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Rock the TV: 'Transparent'

This week, I thought it would be fun if we had us a little chat about television, because never in the history of ever have there been THIS many amazing, game-changing shows on the air/Internet/stream … land. NEVER have there been more amazing television to watch and I am SO BEHIND on absolutely everything. We’re just getting started on "House of Cards," for example. And we’ve only recently started "Orange is the New Black" and "The Newsroom."

I love "Girls" because I love female-centric dark comedies where everyone’s kind of a mess. I find it so refreshing that I get to root for people who aren’t always super-heroic and likeable. Sometimes good people aren’t, you know? "Parenthood" is a fine show but there is nothing relatable about anyone (in my opinion), outside of Amber. Everyone is too nice or too easygoing or too ABLE-BODIED to make it happen!

I happen to find real, nuanced characters role models and am delighted by a series that does not put women on Madonna/whore pedestals but in chairs, like everyone else. That said, "Transparent" is the best show on television right now—to me, at least—and I will tell you why.

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Jeffrey Tambor – His performance as Maura is exceptional. I have always loved Tambor’s acting (what’s not to love?) but this is something special. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Tambor said, “She's making a break for her authenticity at the age of 70, which I find sort of valiant and rather brave. And in a sense, I believe she becomes a true parent at that point, in terms of being a leader. My politics about this character are in my performance. I want to make her as human as possible, as fallible as possible, as petty as possible, as glorious as possible and ultimately as human as possible. She's not a saint, and she's very real to me. I would say it's the most transformative role that I've had to play to date…. There's a fail-safe in Maura that is to my advantage, and that is that Maura is very young into her transition ... and Jeffrey is very young into playing the transition. So a lot of the nerves of my playing—and I like to joke "throw-up nervous"—while playing with this is because it's a huge responsibility. Also, she has an arthritic knee—I have an arthritic knee. She has reading glasses—I have reading glasses. You get my drift. That was built into the role as well.”

(While you’re at it, read this in its entirety. It’s amazing.)

I happen to find real, nuanced characters role models and am delighted by a series that does not put women on Madonna/whore pedestals but in chairs.

Gaby Hoffman – I could watch her in anything. Her spirit is remarkable and palpable, and “Abby” is such a complex and relatable and beautifully fucked up like everybody else kind of character and I love her/don’t want to love her/love her.

Everyone else – The performances in this show are A+. There’s a moment when Jay Duplass is in his car and he’s stopped and a song comes on and he’s singing it and he’s lost and I just … yeah. Everyone is really fucking good in this show.

Lack of labels – You can own who you are without having to define yourself, and perhaps more than anything, that is why I find "Transparent" is so courageous. You can be a girl and dress in a suit and be straight. You can be a man with a beard and a masculine stance and have a vagina. You can be a married mother of two who leaves her husband for a woman and be someone who isn’t straight or gay or bi, but merely a human person who feels for other human people. You can be seventy years old and decide, once and for all, that it’s time to come out of secrecy and wholly embrace who you are.

Family – There is REAL love here. And even when everyone is fighting and disagreeing and being totally unstable, there’s a support and synergy that exists between the characters that is stable as they come. Here’s a family in transition, just like everyone else.

There is a line in the show, several episodes deep, where a character that isn’t central to the show says something like, “We’re all just a bunch of bodies,” and that, right there, is the takeaway. Sexual identity is nuanced and complicated; we’re all coloring outside the lines a little bit. "Transparent" is about a family of humans who, as their father transitions from a man to a woman, must recognize their own transitions as well. And that it’s OK to be a human body, whatever that means to you.

Amazon.com – The other night, Hal and I were discussing the irony of one of the biggest corporations “taking a risk” on a show like "Transparent," where networks who are there to “please the big corporations' advertising” would not. By watching the show, not only are you watching a great show, but you’re sending the message that there is nothing “fringe” about a great show with an incredible cast of interesting characters.

Los Angeles – Soloway does with LA what Dunham does with New York — she makes it a character; its neighborhoods are metaphors. If you love (or hate) LA, you will enjoy how she depicts the various neighborhoods and locations which act as a sort of narrator through the entire series.

The Music – It’s perfect.

I haven’t seen anything else this season, but I don’t watch anything with violence in it (because I can’t—Hal watches "Game of Thrones" two rooms away from me because even the sound makes me feel physically ill), so you can go ahead and take this informal review with a grain of salt. But there hasn’t been a show that excited me like this since "United States of Tara" and wouldn’t you know it? Jill Soloway was all up in that as well. Hero alert.

What about you guys? Anyone out there watching "Transparent"? (It’s worth subscribing to Amazon Prime just to get the show. For real.) How did you feel about the show and/or what are you currently watching? Is there a show on television that is especially moving to you at this time? I’d love to hear from you.

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