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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Television Review: ‘Transparent’

BETH DUBBER Amy Landecker and Jeffrey Tambor star in Amazon’s new show about a 70-year-old father adjusting to life as a transgener female.
Amy Landecker and Jeffrey Tambor star in Amazon’s new show about a 70-year-old father adjusting to life as a transgener female.


When a typical student thinks of the website Amazon, he or she likely thinks of it as a center of online shopping to buy textbooks or something he or she needs for his or her room. However, Amazon appears ready to change that view of itself with its foray into television programming, and it may have hit the jackpot with the premiere of the first season of “Transparent,” one of the best new series this fall.

“Transparent”centers on a 70-year-old father transitioning into life as a transgender female. The show focuses on how her dysfunctional family deals with this large change and how it affects their lives.

The show was created by Jill Soloway, best known for her work on the HBO drama “Six Feet Under,” who wrote seven of the episodes and directed three. Soloway deals with the sensitive topic beautifully and with great poise, giving a face to something many Americans are seldom exposed to in their daily lives. An important aspect of the show is the challenges that trans people face, such as coming out to their families and friends and even things we take for granted such as using restrooms. The show gives viewers a good understanding of what it means to be trans, a group that is extremely underrepresented in today’s media.

Jeffrey Tambor plays the lead character Maura, formerly known as Mort. Tambor is known for his role on “Arrested Development” as the lawbreaking patriarch of the family, a role which, though hilariously performed, was not particularly relateable However, the viewer easily finds an emotional connection with Tambor’s portrayal of Maura. We feel Maura’s successes, her failures and her difficulties in her new life. Tambor also makes us laugh quite frequently and manages to keep the show light even when it drifts into heavier subject matters.

A main focus of the show is Maura’s three grownup children, Sarah, Josh and Ali. Sarah (Amy Lendecker) is a wife and mother who seems to have life figured out, though by the end of the first episode we realize that this is far from the truth. Jay Duplass, known for his indie films “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” and “Cyrus,” plays Josh, a hip, buttons-his-top-button kind of guy who has a different girlfriend in almost every episode but never seems happy. The youngest sibling is Ali (Gaby Hoffman) who is perhaps the most messed up soul in the family. Most of her story lines are too inappropriate to print, so I’ll just say that “Transparent” has perhaps the most sex and nudity I have ever seen in a television show — and I watch “Game of Thrones”— and most of it is centered around her.

The feeling one gets from the series is that, out of all the characters, Maura is most comfortable in her life. Through flashbacks we see that Mort felt more comfortable as a woman all along, though he had to sneak around in hotels or sketchy looking stores, often teaming up with another closeted transgender, played by a funny and courageous Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”). Maura finally feels that this is her opportunity to be herself, and we see genuine happiness in her when she goes with her daughters on a shopping trip, or when she is simply one of the girls in her new group of friends.

Even when Maura faces difficulties, she talks about it with her support group and is honest with herself. In the beginning, the siblings are unhappy with themselves, but through the course of the series they finally try to do something about their unhappiness. Mort lived his entire life not being who he truly was, and the siblings do not want to make that mistake.

All 10 episodes of the first season are currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Instant Video, a service which offers a 30-day free trial much like Netflix. The show is incredibly well suited for binge-watching; I finished the entire season in two nights. Much like many other online shows, the place where each episode starts and ends seems like an afterthought, and the season runs more like a five-hour movie than an episodic television series.

“Transparent” is all about change. Whether it is changing their gender, their sexual orientation, their relationships or just finding out what makes them happy, the characters undergo many transformations throughout the season. Some of it is good, some of it is bad, but in the end the viewer is rewarded with an incredibly entertaining show that is remembered long after it comes to an end.

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