TUNE IN TONIGHT: Netflix's 'Special' anything but
News-Journal - 4/12/2019
April 12--Programming is for Friday, April 12
Now streaming on Netflix, the comedy "Special" offers a new twist. Rather than cast a big star as the subject of a confessional memoir, let the author play himself. Ryan (Ryan O'Connell) is a gay man in his late 20s who walks with a kind of shuffling limp due to cerebral palsy.
His big chance to move out of his old house and the smothering care of his loving mom, Karen (Jessica Hecht), is an unpaid internship at a humor blog called "Eggwoke." Before getting there, Ryan is hit by a car, and Eggwoke sheds its ironic humor pieces for cringe-worthy "content" about personal traumas.
Everybody at Eggwoke believes that Ryan's physical twitches were caused by his accident. It's liberating for him to be defined as "normal" in that way.
He's befriended by Kim (Punam Patel), the site's star blogger, who mines her plus-sized figure for "empowering" material. With her encouragement, Ryan develops some confidence.
For a comedy based on a "real" story, "Special" seems terribly familiar. Its tales of awkward dorks amid perfect bodies recalls the Freeform comedy "Alone Together." An awkward 20something leaving parental orbit to flounder at a sketchy media company sounds like Hulu's "Shrill." All three comedies feature painful pool parties. They also embroider the well-worn theme of doormat millennials groveling for the approval of psychopathic editors and publishers, something also seen in AMC's recent "Dietland."
You can't say Ryan can't play Ryan. But even his goofy, virginal sweetness seems strangely familiar. At times, I wondered if he weren't being played by the ubiquitous comic Andy Daly ("Review," "Veep," CarMax ads), who has made a career parodying delusionally earnest white guys.
Produced by Jim Parsons, "Special" episodes run less than 15 minutes long.
• Anybody who thinks charges of "fake news" and acrimony between the press and presidents are "new," doesn't know history. "American Masters" (9 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings) recalls publisher and media innovator Joseph Pulitzer.
A Hungarian immigrant who served in the American Civil War, Pulitzer energized the St. Louis Press Dispatch newspaper before turning the New York World into the most dominant newspaper of the late 19th century.
Under Pulitzer, the World tailored stories to immigrant readers, championing the working poor over the gilded set. He introduced powerful graphics and pretty much invented the comic strip before being out-sensationalized by publisher William Randolph Hearst.
The World would flounder after Pulitzer's death in 1911, but before its 1931 demise, it introduced another great tradition: the crossword puzzle.
In full disclosure, I once worked for a legacy of Pulitzer's New York World. Created in 1868 for editors and fact-checkers, The World Almanac became an annual best seller. It was where you went to "look it up" before the internet was invented.
TONIGHT'S SEASON FINALES
• Fame finds Eddie on "Fresh Off the Boat" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
• College confusion on "Speechless" (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• Patterson' dad returns on "Blindspot" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• Lost in translation on "Last Man Standing" (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG).
• Margaret's daughter needs help on "The Cool Kids" (8:30 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).
• Gambling debts and desperate acts on "The Blacklist" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• A rapist may have been set up on "Proven Innocent" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC) recalls actress Rebecca Schaeffer, murdered in 1989 by a "fan."
• Danny cooperates with an old foe on "Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
TCM spotlights actor Peter Sellers in the 1964 Cold War satire "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (8 p.m., TCM) and the 1979 Washington satire "Being There" (9:45 p.m.).
Refugees face pursuers on "MacGyver" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... On two episodes of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (CW, r, TV-14), Keegan-Michael Key (8 p.m.), Heather Anne Campbell (8:30 p.m.) ... A slab of evidence on "Hawaii Five-0" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... Past champions return to "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-PG) ... "Dateline" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
Paul Giamatti, Sen. Doug Jones, Aparna Nancherla and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are booked on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS, r) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Ethan Hawke, Kate del Castillo and Ronny Chieng on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Jordan Peele, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Action Bronson visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) ... Stephen Merchant, Kate Walsh and Natalie Prass appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).
-- Kevin McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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