Friday, October 24, 2014

"Transparent": The Best Show Not on Television

My friend Ross and I have a TV night every week. The shows change, frequently, but 'tis the season for some bone-chilling "American Horror Story." Because I'm a big scaredy-pants, Ross had the foresight to pair the FX show with something a bit more tender: "Transparent".

This show isn't airing on your TV sets. Rather, it's streaming its first full season now on Amazon Prime's Instant Video service. I was one of the skeptics who thought it adorable that Amazon would try to compete with the likes of streaming original programming giants like Netflix and Hulu; but consider me a wholehearted convert.

This is their first smash hit. At least... it will be. Once people hear about it.

"Transparent" is set in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and tells the story of the Pfefferman family. The three offspring have all grown up and live drastically different, but equally self-absorbed, lives. Their divorced father, Mort (played by the wonder that is Jeffrey Tambor), has reached a time in his life where he wants to be honest with the world—and his family.

His truth is that he is really a "her"; specifically, Maura. "Transparent" follows his late-in-life trans journey, and focuses heavily on his children's acceptance and navigation of this reality. It also explores how much the world has changed in the last 20 years by taking the audience back in Mort's past.

I can't really even type about Jeffrey Tambor's Maura without tearing up. His sweetness, his nervous excitement, and his bravery are captivating. I might just be a little in love with Tambor, and Maura, as well. His three children are almost just as fascinating: Sarah (Amy Landecker), the unsatisfied housewife; Josh (Jay Duplass), the womanizing record producer with a heart of gold; and omg Ali (Gaby Hoffmann), the baby and self-sabotaging, unemployed mess.

The show is a comedy, first and foremost. It has so much heart, it makes me bust at the seams a little bit—but the humor is so rooted in truth, and feels so familiar, it resonates in a way I rarely get with television these days. The show's creator, Jill Soloway, constructs the most relatable stories, and has an understanding of people that is clearly evident in her characters. There isn't any melodrama or fantasy. It's painstakingly researched and the Pfefferman family is perfectly realized. The transgender experience (and LGBT one, at that) isn't something I've experienced first hand, but living in Los Angeles, it's certainly one I can connect with. The characters in the show are liberal and progressive people. It's a breath a fresh air to watch a show where the entire concept of "transgender" isn't a complete mystery—they don't need an explanation, and they certainly don't live in a state of denial, regardless of how accepting they are.

The show also navigates the city of Los Angeles and uses its neighborhoods the way that "Girls" utilizes New York.  Those living on the West Side are different than people living in Silverlake, and we all know how prime the real estate is in the Palisades. It uses city landmarks to ground its story, and as a resident, that makes me oddly giddy.

I love this show, and can't recommend it highly enough. Considering it just got picked up for a 2nd season, I suspect it's going to be the show that makes Amazon Prime the next must-have streaming service. Season 1 is available to stream in its entirety now. Go go go, you won't regret it.

If that doesn't sell it, how about this: Bradley Whitford in drag. Yeah, it sold me too.

{images © Amazon Studios}


  1. I loved it. So nice to catch up with you on your blog, Kim!

    1. You too, Anna! I love reading about your adventures, and your blog is beautiful!

      Miss you, hope you're well!


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