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The Binge-Watch List: Transparent is set to be Amazon's biggest original show

Monty Ashley | Sept. 29, 2014
Amazon may have found its 'Orange Is the New Black,' thanks to bold performances and a truly original story.

It's also interestingly difficult to talk about, since Tambor's character is named either Mort or Moira. And English is not built for a situation where someone changes pronouns. As of the pilot, the character had not actually said much, since so much time was spent setting up the children. There's a lot of interlocking jealousy and old grudges that seem to inform the way they bicker among themselves. And they don't exist just to react to the main plot. Sarah is the first to see her father with long hair, jewelry, and a dress, that's also the first time she gets seen making out with another woman. So there will probably be a lot of surprised questions and careful explanations coming out of that.

What makes it not so great?
It's hard to judge from just the pilot, but there's a lot of mumbling. It's one thing to strive for realism, but when everyone in a scene is talking at once and none of them are articulating at all, it doesn't really advance the plot. Parenthood gets away with it because that show typically uses the crosstalk just to highlight the messy, chaotic nature of life in a family--but when the scene is important to the plot, the characters get a chance to speak one at a time.

What's the math?
That's a good question. There aren't a lot of shows with this premise, but creator Jill Soloway has a great track record of provocative TV, and her previous work can inform this equation. Let's say Six Feet Under (for which she wrote several episodes and served as co-executive producer) plus The United States of Tara (executive producer and showrunner) multiplied by Parenthood (no connection but a similarly brilliant ensemble).

So how is it?
>With the understanding that this was written based solely on the pilot episode, it seems good. It's certainly unusual, which is nearly the same thing. The cast is terrific: You've got Judith Light as family matriarch, divorced from Jeffrey Tambor, and I predict the amazing Gaby Hoffman will shine even more than she did in her recent guest star stint on Girls.

The show has gotten some flack for not casting a trans actor in the lead role, but Jeffrey Tambor is such a good actor: Even without his work on Arrested Development, he was great on The Larry Sanders Show. All indications are that this is an interesting, funny show on a topic you haven't seen a million times. That's worth a few hours of your time, isn't it? Darn right it is.

How many hours should I watch at once?
Four. It might seem like a lot, but this way you can knock the series out in two sittings and then we can talk about it! Was it great? I bet it was great.

 

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