The rise of auteur indie television is a glorious thing. Upcoming shows are giving creative control to their writers by releasing their series all at once. There is less fettering by audience preference, and personal, artistic, voices are unfolding into quality work. On the tail of Netflix’s successes comes Amazon Studios, and I binge watched Jill Soloway’s 10 episode Pilot last week. It is a marvelous story exploring the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Jeffery Tambor plays Maura Pfefferman, a Jewish trans woman in the process of coming out to her three self-absorbed adult children: Sarah is a stressed-out supermom stuck in an unhappy marriage, Josh is a charming music producer with an unhealthy addiction to love, and Ali is extremely intelligent but finds herself adrift and unemployed. This bombshell comes at pivotal points in the children’s lives, and triggers change that forces their secrets into confrontation. Maura’s transition out of manhood is a journey developing her family’s acceptance and finding her place in the trans community. Sarah rekindles an affair with her lesbian college girlfriend and Ali becomes fascinated with the fluidity of gender. Josh’s easy connection with women is insatiable and his intense wanting drives his lovers away. Maura is a woman being born late in life, yet is blossoming into a complete person with all the calm beauty of youth.
Transparent’s cinematography has the beauty of an art film, yet the writers’ naturalism seems like an ethnographic observation of a real family’s life. Soloway was indeed inspired by her own personal history, and has hired consultants and a trans cast and crew. Allowing their voices to heard through representation. Los Angelino and Jewish culture is expressed as an integral part of Pfefferman character, and does not shy from discussing the role of religion. Humanity is richly showcased, and the relationships between Maura, Sarah, Josh, Ali, and their companions are brilliantly acted and intimately faceted. Their dialogue and actions possess all the heartwarming moments and conflicts that come from shared experiences. It is a beautiful, touching, piece of art that gently keeps you wanting more. The season finale does not feel like the end of an arc. The story is still to be continued.
Pilot is available on Amazon.