TV Review: “Transparent” – A Clear Contender

Written by Meredith Pow March 08, 2014

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Overview

Similar to how Netflix has revolutionized the way people watch television series, Amazon is attempting to challenge the current system by getting people to vote on what they actually want to see. Though Amazon recently released 10 new pilots, only a few of these will receive enough votes to be made into full web series on Amazon’s Instant Video service. The concept is brilliant in my opinion, but it also becomes problematic if your favourite pilot doesn’t get picked up as a series and exists forever as a small glimpse into what could have been.

“Transparent” is one of the newly released pilots by Amazon, following the story of Mort, who fears telling his 3 kids about a major change happening in his life. Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor does an incredible job of portraying Mort as a calm, yet vulnerable man transitioning into womanhood. As Mort becomes Maura, the uncompromising desire of this character becomes evidently clear, despite the challenges that lie ahead.

“Dad, are you dying?”

While Mort’s children appear to be caring, the intrigue only comes from how their individual lives will be subsequently affected. Ali, Josh, and Sarah take life for granted, leaning on their father in various ways. Though, I would argue the introduction to Mort’s kids is slightly lacking because I’m left confused about who they really are. But perhaps that’s the point: as the pilot expans on the lives of Ali, Josh and Sarah, you only notice that Mort’s children are vague enough to hint that there is more going on, but complex enough to show that they are going through similar issues of identity and discovering of who they really are and who they want to be.

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“I don’t know how I raised three people who cannot see beyond themselves”

The difference between Mort and his children is that Mort appears to already know who he (or rather, she) truly is. This is significant, as Mort stands taller than his confused children in a world of prejudice and discrimination that is so blatantly against him. The support group scene in “Transparent” is honestly one of the most captivating and honest portrayals I’ve seen on television, shedding light on the incredibly brave and relevant stories of transgender people in society. The fears and accomplishments that Mort shares with the rest of the group are touching and made me wonder why these kinds of stories are only now being told within the realm of television.

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Overall

It’s important to recognize that “Transparent” is written and directed by Jill Soloway, the genius behind “United States of Tara”, “Six Feet Under”, and 2013’s “Afternoon Delight” (which I would recommend anyone to watch). Of course, this is where my bias comes into play, because I have a love for her work, so naturally, I’ll inevitably enjoy “Transparent”.

However, I would encourage you not to dismiss the pilot solely based on presumptions but to be open towards a topic that is so often silenced in the media. “Transparent” is accompanied by great music (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, anyone?) and has humour in some of the least expected places, staying true to its label as a comedy-drama. It’s hard to rate 30 minutes of content, but I would be saddened to see “Transparent” disappear into the abyss of what-could-have-been.

Check out another Amazon pilot review of “Mozart in the Jungle” here.

Rating: 7.5/10 

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About Meredith Pow

Meredith is a student at Western University, currently working towards a BA Honours Specialization in Media, Information & Technoculture. She has a passion for photography and videography, a love for television, and an obsession with reading about popular culture.

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