Special (“Chapter Two: The Deep End”)

Season 1, Episode 2
Date of release: April 12, 2019 (Netflix)

In which SPECIAL turns from a light comedy into a potentially serious storyline about Ryan trying to win confidence inside his body. And it’s not just his body that gives him discomfort, it’s the culture of Los Angeles hipsters in general. I can already see the social criticism of the show, and how Ryan O’Connell tried to make it as obvious as possible while also not losing the sight of why the show exists in the first place (a disabled gay guy navigating life), but it turns out that aspect is more interesting to me than the disabled and gay aspect. And the reason is simple: I am a straight white male, so I have less of a connection to a disabled gay character than I have to a character who is trying to navigate around shitty human hipsters of the 21st century, who waste their money like they don’t even know it’s money they are wasting. Olivia throwing the birthday cake into the garbage was the prime example of that: She doesn’t give a shit about what people think of her, she is just living in her own world. And she probably finds the thought of donating the cake to someone with lesser means of living a good life disgusting as hell. Olivia probably feels the sudden urge to shower for a few days non-stop, when she gets accidentally touched by a homeless guy, that’s how shallow this woman is.

Only positive thoughts allowed in this screencap.

Another episode which was only 14 minutes long, but it felt longer than the first chapter, and I don’t quite know why. Maybe it’s becasue there have been three set pieces in this chapter. Number one is the body image positivity scene with Ryan and Olivia, almost giving me and my almost overweight body confidence to get out there in the world (I’m too riddled with social anxiety though, so I will always be a couch potato, watching one TV episode after another). Number two is the pool party and Ryan’s impromptu meeting with his Grindr crush. Number three is the realization that Ryan might not bring anything to the table as the gay guy of the bunch, because he has no experience at all. He wants to live the life of a normal human being, and it’s not like his cerebral palsy is distracting him from living that life. But it turns out his inexperience is hindering him gaining new experiences, and because of that, he gets anxious about certain decisions. Will he be more open with himself and about his sexuality after his Grindr date pretty much told him in no words at all that Ryan is just a kid? Will he grow back into his shell after the bedroom experience, which for an outsider like me didn’t even look hat bad? Will this be Ryan’s character arc throughout the remaining chapters and beyond?

Los Angeles pool parties are a hot zone for the gay community.

Best part of the episode: The body image positivity scene needs to be shown everywhere. Ryan O’Connell goes into this show knowing he wants to deliver some social messages, and I’m all here for it. That and the gay sex I wanna see, just to grow some distance to all the other white-savior shows I’m watching.
Worst part of the episode: The cake. When a thin hipster woman doesn’t respect you, you must have been a crappy cake. No reason in wasting time to think about eating you, cake.
Weirdest part of the episode: The two girls, who suddenly believe they are Kim’s sidekicks. First of all, where did they come from, and secondly, could they not have been Olivia’s sidekick first, so there could have been a story about how Kim steals her boss’s girlfriends? Another missed opportunity of a comical storyline. Besides that, those girls really were weird.
Player of the episode: The black guy who asked Ryan “are you done?” Holy shit, is that what gay guys in L.A. are like? Top-notch delivery of those three words, my dude.

Special (“Chapter One: Cerebral LOLzy”)

Season 1, Episode 1
Date of release: April 12, 2019 (Netflix)

How am I even supposed to review a Netflix show that is essentially a chapterized film? Do I go from one chapter to the next, or am I just gonna watch the entire thing and then go from there? Is there a reason Netflix is turning into a streaming service that offers films in 15-minute bites like this (even if they happen to be released simultaneously)? I have no idea what I am doing here, and maybe SPECIAL will show me what to do, as it’s not just a different and unique show when it comes to the premise, but also when it comes to the, ehm, release of it. The only time I reviewed something chapter by chapter was when I attempted reading George R.R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE novels (I didn’t get far) in preparation for the GAME OF THRONES premiere in 2011, and while it may have gotten certain clicks for the few chapters I did indeed write about, it was just annoying to do so.

