“Family is gross, but necessary,” says Sarah (Amy Landecker) to her siblings after the Pfefferman clan has endured a raucous brunch together from L.A’.s Canters Deli.
That statement in the first episode of the fourth season of “Transparent” gets at the heart of Amazon’s acclaimed dramedy from Jill Soloway. This season, available Friday, takes the Los Angeles family out of its comfort zones and revolves around questions of secrets, lies and boundaries.
“My family lies a lot,” Sarah confesses to a new friend, Lila (Alia Shawkat of “Search Party”), she meets at a sex-addicts recovery group. In fact, Sarah has gotten her brother, Josh (Jay Duplass), and sister, Ali (Gaby Hoffmann), to attend the group, too, after they all took an online sex-addict quiz that would lead anyone think there must be something wrong with them.
Ali, now a grad student, had an affair with a professor, who published a humiliating poem about it in the New Yorker. Sarah is still living with her kids and her ex-husband, Len (Rob Huebel). She finds it convenient for her sexual urges but fantasizes about Lila.
Josh is dealing with mother, Shelley (Judith Light), who has moved out of her retirement community condo and into his house. At 68, with an ex-husband transitioning to being a woman, Shelly is at loose ends when she stumbles upon the Upright Citizens Brigade improv group. She takes a workshop, but finds after a lifetime of managing everything in her life, loosening up isn’t easy.
Meanwhile, 70-year-old transgender Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) is the most grounded of all of them. She is back teaching at college again and has accepted an invitation to go to Israel to speak at an academic conference on “Judaism, Cold War, and Gender.” Wishing to escape her embarrassment, Ali goes with him.
Eventually the whole Los Angeles clan will end up in Israel where they hope to relate to their roots and explore who they are, but discover a disquieting family secret. Other stories during the season will intersect, including the relationships between Sarah, Len, and Lila, where the three explore lies and boundaries.
Maura’s trip to the Holy Land gets off to a bad start where she is stopped by a TSA agent for a “groin anomaly.” The incident goes viral when Ali records it on her cellphone. That leads her to meet a political activist who takes her to Ramallah, the Palestinian city in the West Bank just north of Jerusalem.
“Transparent,” already renewed for a fifth…