TOKYOPOP Fam: You may be aware that Internet platforms such as Amazon, Hulu and of course Netflix are expanding aggressively into original content. Traditional notions of television are rapidly dissipating as viewer habits change and new opportunities arise.
It used to be that everyone watched TV via "appointment viewing" - watching a TV show at the scheduled time like, for instance, Wednesday night 8 PM). The latest trends indicate that appointment viewing is disappearing quickly, being replaced by "on-demand" viewing - where a viewer just clicks to watch a show, either using the TV remote control or a computer, tablet or smart phone.
Another trend shows that "binge watching" - watching multiple episodes in a row without waiting - has become popular. Netflix started this trend by debuting its original series House of Cards with the entire season 1 at one time, and many online platforms are following suit with their shows.
In the midst of these trends, this "digital first" television programming is also garnering attention for the quality of its content, and sometimes for challenging accepted norms.
Personally, I've been enjoying the recent renaissance in television programming, as I'm sure many of you have been as well. I'm even a fan of Marco Polo, the expensive, flashy original Netflix show that can be considered an international version of "jidai-geki", based in the Yuan dynasty (1200's) when Kublai Khan controlled much of Asia. While critical response hasn't been great, I find it loads of fun, and definitely addicting (a "guilty pleasure"). The show has been renewed for a pricey season 2, so clearly I'm not the only one.
With that background in mind, yesterday I pointed my browser window at Amazon, curious to watch its original show Transparent. Previously, I had watched a few episodes of Betas but nothing else, mainly because I'm not an Amazon Prime customer (which is required to watch all the episodes).
Transparent became the first Amazon original to win an award - scoring two Golden Globes earlier this month. Then Amazon decided to promote the show by making all episodes available for free yesterday for one-day only (and discounting Prime membership for the day). I dove in, watched five episodes, got hooked, and even joined Prime. Ah, Amazon, tricky tricky!
So, why write a blog about it? I watch lots of movies and TV shows for my job (well, that's my excuse at least) but I'm not a critic and rarely put my opinion in writing.
But Transparent says something about our society - actually it says a number of things, and I thought that blog-worthy. Of course, the show's main subject is unique, timely and perhaps controversial in certain geographical locations. It's the story of a transgender father coming out, hence the clever name of "trans" "parent".
It's also the story of a semi-functional family. The three grown children have various issues, and each character in the story is painted with a multi-colored brush. The show represents diversity, liberalism, and the modern era, but with a constant, almost nagging cacophony of ennui almost in the way a French art film has.
Oh, and there's sex. Lots of it. Sometimes the intensity of sex scenes on today's shows makes me feel my age - it's not particularly comfortable. However, the recipe of envelope-pushing gender issues, surprisingly fascinating characters, and steamy sex qualifies the show as a "high-quality soap opera" (which is, I believe, a consistent classification for many of today's shows).
In this way, Transparent is America's answer to popular Korean, Columbian or Turkish telenovelas/dramas. But, most importantly, it may be the best indication so far of today's renaissance, perhaps revolution, in visual storytelling. All doors are now open - and it will be exciting to see how creativity in expression further evolves. One thing is certain - it will be an ever-addicting ride.