TV Season Review: Transparent

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Transparent is an an evolution of the family drama, ditching plot for almost pure character development, with a fantastic cast of characters that bring you back episode after episode.

The hook of Transparent is centered around the patriarch of a family finally coming out as a transexual to his family, but it really is so much more than that. At its heart, Transparent is a dysfunctional family dramedy that has one of the most dysfunctional families I’ve ever seen on TV. You got a daughter reliving an old lesbian flame, a son who fucks everything that moves, another daughter willing to try just about anything sexually, a mother whose second husband is slowly giving way to dementia and that is all on top of the coming out of hook the show is being sold on.

The structure of the show might be jarring at first, as time jumps along through this serialized story without much rhyme or reason. Now this isn’t a problem, and should be familiar to any Mad Men fan, but characters might make drastic changes between episodes and won’t hold your hand as to figuring out why. The pieces are there to figure these changes out, but sometimes the swings are so drastic that it is almost a bit much to believe. That said, this family’s group of kids are very erratic and impulsive when it comes to relationships and I think that reality helps ground some of the big swings some of the characters take between episodes.

Transparent might also frustrate some viewers in that it doesn’t really resolve much of anything in this first season. A lot of big shifts and life changing decisions are introduced into these characters lives over the course of the first season, but it is not really interested in tying up the loose ends. One character might also be on the verge of a mental break at the end of an episode and the subject is barely mentioned again before a whirlwind of a finale. Again, none of this is really a complaint, it leaves a lot of doors and avenues open for the next, hopefully, season; it just might catch some viewers off guard who are used to more traditional storytelling structures.

Jill Soloway and her team do a great job making Transparent one of the better looking shows on television, and her casting team deserves the highest props above all. The cast is just top notch from the show’s star, Jeffrey Tambor, to the bevy of great guest stars. But lets stay on Tambor, who is just quietly brilliant as the trans lead of the show. He finds the pathos and humor of the situation she is going through and the way he quietly seethes and boils up and over is an impressive feat. He could have gone big and over the top, but he plays it perfectly subtle and real. Gaby Hoffmann finally gets a lead part in Transparent and she takes full advantage of the opportunity. She gets to kind of play the crazy type she has been in the last couple of years, but she adds a ton of layers to the character on top of the outgoing exterior that she is already playing one of the deepest characters on television. Her siblings are played by Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass, both are very good, but they are the pair of characters whose lives seem to swing a bit all over the place. Still, they make the most of it and let you buy into this dysfunctional family. Many other great actors show up in the show as well and most of them are wonderfully realized to the point that you could spend a whole episode with them. Judith Light, Melora Hardin, Rob Huebel, Alexandra Billings, Carrie Brownstein, Kathryn Hahn, Bradley Whitford, Tig Notaro, Michaela Watkins, the list goes on.

Transparent is one of the most refreshing family dramedies in years and features a compelling cast of characters that keep you wanting to binge your way through the season. Amazon has a winner on their hands, lets hope Transparent becomes their flagship show for years to come.

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