I had heard of the accolades before I watched Transparent and I began before the Jeffrey Tambor accusations so I was halfway through the series when that came to light, but I must say I am glad that I pushed through.
The show follows the Pfefferman family after their father comes out as transexual, and the family’s reactions to the news as well as their own development through this time. Jeffrey Tambor plays the patriarch who is in transition from Mort to Maura, Judith Light plays his ex-wife Shelly, and their three 30-something children – Sarah, Josh and Ally – are played by Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass and Gaby Hoffman respectively.
There are currently four seasons of the show available, and after watching 40 episodes of the dramedy, I honestly feel like I am a member of the Pfefferman family. So here are five important points why this series is worth watching:
- I have learned so much about the trans experience
The experience of Maura and her friends, Davina and Shea, are told so honestly and without shine, that your heart aches for what people who have gone through the trans experience have had to deal with – from strangers and those that they love. The episodes are also juxtaposed with flashbacks to Maura’s uncle who was also trans and was killed during the Holocaust because of it.
- They explore vary sexualities and gender identities
Sarah, the oldest Pfefferman sibling, identifies as bisexual, Ally the youngest sibling is gender non-conforming. And Transparent does a good job of not only explaining what this means to the audience but the actresses do an excellent job of depicting and educating the audience about these various identities as well, nothing feels cheap or unbelievable.
2. They give an honest approach to the Jewish experience
Religion is a big part of the Pfefferman’s life, and they pride themselves in being Jewish. Transparent explores their faith in relation to the sexualities and their dysfunctional family home. Josh gets engaged to their rabbi, Raquel, Sarah attempts to join the temple’s board, and as a family they travel to Israel so that Maura can do a lecture at a university there. Every tradition is depicted and portrayed in the series, and there is an excellent scene in season four when Ally is in Israel and she experiences the pain of the Palestinian people, and shows how little many people know about the conflict within in Palestine. It does not sugarcoat.
3. Excellent performances by Judith Light and Gaby Hoffman
All the acting awards have been won by Jeffrey Tambor but I can’t help but think that the performances of Judith Light and Gaby Hoffman are the superior ones. Judith, specifically, is a side character compared to the others but she knocks the ball out of the park each and every time. Whether she is acting over the top as she attempts to become a “brand” or she is grieving and letting her emotions show, I am constantly mesmorised by her performance.
Gaby Hoffman is used to playing the oddball characters, but Transparent seems to be written and directed for her to shine and to make the most of her talent. The character of Ally has been through hell and back and she plays the role perfectly that we can physically see the growth in the character.
4. It is a beautifully filmed and directed show
Besides the interesting content, the dramedy takes itself seriously throughout – from the cinematography to the music. It has a soft, beautiful feel to every scene which makes you feel as if you are peeking through the window into someone’s life, and I suppose that is exactly what the show is about, a glance into the life of the Pfeffermans. Even the cutting between the flashbacks of Maura’s mother’s childhood, Maura and Shelly’s childhood, and the children’s childhoods are interspersed so specifically that you feel like you are reminiscing with them.
Can the show survive with Jeffrey Tambor?
In my opinion, yes. The show has moved so far beyond just the experiences of Maura to that of Davina, Shea, Shelly, Bryn and the children. There is enough to educate and entertain without the addition of Maura. So come on bring us season five already!