Jill Soloway knows something about family dynamics. As a writer and producer for Six Feet Under and The United States of Tara, she has explored these issues in depth. But her latest project is altogether more personal.
Transparent, which first aired in September and has since been nominated for two Golden Globe awards, centres on the Pfefferman family of Los Angeles. Their retired academic father Mort (Jeffrey Tambor) comes out as a transgender woman and starts life anew as Maura; her transformation, in turn, is a catalyst for her family members to acknowledge and grapple with their own looming identity questions.
The plot hews closely to Soloway’s own experience with her father, whose coming out as trans in old age channeled Soloway’s creative impulses into what has become a highly successful experiment in internet streaming binge watching. The Pfefferman siblings, played by Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass, show that even without making their father’s difficult decision to live her life openly and truthfully, their neuroses and nagging questions of their own relationships and sexual identity persist.
Amazon’s television unit, which produced the show without the benefit of an HBO- or network-size budget, is finding that its nontraditional streaming medium is no impediment to garnering critical plaudits. Margaret Lyons of New York Magazine writes that, “Gender is a construct, sexuality is a fluid spectrum, Judaism is a vast sea, and Transparent is a real joy. The new ten-episode series […] may end up being responsible for putting Amazon original content on the map”.
Amazon hails Transparent as the “most binge-watched TV series” on its proprietary Prime Instant Video service. And with its weighty and timely topics, it’s not difficult to see how the series was renewed for a second season, due next year.
Though several recent films and television shows have explored the fluidity of sexual orientation in older people, it is Tambor’s sensitive portrayal of Maura, along with Soloway’s considered, if bold, screenplay, that ultimately distinguish Transparent from its cohorts.
Amazon is streaming the entirety of Transparent, including a free view of the pilot, through their website.