Making the Case for ‘Transparent’

Note: Wrapping up this week, the Awards Daily TV Crew will be making the case for each nominee in the Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series categories in random order. We’ll be dropping one each day leading into and through the Emmy voting period, which ends this Friday. Share/retweet your favorites to build the buzz! 

Amazon’s Transparent

Metacritic: 91
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Number of Nominations: 11
Major Nominations: Outstanding Comedy Series, Lead Actor (Jeffrey Tambor), Supporting Actress (Gaby Hoffman), Directing (“Best New Girl”), Writing (“Pilot”), Casting

Transparent is an interesting animal. It’s the first scripted show that Amazon green lit that hit home with audiences and critics alike. It’s one of the most buzzed-about programs of this past year, and it’s part of a burgeoning social conversation about transgender rights in our country. There are only 7 episodes in the first season, and it’s easily the most honored show. There’s a reason for that: Transparent is the best show of the year.

So, let’s talk about the big elephant in the room. Does Transparent deserve to be in the comedy category? Is it laugh out loud funny like Modern Family or Louie? No, it’s gentler and more organic. The Emmy ruling that 30-minute programs are automatically shunned to the comedy region remains ridiculous, but we shouldn’t punish the show for being misplaced. We have to acknowledge the notion, however, that Transparent does have its funny moments. There is no joy or laughter without sadness or thoughtful examination. Emotions ebb and flow into one another, and Transparent is a much more complicated piece of television than anything offered on ABC or CBS.

Jeffrey Tambor’s Maura Pfefferman is the center of a very messed up family. She is adjusting to coming out to her loved ones but her children aren’t in the best place either. Eldest daughter Sarah, played by an underrated Amy Landecker, reignites a flame with her former lover, played by Melora Hardin. Only son Josh (Jay Duplass) has the hardest time with his father’s transition. He gets fired from his job after he knocks up half of a sister music act that he represents at a music company. Emmy-nominated Gaby Hoffman infuses her role of lost youngest daughter Ali with an eager spirit and uninhibited thirst for life that would be missing from a more fearful actress.

The first time we see Mr. Tambor’s Maura, she is relaxing in her own home. Her flock of children have left for the night, and she’s relaxing with a newspaper in her lap, a silk kimono tied around her waist. It’s the first of many honest and calming moments of this short series. Tambor, a reliable but underappreciated actor, has played stuffy suits for a majority of his career. He’s stayed in the background in a lot of his film roles, but he was given a huge chance to shine with dual roles in the beloved Arrested Development. Maura literally comes alive in front of us, and we get to experience her through Tambor’s strangled fear and unabashed joy. The scenes Tambor shares with Bradley Whitford’s Marcy (another nominated performance) are a pleasure, because we get to see these characters not hide or have to pretend to be something else.

While some more conservative viewers will not want politics crammed into their comedy, Transparent is superior because of how it starts a conversation about human emotion and interaction. I Am Cait focuses on one specific (and very posh) experience, but this Amazon comedy starts a dialogue with its gentle tone, lived-in performances, and relaxed writing. If you put all the shows from both the Outstanding Comedy and Drama categories, Transparent would probably still come out on top.

If you really want a modern family, then put your Emmy where your mouth is, Academy.

Published by Joey Moser

Joey Moser is an actor and writer living in Florida. You can follow him online on Twitter @JoeyMoser83