Until now I’ve been skeptical of most of Amazon’s television offerings, most of which don’t so much feel like art that people urgently wanted to make. Jill Soloway‘s new Amazon pilot, called Transparent, is different. It feels like a carefully considered project has made it to Amazon’s platform for once. Also, in terms execution — writing, acting, aesthetic — it’s really fucking good. You should watch it yourself, at this link. And if you liked it as much as I did, you should then recommend it to others, because it would be great if the show would get a full order.
The story, as the pilot presents it, will be about three adult children dealing with their father’s transition to living as a woman. (The title is a double entendre, obviously.) On a political level, that is so welcome because the culture could always use more shows and films and, god, every kind of thing, which seriously address trans experiences. And in terms of acting, that father is played by the wonderful actor Jeffrey Tambor. No, Tambor isn’t trans. Perhaps we are just going to have to keep hashing out, as a culture, whether non-trans actors playing trans characters is a necessarily reductive gesture. In the meantime, I’m going to say that as far as the pilot goes, this looks like a careful, deliberately un-campy portrayal of one trans experience that I would like to see more of.
And then there are the children, all three of whom are lost in their own way and, if anything, make Tambor look like the “straight man” (so many levels of double entendre there) in this situation. One of the three siblings is played by Gaby Hoffmann, who I have to say has been incandescent in everything she’s appeared in lately — her arc on Girls was the only part of this season I’ve really loved, so far. Here, she is a depressed, unemployed 20-or-30-something who, as her father puts it, shares his depressive gene. Her brother (Jay Duplass) is a music producer with a penchant for beautiful girls. And her sister (Amy Landecker) is a bored housewife toying with the idea of reviving some college lesbianism with an old flame.
And the setting! So lately I’ve been harboring a bit an LA fantasy, one fed no doubt by the BuzzFeed quiz which told me that was where I ought to live. And contrary to what everyone in New York always tells me about LA being “horrible” and wall-to-wall agents and Hollywood sleaze types, the LA Soloway conjures up here — just as she did in last year’s great and under-seen feature, Afternoon Delight — is a place where genuine human beings live. In neat-looking, shabby bohemian houses that aren’t too different from shabby bohemian Brooklyn apartments, and which don’t entail perfect hair and makeup at all hours of the day. It’s been awhile since LA looked so, well, human. Some people will probably make the usual dismissive comments about hipsters, etc. and the sort of… vague employment situations of those on the show. But I’d say: give it time, people. Give it a full production order! This one we’ll all like to watch and discuss. And along the way, I suspect, we’re also going to be moved by it.