Amazon’s Transparent Looks Through the Coming Out Process

Gaby Hoffmann and Jeffrey Tambor star in Amazon's dramedy Transparent.
Transparent (Photo: Amazon)

Transparent, Amazon’s first major release from its television development slate, explores how a family navigates the trans journey of its patriarch.

Show

Transparent, the first full season of which can be found on Amazon Prime. The first episode was available ahead of today’s full season drop.

Premise

Mort (Jeffrey Tambor), the patriarch of an adult family in Los Angeles, struggles with coming out as trans. A major part of the struggle: his children “are so selfish. I don’t know how it is I raised three people who cannot see beyond themselves.” Eldest daughter Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) is a stay-at-home mom who becomes reacquainted with her college girlfriend Tammy (Melora Hardin). Josh (Jay Duplass) is a music producer who might have a sex addiction. Sarah (Amy Landecker) is struggling financially as she tries to figure out her path in life. Judith Light rounds out the main cast as Mort’s ex-wife.

Lineage

The show was created by Jill Soloway, who is perhaps best known for her work on HBO’s Six Feet Under. This is one of the first major series to come out of Amazon’s online television development.

What Works

The SFU lineage is palpable in the pilot. The adult sibling interplay felt familiar, and while watching I found myself remembering the Fishers fondly. However the shining part of Transparent is Tambor’s performance. The anguish in his delivery as he attempts to come out to his children is pure to the point of almost devastating. This gets balanced out by a later scene, where he processes a separate incident in the context of an LGBT support group. When you consider Tambor’s portrayal in contrast with his work on Arrested Development, it clarifies the tone Soloway seems to be attempting with her series: the show isn’t self-serious, though the subject matter is serious for the characters who are experiencing it.

What Doesn’t Work

Although the interplay between the siblings is believable, none of them are particularly likable yet. Granted, that could be the result of being a pilot episode, but then again the Fishers could be a bit much at times. However, my biggest annoyance is the “surprise lesbian” trope with Ali and Tammy. The first season of Orange is the New Black covered a lot of that ground already and it feels stale.

Verdict

Despite the annoyances with a significant number of the main characters, Transparent will be fascinating to watch for Mort’s journey.

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv