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Transparent – Amazon Prime Pilots – Review No.1 #amazonoriginals

Amazon has launched its second pilot season where we get to watch and pick which shows will move on to a full season of production. You may remember me going on and on about “The Dome”, and I still need to talk about “Alpha House“, which truthfully was the one I kept checking back for this summer and fall. But this year? I think they hit more then a home run and I am stuck at four out of the five shows shows right now, I cannot decide!! And umm I only watched four of them, HAH!

Last year Amazon, like Netflix and Hulu, started producing their own streaming series. Like this year, they offered up the pilots for the viewers to watch and with their feedback, help determine which would move on to full season production. Out of 14 only five made it. Of those I watched three of them: “Alpha House“, a political comedy starring John Goodman; “Betas“, a comedy about start-up culture in Silicon Valley, and as I have gushed about before, “The Dome“, based on Stephen King’s book. The rest were three kids shows. I loved “Alpha House” to pieces and am wondering if we are going to get a second season.

Now Amazon is back with five more “primetime” quality/style series as well as five new children’s programs. It is the same as last year with us watching the initial pilots (I am power watching them now), and then giving them feedback. They even have their own #hashtag; #amazonoriginals. If you haven’t seen some of the line up of actors, you need to take a gander. Oh and they are all for free for everyone right now, you don’t even need Prime to start watching!

Head on over to and start watching today! I am going to write reviews on my top four, because I cannot break it down and choose yet! I am starting with “Transparent” with Jeffrey Tambor. For now? After reading it, tell me what you think if you have watched any of them! The title of this is pretty spot on and very clever, as is the whole package.

Transparent – Amazon Pilot {review one}


I’m waffling between a 7.5  & 8.25 star rating because I liked it, but I also felt like it was the red-headed step child to Wes Anderson‘s genius (The Royal TenenbaumsThe Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). Let’s see how many dysfunctional people we can throw together and then throw at them a SERIOUS situation like transitioning transgendered man with grown kids and see what we get! It may just be because it is trying to be too edgy yet  the allusions are deep enough some may just not get it. It is like a mashup of smart indie brilliance and prime time family drama.

The cast is a mix of amazing folks and some fair actors which doesn’t balance as well as it could be. I think so much of this is seeing how much they can hook you in just thirty minutes, like the opening scene of a movie. They have their anchor actor with Jeffrey Tambor who ends up carrying the show in a lot of ways. Though Gaby Hoffmann (Uncle Buck, Field of Dreams, Volcano) is for me one of the strongest characters (yes I think we will see more if this show is picked up) I am not sure about the rest. The introduction is backwards, we are not sure why the actor announces what he does, or as it turns out if he really means it considering it was not what he intended to announce to his children. The sad thing here is this show needs to be more than one show, not just a pilot. (Sorry don’t want to mention more .. spoilers, sweetie)

With the advent of streaming series we are inundated with some great shows and with Amazon doing this, having us watch the pilots and help them decide which to produce, it causes a form of crowd-sourcing reactions. TV has always had rabid fans, but this is going to make us feel like we are a part of something, like it is our show. The Walking Dead does it with so much interaction in their fan-base across social media, and other web series like The Guild which were the forerunners of these types of shows. It is going to be a fun Spring!

One issue that will pop up is the the choice of Tambor. He is a phenomenal actor but as the one who transitions I predict this ruffling a few transgender activists feathers. Not because of how transgender is portrayed in the show, but because he is quite the opposite, In the quilt community we  call individuals like this cisgendered. He looks, and acts like a man… at least some will say so. From my point of view I will disagree. I think he truly did a beautiful job with this role. But, as for the actual subject matter I am worried we won’t get a solid and real picture about what this experience is like. As someone who has dealt with this as a support person, I’m worried it will either be thrilled or horrifically disappointed. From what I have seen so far, it could go either way. It is bold to take on something this controversial in the world which we are living in today, being so steeped with political *in your face* issues… but who knows!

The-After-Amazon-Screenshot-013-1280x720Gaby Hoffmann. Amazon Studios

One of the main reasons I believe Tambor really captured the character and what really touched me is his  subtle use of conveying things via facial expressions and with his eyes. It is an act of visual allusion. He uses these and even his whole body to express what words cannot even touch. As Mort, the father of three “selfish individuals” (his words), he is hard, his face is etched in the years not lined and his eyes are hard with a touch of sadness. But with Maura, who he is transgressing into, he is soft, even his face is more jowly… well flexible, if that makes sense, he seems to flow. It is such a subtle difference I was touched with the softness and gentle look of hope in his eyes. Quite a difference from the last time he played a woman in Arrested Development.. well dressed up as a woman!

Arrested-DevelopmentJeffrey Tambor. Arrested Development

This is going to be a tough one having watched four out of the five of the shows, but this one seems to have promise. I think the only problem here is if it cannot get beyond the step-child aspect of some really strong edgy movies and make it’s own place. Transparent is something we all  need to watch.

Transparent-croppedJeffrey Tambor, Jay Duplass and Gaby Hoffmann. Amazon Studios

Watch today and let me know what you think! Which one do you want to see continue!

One Comment

  1. just a quick note: You say Tambor plays a transgender man in the article, but I believe the character is a transgender woman.

    I watched and liked the episode, I think it could be an interesting show. I am, as you pointed out some people will be, concerned to see a cisgender actor getting a transgender role, again. Mostly because I know trans performers struggle to find work and face a great deal of discrimination in the entertainment industry. That makes it hard to see cisgender actors like Tambor or Leto get roles that should have been tailor made for trans actresses.

    That aside I think Tambor has done an amazing job thus far although with only one episode it’s hard to know how things will go. If it gets picked up I would definitely watch more though.

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