Then I remembered what SPECIAL is all about, and maybe it does need a chapterized look at it. The central character is disabled and gay, so that by itself is a novelty that deserves scrutiny every fifteen minutes. Maybe we need to be reminded on a regular basis that this show exist, and there should be more shows like that out there. I am a straight white male with a healthy body, so I am pretty much outside the target audience of this show, but damn, I really wanna want to watch some gay sex on my television shows, just to get as far away as possible from the white savior syndrome. Even better when the gay sex happens to be wrapped in a comedy show about a gay person not taking their life so serious during every scene. Judging by from what I’ve heard what SPECIAL is about, it seems to be the show I was indeed looking for.

Disabled, but not enough to cut all your veins while trying to be an adult and shave.

And the first 13 minutes (great, I exclude the end credits, and the episode gets even shorter) sort of reminded me of I FEEL PRETTY, and I’m not so sure that was intended. It’s sort of the same style and tone that SPECIAL is showing during its first chapter, and Amy Schumer and Ryan O’Connell could probably and very easily play a couple in whatever fictional premise writers come up with these days (great, now that I wrote it down like that, I want to see exactly that). Besides that, Amy Schumer and Ryan O’Connell’s characters are similar in the workplace they were dropped into. It’s all about being the best and prettiest hipster in the world, eating diet bars and sugar-free drinks from Starbucks, because you have the money (and still bitch and moan about how high the rent is you have to pay every month), and it’s all about finding the best life possible in this weird world of idiot humans, who couldn’t be bothered looking beyond the sometimes shrill surface of a person. Just look at Olivia: She is already side-eyeing everyone, and she doesn’t even put one ounce of effort into finding out who her colleagues are. It immediately makes her the villain of the show, but maybe she isn’t a villain at all and she is just dumb? Basically Michelle Williams’ character in I FEEL PRETTY, only with a smaller heart and a more humane voice? And since I mentioned I FEEL PRETTY tons of times by now, can Netflix just take that film and adapt it into a TV show? I wouldn’t mind having such an offering…

SPECIAL’s first chapter does one thing extremely good though: Making fun of the hipster crowd by having Ryan tell his mother that no one wants to hear how he cut school for a day so he could play mini golf with his mom. Ryan knows exactly what the world doesn’t want to hear, but it probably turns out the world wouldn’t mind hearing about a boy cutting classes to have a fun day with one of his parents (wouldn’t that be a textual crowd pleaser for high school students among Eggwoke readers?). One can only hope the show will continue to poke fun of hipsters, and makes villains out of them, because the invention of brunch has been one of the most awful things the world has ever seen. That, and the idea of a Trump presidency, which is now all of our nightmares.

A round of hugs for the man who will be permanently disabled after a car accident.

Meanwhile, the first chapter also managed to deliver a few clichés here and there. Ryan is the unusual employee of a seemingly awesome company. Olivia is the seemingly awful boss of a crowd full of scaredycats, who can’t handle speaking up, and are probably crying in the washroom after they have been berated by Olivia on a daily basis. And Kim is the usual sidekick friend of the central character, one with a loose mouth and opinions that clash with everyone. SPECIAL might be a unique show with its gay and disabled character, but that doesn’t mean the premise is equally unique. It’s just like any other … film that is I FEEL PRETTY.

Best part of the episode: Jessica Hecht as Ryan’s mom. Immediate plus points for being a great helicopter mom, who might mother her son a little too much, but loves to see him getting out there anyway. I am jealous.
Worst part of the episode: Eggwoke? Are you freaking kidding me with that company name?
Weirdest part of the episode: A disabled man gets hit by a car, and no one gives a shit. In fact, we care so much about an incident like that, we immediately cut to the opening credits. There was no extra available who could have gotten out of the car and let go a shocked scream? It would have been funny…
Player of the episode: Bob, who had the luckiest luck in the world for having an attractive physical therapist. Ryan wasn’t the only jealous person in that gym. Yes, I’m lonely.