Transparent, the latest dysfunctional family comedy-drama, is one of the most organic shows I have seen this year.
In Transparent Season 1 Episode 1 we are introduced to the Pferffmans, a Los Angeles based family with serious boundary issues (as described by Amazon) ,who find out that their father is transgender. The story is about the how the family reacts to the news and how they deal with the secrets that are forced to the surface as a result.
Initially I didn't know what to expect. As a topic, addressing the issues associated with being transgender had the potential to take the show in a lot of directions. After the first episode I was hooked. It was clear that this show is about a lot more than the short description could ever make it out to be.
The announcement and the father's struggle is a story in its own right, that can and does stand alone, but it is also part of a larger story about identity. Maura's story is incorporated into the rest of the family members own lives and struggles.
After watching a few of the episodes (Don't worry! No spoilers to come!) I realized that nothing about this show is shallow and the story is amazingly intricate.
There are three aspects of this show that made me think the show is unique and elevated it above other shows available across the numerous platforms of the day.
Although, the show deals mostly with the subject of gender and sexual identity, I think the character arcs transcend this and explore what identity, at its core, really is.
Despite being integrated into the whole show, Mort/Maura's story is still the heart of the show. Throughout most of the first episode we get to see Mort, a man and father, interacting with his grown children. We are then introduced to Maura, a woman, talking about how she lost the courage to tell her children that their father is a woman. This dichotomy of the character was awesome and was a potent introduction to the transparency issue of identity. This scene really me see why the show got its name.
While Maura was talking about her children she also commented on the self-absorbed nature of her children, that I think will play into the show's theme somehow.
I don't know how it is that I raised three people that cannot see beyond themselves.Maura
I was a shocked when, right in front of Mort, the three Pferffman children quickly moved the conversation from cancer to selling the house. It was pretty obvious they had been talking about it when he wasn't around. I was more than a little appalled by that.
In the first episode we are also introduced to Sarah and two significant others that have been in her life. From the beginning, I think it is clear that this is going to be a journey about her sexual identity. She dated a woman all through college, ends up married to a man, and then old feelings are stirred when she runs into her ex.
Beyond sexual identity, I think, for Sarah, that this is also an issue of the basic concept of identity and how you even know what it is. When and how do you decide?
The second aspect is how integrated the stories are. All of the characters are family and we expect their stories to be somewhat intertwined. The way Transparent manages to integrate the character storylines is both subtle and powerful.
This is a family that does not immediately share every detail of their lives, but they definitely wear their emotions on their sleeves and talk a lot. This comes out through their bickering and daily conversations. It's really what brings all of their stories together and proves that they, indeed, lack boundaries.
Sarah's siblings all know about her past with Tammy and they immediately question the intentions of her planning a play date. This family is close and they are in tune with each other.
The third aspect I love is that, whenever someone does let their emotions out of their sleeve, nothing overly profound is ever said. No episode ever climaxes with an epic conversation between two characters.
People aren't poets in real life. We lose our words and often don't know what the right thing to say is. A show that mirrors this shortcoming in its character dialogue is a more natural and believable show.
I admit that I have watched more than one episode, but I think these things are all present in the first episode and are what got me hooked. I would love to hear what the readers think!
What did you think of the Transparent pilot? Do you share my opinion about what aspects are good about the show? Don't forget -- there's only one way to see this program -- watch Transparent online now!