Top 20 Shows of 2015, Vol. 17: #4

Remember this week on The Bachelor when Olivia went on a bizarre tirade about her ugly cankles and questionable toe knuckles like minutes after Ben announced that two dear family friends had died in a frigging plane crash?  (Btw that’s a trick question because of course you do.)  Seriously embarrassing stuff, right?

Once your personal “best of” list gets this close to the top, you’re likely to treat a dissenter much in the way Ben treated Olivia: with polite or, more likely, outright scorn.  Things get personal is my point.  Sure, we’re probably going to disagree, but maybe talk about your cankles a little bit from now, if you catch my drift.

I’m not sure about that analogy I just busted out, but any excuse to shoehorn in America’s finest television series is simply one I cannot pass up.  But seriously, Olivia’s a complete sociopath, right? #teamjubilee


#4: Transparent

Jill Soloway’s beautifully melancholic, wryly funny series suffered no sophomore slump.  In fact, Transparent exploited our familiarity with the Pfefferman clan to take these characters to new depths, whether that meant Sarah’s spinning out of control after pulling a surreptitious runaway bride or Ali’s coquettish relationship with UCLA professor Leslie.  But amidst the personal disasters that drive so much of the conflict, Josh’s newly minted role as Colton’s father and Raquel’s fiancee showed us new dimensions to that perennially frustrating character: some softened him, others confirmed our suspicions.

But Transparent does not deal in platitudes or soft truths.  Its characters are, by and large, a collection of hot messes doing their best to make sense of their lives, but in so doing, they stumble, they scar, and they disappoint.  Such is life, and the show’s pitch-perfect observation of the human condition makes it a revelatory series.


Much has, of course, been said about Jeffrey Tambor’s turn as Maura Pfefferman, and he carries that excellence into this second season unabated.  This year we find Maura — now that she has come out as trans to her family — struggling to find her place. We knew her cohabitation with ex-wife Shelly was doomed from the start, but seeing Maura branch out from the comfort of that routine makes for fascinating viewing.  My favorite moment — and one of the most telling for her character — occurs at the end of the second episode: Maura, initially uncomfortable out with her friends, finally casts her inhibitions aside and, staring into a mirror, dances alone to the pulsating music.  It’s beautiful and incredibly moving, the kind of small moment that Transparent can, time and time again, extrapolate into metaphor.

Gender and sexual identity lie at the heart of Transparent, but the specificity with which it depicts its characters’ struggles produces a true universality as it explores the very nature of identity to heart-breaking, gorgeous, and transcendent effect.  Do yourself a favor, and don’t miss it.


Tomorrow, I will crown the third place finisher with a bronze medal that I don’t have.  Trophy time, folks!  #top20in20

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