan (Ryan O’Connell) is a 28 year old who lives at home with his mother Karen (Jessica Hecht). In the safety of his bedroom he can scan Grindr without ever proceeding to hook-ups.
“What would my profile even say? ‘I’m gay and disabled. I promise not to drool on you until the third date,'” he sighs.
Yet with mild cerebral palsy he also feels caught in the middle of able-bodied / disabled worlds and regularly fighting to fight in.
When he embarks on an internship at online magazine site Eggyoke, he meets the outgoing Kim (Punam Patel) and relates an incident about a car accident which she mistakes as the reason behind his condition. Obnoxious editor Olivia (Marla Mindelle), who lords over her young staff like Miranda from The Devil Wears Prada, insists he pen his experience as a deeply personal blog. Showered in phony sympathy and clicks, Ryan suddenly fits in. Sitcoms have regularly traded on mistaken identity, but this is unexpected.
However while mom Karen is proud he is supposedly ‘writing about his CP’, she has no idea of his little white lie.
“Your disability is part of you. It’s what makes you special,” she coos.
“I know and I should embrace it…..” he replies flatly.
As the series evolves, Kim emerges as his ‘fag-hag’ girlfriend encouraging him toward guys and sex, while crashing into her own world obsessed with body image, social media and likes (there’s even a gag about Netflix).
Episodes of this series, based on O’Connell’s memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves clock in at just 15 minutes each, making them snackable treats. O’Connell is endearing in the lead role, never over-playing his hand, which just as well given some of the supporting roles are so very brash and noisily Californian (personally, I would love to see this premise in the hands of the Brits).
Produced by Jim Parsons, Special helps us see beyond the physical to the person underneath, for all their foibles, dreams and Grindr profiles.
Special airs Friday on Netflix.