If the Terry Gross fantasy for future Fresh Air bookings was a piñata that you whacked with a stick, episodes of Transparent would fall out of it.
I've recently written about Saturday Night Live stars going dramatic. SNL graduates Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are serious as broken-hearted siblings repairing their relationship in The Skeleton Twins. Tina Fey shows us her impressive dramatic talent in This Is Where I Leave You. Jeffrey Tambor is an actor most of us TV viewers associate with comedy.
This association goes back to his work on Three's Company sitcom episodes...to his role as an Ed McMahon-like sidekick on The Larry Sanders Show with Garry Shandling...
As for Judith Light, she was about 30 thirty seconds into her vivid first scene when I said out loud, "OhMyGosh! That's Judith Light!" Like Tambor, she has created a different and memorable character for a series. She's the mother -- the dad's blunt, strong, loving and fast-talking ex-wife.
I grew up in Los Angeles. I didn't grow up in the area where the Transparent family lives but we knew folks like those. The Pfefferman family is very believable to me. Traditionally, network TV has shown us a Jewish experience with a New York City flavor. Think of Seinfeld, Mad About You, Friends, Will & Grace, Rhoda Morgenstern and her relatives on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, Epstein on Welcome Back, Kotter and Buddy on The Dick Van Dyke Show. I often wished TV would give some equal time to my West Coast Jews and show the L.A. experience. On one of the Transparent episodes I watched, it was great to see lead characters food shopping and talking at Canter's Deli on Fairfax Avenue.
For all the financial comfort The Pfefferman family members appear to have, their lives seem to be muted. If you're lucky enough to see the premiere episode, notice the art direction. Their Southern California lives are mostly gray and white or have muted earth tones. Not until the father speaks the truth about himself with others present, do we see a pop of bright colors. They're the colors of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. When his other family members start being truthful about their sexual selves, notice that color appears either in their surroundings or in their apparel.
Transparent airs on Friday, September 26th, in the U.S. and Great Britain. It doesn't air on traditional television. You'll see it on Amazon Prime Instant Video online.
Sometimes the people who have been up closest to you for the longest time are the ones who don't really see you at all. Those people are your family. Your loved ones.
Transparent is worth seeing. Trust me on this. Bravo, Jeffrey Tambor, on your excellent performance.