Amazon Prime had two original shows (well, two main ones) come out in this past cycle — Alpha House and Betas — and while both were pretty good (IMHO), neither had a cultural resonance on par with something like House of Cards (Netflix) or, let’s face it, anything on HBO. Over the last 10-15 years, the broader rule of thumb for TV has been “If you’re making original, non-network content, try to be as good as something on HBO or AMC.” Think about it: the four shows most brought into the discussion for “best show of X-time period” are The Wire (HBO), The Sopranos (HBO), Breaking Bad (AMC), and Mad Men (AMC). Currently, the strong belief is that the best show on TV is True Detective (HBO). There have been good streaming shows — most of them Netflix stuff — but House of Cards has dominated in terms of cultural cache in that area (Season 2 drops at the end of this week).
Well, now Amazon has five new pilots up for review — one aspect of their model is that Prime members, online buying spelt or whatever, can watch and vote on these — and the one that pops the most for media critics might be Transparent, which comes from Jill Soloway (part of the Six Feet Under team) and stars Judith Light (a million things, notably Who’s The Boss), Jeffrey Tambor (a million things), Mark Duplass (The League, also considered a mumblecore king), and others. I’ll let you in on the secret now: Tambor and Light are the divorced parents of three LA-based siblings. Tambor wants to be a transsexual. Get it? Trans parent. BHAHAHA. But I digress.
Early reviews are good, like this from Slate:
But towering above all of these shows is Jill Soloway’s Transparent, an honest to goodness great pilot that feels—and I mean this as a compliment—exactly like one of those HBO shows with a 1-to-1 ratio of viewers to think pieces. Ostensibly a half-hour comedy, Transparent is very much like Louie and Girls in its relationship to humor, which is conditional. It stars Gaby Hoffmann, Jay Duplass, and Amy Landecker as three grown, Los Angelino siblings and Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light as their divorced parents—a cast that makes for as good company as it sounds like it should.
And the setting! So lately I’ve been harboring a bit an LA fantasy, one fed no doubt by the BuzzFeed quiz which told me that was where I ought to live. And contrary to what everyone in New York always tells me about LA being “horrible” and wall-to-wall agents and Hollywood sleaze types, the LA Soloway conjures up here — just as she did in last year’s great and under-seen feature, Afternoon Delight — is a place where genuine human beings live. In neat-looking, shabby bohemian houses that aren’t too different from shabby bohemian Brooklyn apartments, and which don’t entail perfect hair and makeup at all hours of the day. It’s been awhile since LA looked so, well, human.
And here’s LAist:
It’s a humorous, thoughtful and raw show that reveals the most naked and vulnerable moments of our day-to-day lives. Even though there’s only just the pilot, there is already noticeable chemistry between the amazing cast members. Tambor can go from quiet and sensitive to lashing out like a lion, while the brother-sister relationship between Ali and Duplass feels easy and natural.
Overall, this sounds like a W. I forgot to mention that Gaby Hoffmann is one of the siblings; she played Adam’s crazy sister on Girls this season, too.
Could this be the point in streaming/original content history where Amazon jumps Netflix? Perhaps. Regardless, it’s going to be worth watching.