When it was unveiled back in February, the pilot for Amazon’s “Transparent” was instantly hailed by critics as the best of the fledging studio’s bunch, and now that they’ve gotten a look at the entire series, they’re praising it even more. So far, only the major trade papers have weighed in, but both the Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman and Variety’s Brian Lowry agree that “Transparent,” which was created by “Afternoon Delight” director Jill Soloway, proves that Amazon Studios is capable of producing work that’s on par with premium cable’s best; the reference point of choice is not Netflix, but HBO.
With Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman, who in the pilot has to break the news to her three grown the children that the father they knew as Mort has felt like a woman since he was five, “Transparent” breaks all kinds of ground — the New York Times detailed Soloway’s determination to include transpeople in every aspect of the show’s production, from writer’s room to crew — and with a supporting cast that includes Gaby Hoffman and Jay Duplass, it’s got the resources to develop the characters around Maura as well as its landmark protagonist. Viewers will have to wait until September 26 for Amazon to put all 10 of “Transparent’s” half-hour episodes online, and these reviews are making sure it’s going to be a looong week.
Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter
The studio has made one of those rare shows that alters the complexion of the landscape with its quality. The show isn’t a shot from Amazon Studios across the bow of fellow streaming service Netflix; it’s an ambitious and accomplished series on the level of the shining lights on HBO.
What Soloway has managed to create in this simultaneously funny and emotionally resonant series are immediately intriguing characters whose actions are interesting in and of themselves. Tambor can seemingly do anything, but what he does in “Transparent” is broaden his range with a multilayered performance, from small hand gestures to the way he changes his body when wearing women’s clothing to the open-mouth, slack-jawed face that looks sad and vulnerable in makeup.
Brian Lowry, Variety
Almost instantly achieving a beguiling and bittersweet tone, “Transparent” represents the sort of breakthrough destined to firmly put Amazon’s nascent original programming push on the map. “Transparent” takes an idea that feels pretty well played out — from “Parenthood” to “Brothers & Sisters” — and invigorates it not through a gimmick but rather via strong writing and performances. And while the show comes on the heels of the solid “Alpha House” and “Betas,” the series reinforces the sense that Amazon has the goods to become a serious player in the premium programming game. The step up in class is crystal clear, and indicative of another kind of change, one that’s transforming the media landscape.