September 8, 2014
Now that September is here, new TV is inevitable. Also inevitable is bad new TV, or at least new TV that treads into conventional, well-worn territory (think “A to Z,” NBC’s new comedy which will be about — spoiler alert — finding love).
Luckily, there’s a new vehicle arriving on the scene, joining Netflix as another alternative to traditional television. Amazon Prime is releasing new shows, and from the looks of things, one in particular is going to stand out: “Transparent.”
The show has all the makings of something revolutionary. Not only is it the first half-hour show to deal with trans issues (and one of the only shows in general, with the exception of“Orange is the New Black”), but it also deals with conflicted sexuality through the rest of its characters — plus, it’s shot beautifully and more cinematically than most TV shows on the air. After watching the pre-released pilot (which you can preview here) and doing some reading, I’ve gathered seven reasons to be excited for “Transparent”‘s late-September debut. (If you haven’t watched the pilot and don’t want any plot points revealed, beware of spoilers ahead…)
1. It’s created by Jill Soloway, who wrote some of the best episodes of “Six Feet Under.” Although not a household name by any means, Jill Soloway has been around Hollywood for a long time, as a writer and producer on shows like “Six Feet Under” and “The United States of Tara.” If you’re a fan of “SFU,” I’m sure you remember the episode “Making Love Work,” which found Nate and Lisa on a camping trip with another couple; that was Soloway’s excellent writing.
2. It gives Jeffrey Tambor what he deserves. We all know and love Jeffrey Tambor as George Bluth Sr./Oscar Bluth on “Arrested Development,” of course, but it turns out there’s more to him than we saw in those characters. His performance in “Transparent,” as a father coming to terms with his gender identity and revealing to his children that he is a trans woman, is subtle and real, and may be the one that finally makes us all sit up and take notice.
3. Um, Jan Levinson-Gould from “The Office” as a magnetic lesbian, anyone? It took me a minute to figure out where I knew her from — she’s got such a different energy here. But then it hit me: Jan. Oh, Jan! I’m so glad to see her again.
4. Finally, it’s Jay Duplass’ time to shine. The Duplass brothers have done a lot of great work behind the camera together, but only Mark has become a familiar face in front of it, with roles in “The League” and “The Mindy Project” as well as indie movies like “Safety Not Guaranteed.” While Jay is technically in “The Mindy Project” too, he hardly gets anything to do, and we’ve never gotten to know him. In “Transparent,” we finally get to see the other Duplass brother’s acting chops.
5. More Gaby Hoffmann — and her bush! Gaby Hoffmann has made waves this year, notably in “Obvious Child” and “Girls,” in which she did some sweet full frontal. Her bush was even mentioned in The New York Times, for heaven’s sake. I’m happy to report that she’s back and more awesome than ever in “Transparent,” and that the bush follows suit. TV needs more pubes, dammit.
6. Trans people are involved in every level of the show’s production. When hiring a crew, Soloway enacted a “Transfirmative action program,” which favored the hiring of transgender candidates over nontransgender ones. As a result, there are 20 trans people in the cast and crew of the show, and more than 60 trans people are employed as extras. “I really want it so there’s no moment, on the set, when trans people are being otherized by people in the crew because they don’t think there are any trans people listening,” said Soloway in an interview with New York magazine.
7. If the pilot is any indication, “Transparent” will include some pretty great music. Jay Duplass’ character is a music producer, bringing music inherently into the bones of the show. In the pilot, music is used to beautiful effect. Particularly notable is a cover of “Operator” by Cherry Glazerr frontwoman Clementine Creevy and singer Alison Sudol, who make up the fictional band “Glitterish.” You can watch a music video of the cover here.
You can preview the first episode of “Transparent” on Amazon Prime now. Season one will debut on September 26.
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