Transparent is the biggest surprise of the fall TV season. It’s not on any major networks or any cable channels, but rather this 10 episode dramedy comes to us courtesy of Amazon, with all episodes available steaming to Prime members. This is their House of Cards; this is their Breaking Bad. Transparent will put Amazon streaming on the map.
It’s a good thing that the show is just so damn good, and stars Jeffrey Tambor in the role of his career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Tambor stars as Mort Pfefferman, who comes out as transgender to the rest of his family. The show revolves around Mort’s transformation into Maura, and how it affects himself and his family. But the show doesn’t completely revolve around Maura. We are also introduced to his gang of misfit children, 30-somethings living in Los Angeles who all have secrets of their own.
There’s Ali (Gaby Hoffman), the youngest who hasn’t quite got her life figured out. Middle son Josh (Jay Duplass) is a douche wunderkind who has his own record label and sleeps with anything that moves. Then there’s the oldest Sarah (Amy Landecker), whose relationship with her husband Len comes under fire after an old lesbian flame resurfaces. All three kids are so well-written and rounded characters that you feel like you know them simply after the first episode ends.
Transparent isn’t exactly familiar territory, but it’s not unfamiliar either. The excellent writing keeps you hooked and it has just as many affecting moments as it does “oh shit” moments. You become invested in this family’s life, and all of their baggage comes with it. It doesn’t help that it’s insanely binge-worthy, even more so than Orange is the New Black.
Writer and creator Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under) knows how to get the best out of these performers. None are better than the other, but the acting in Transparent is so pitch-perfect at times that it’s like watching your real life play out on screen. Tambor is passionately sympathetic as Maura, and as he comes out to each of his children individually, it’s a wonder to watch their relationships unfold. Maura Pfefferman is about as a career-defining role as they come, and it’s about time Tambor got his due. Hoffman is also a joy to watch on screen. Known from her roles on Girls and Obvious Child, Hoffman finally gets to stretch her legs in a versatile role that feels tailor made for her. Duplass and Landecker are also fantastic as the two oldest, and it’s amazing how a small show like this can get such a great cast. Supporting roles from Kathryn Hahn, Carrie Brownstein, and an almost unrecognizable Melora Hardin also stand out, which is a testament to the brilliant casting and writing for such secondary characters.
As the show jumps between past and present quite delicately, we come to learn more about the Pfeffermans and how they came to be where they are today. Transparent is such an affecting and adult drama for sophisticated viewers that at times is hard to watch. With beautiful cinematography and a perfect theme song, Transparent is the dramedy that mature viewers have been waiting for. It deals with such relevant issues today, and shines light on the transgender movement that couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. While shows like Orange is the New Black have paved the way for well-written transgender characters, Transparent takes it to a whole new level.
Without feeling too quirky or indie, Transparent beautifully straddles the line between comedy and drama. There are so many shows nowadays that could fall equally under both categories, but Transparent stands out because of its sophistication and outstanding writing. I can’t stress how important a show like this is, both to the LGBT community and for Amazon in the new era of television. I can only hope for a just-as-excellent season two, as Transparent is a victory on so many levels.