Friday, February 21, 2014

Pilot Review: Transparent

Streaming on Amazon

The second of Amazon’s five new pilots released for public voting to determine which of them will make it to series that I screened, I’m happy to report, is a resounding home run. Creator Jill Soloway, whose “Afternoon Delight” I saw and was disappointed by at Sundance last year, taps into her experience on “Six Feet Under” to make a relatable human drama. The casting on the show is excellent, highlighted by Jeffrey Tambor as Mort, a divorced father of three adult children who is transitioning to a woman and struggling to find a way to break the news to his family. Judith Light, who played matriarch Claire Meade on “Ugly Betty,” has a similar role here, eternally at odds with her ex-husband and never short on judgmental things to say about the rest of her family. Jay Duplass of “The Mindy Project” and the creative side of other projects, is son Josh, who blends his personal and professional lives in a questionable way, and Amy Landecker, who might be familiar as the sexy neighbor from “A Serious Man,” is the daughter whose married home life is threatened by a reunion with her college lesbian lover, Tammy, played by Gillian Vigman. And then there’s Gaby Hoffmann, who is usually cast as the oddball in fare like “Crystal Fairy” or “Girls,” as relatively normal daughter Ali. The plotting and characters on this show are superb, and the writing is strong as well. The pilot was full of interesting interactions, and I think this one has what it takes to go the distance.

How would it work as a series? Almost immediately, this feels like something that would fit right in on HBO as a dramatic comedy filled with introspection. There is a small family unit at the center of this show that can be expanded in infinite directions because of its members’ various connections, and I think it would make for great streaming television.
Will it make it to a series? I think so, yes. Most reviews I’ve read have been overwhelmingly positive, comparing this to “House of Cards” and marking Amazon’s first truly successful foray into the realm of original television programming. This seems like an indisputable creative win for the service.

Pilot grade: B+

No comments: