Over my Christmas vacation, I took some time to sit and watch the first season of Transparent, available on Amazon Prime. All 10 episodes of the show became available back in September and started conversations about a story from a perspective not often seen on TV.
You’ve heard how good Jeffrey Tambor is as Maura, a 70-year-old transitioning and dealing with the turmoil and aftermath of coming out to her three adult children. You’ve heard how great bit parts played by Carrie Brownstein and Bradley Whitford are. But have you heard about terrible every major character on this show is?
In each episode, these five family members frequently do deplorable things, and usually to each other. This includes Maura, who independently promises to give the money from selling her house to two different children, only to ultimately give the house itself to the third. The children keep secrets from each other, which are inevitably revealed at the worst possible moments, and the offenders barely flinch at the consequences of their own deceit. I must stress though, that this is not a complaint: It makes the show so much more interesting.
I’d compare the tone of this show to the earlier seasons of Weeds. In both, irreverent, chaotic families of selfish people make poor choices with little regard for how their actions may impact those around them. In Transparent, the Pfeffermans’ collective buried grudges and trauma spill out over the edges of this show in what you’d think would feel like a train wreck, but is instead a really interesting portrait of an extremely dysfunctional family.
Gaby Hoffman is incredibly unlikable as Ali, the youngest of Maura’s three adult children, and Amy Landecker is Sarah, the oldest and the most grounded of the kids — not that this is saying much. Jay Duplass is Josh, the middle child and only son, who carries with him a treasure trove of horrible hangups about women and relationships. Judith Light shines as Maura’s ex-wife, and I hope the second season of the show does more with her because she is as fascinating as she is manipulative.
Each episode runs 30 minutes. While there’s only 10 of them, you may find them a little difficult to binge-watch. It’s not easy viewing, but it’s definitely worth your time.
The comparison to Weeds is interesting to me, Meryl, because I recall that show having a much more caustic vibe. It’s identity seemed couched in a sort of snarky parody of suburbia, whereas Transparent (from what I watched) is much more gentle generous and sympathetic to its characters. Both shows are about people wrecking themselves, but the vibe seemed very different to me.
Also, this comment made me go listen to the opening credits music. Now I just want to live in that musical space.
Very interesting — how many episodes have you watched so far, Bean? “Gentle,” “generous,” and “sympathetic” are not words I’d use to describe the members of the Pfefferman family. They all have their moments, but they mostly revolve around their own immediate needs and feelings. They don’t just wreck themselves — they wreck each other, too.
The music is great, though.
I watched all of parts of at least half the season. It’s not that the characters themselves were Leslie Knope, but the show itself didn’t seem to view them poorly. They fucked up sometimes, but I thought the show wasn’t about that. It was about people who fuck up sometimes (aka all of us) finding themselves.