"Transparent." Amazon's first scripted drama is an amazing thing. In it, Mort, a retired professor (Jeffrey Tambor), finally finds the courage to live truly as herself, which is to say as a woman,
Maura. But how to tell his adult though not terribly mature children? Especially when they are all embroiled in (mostly self-inflicted) troubles of their own.
Written by Jill Soloway, "Transparent" is gorgeously grounded in modern-day Los Angeles, where there is nothing but third acts and endless support for both transformation and stagnation. The cast, which includes Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass as "the kids," is universally
good, but the show belongs to Tambor.
In early episodes, he plays both Mort and Maura, and with stunning subtlety, makes it miraculously easy to see why this person who has been living as a man is, indeed, a woman. And, more important, why it is never too late to be true to yourself. Amazon, beginning Friday, anytime.
"How to Get Away With Murder." Viola Davis is the reason to watch this promising law-school-based crime/legal procedural. Playing Annalise Keating, she is just as formidable and magnetic as the great John Houseman was in "The Paper Chase," albeit with more sensational effect: We meet her handpicked star students as they try to dispose of a body.
These students also work with Keating in her high-profile and morally smudgy law office, defending those who perhaps don't deserve a defense. Or do they? Created by Peter Nowalk and produced by the prolific Shonda Rhimes, "Murder" gives us one of those glorious enigmatic leads. Is Annalise
a smart woman making defensible choices, or is she morally corrupt? ABC, Thursdays, 10 p.m.
"Gotham." The pilot of this nicely noir prequel to the Batman franchise offered much in the way of mood and menace, as well as introducing some of the caped crusaders more famous friends and foes. Villainy back stories are always fun, and Ben McKenzie's Jim Gordon (here a detective) and his
partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), were solidly promising in a "Dragnet"-goes-DC-Comics sort of way.
But we won't really know where the story is going for a few weeks: With big event series, the pilot is less of an indication than subsequent episodes. So tune in to watch how Bruno Heller uses old-fashioned 'tecs in hats to address the genesis of both super-accessorized crime and its equally tricked-out fighter. Fox, Mondays, 8 p.m.
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." In the aftermath of HYDRA's resurrection and infiltration of International Governments At Every Level, Agent Colson (Greg Clark) is tirelessly trying to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D., even though he must now do it secretly and with few of the cool geegaws once supplied by a now-antagonistic U.S. military.
The team has been deeply affected by last season's revelations and near-death experiences — Fitz is still suffering from brain trauma and having hallucinations of his beloved Simmons, who is off on some ill-defined hiatus; Skye is forced to interrogate her traitorous lover, Ward, who may or may not be feeling remorseful; and May is still monitoring Colson's physical and mental health.
More important, last week's season premiere gave us a sneak peek at "Agent Carter," as well as some new recruits and a new villian — Crusher Creel.