The Watchman: Froggatt Leaps From ‘Downton’ to SundanceTV; ‘Transparent’s Tambor Loves Pfefferman Pfamily

Deputy editor Michael Malone’s weekly look at the programming scene

Sadly, We don’t have Downton Abbey anymore, but at least we have Joanne Froggatt, formerly Anna Bates on Downton, in SundanceTV series Liar. Froggatt plays teacher Laura Nielson and Ioan Gruffudd plays a surgeon whose son attends her school. The two go on a date, things turn out horribly and someone is, well, a liar.

The show, from Harry and Jack Williams, debuts Wednesday (Sept. 27). The brothers also executive-produce U.K. thriller The Missing. “That had a complex narrative structure, and we wanted to do something simpler,” Harry said. “It felt like an interesting challenge and a very different approach to what we’ve been doing.”

The brothers were also intrigued to dissectthe concept of lies, and liars.

The show had a strong start earlier this month in the U.K. “People seem to be responding to what excited us about it,” Jack said. “That the truth can be malleable and is hard to discern.”

The Williams boys are having fun with dramas after a run in comedy. “We don’t write as much comedy now,” Harry said, “because we weren’t that good at it.”

They are, however, producers on Amazon’s Fleabag.

The Williams’s said Froggatt was their top choice for Nielson, and she responded immediately after seeing the script. “It’s a very different part,” Harry said.

And the fourth season is underway for Transparent on Amazon. Jeffrey Tambor said playing Maura Pfefferman has changed his life. He refers to his professional “trifecta” — key roles in The Larry Sanders Show, Arrested Development and Transparent — but said Maura has taken his career to a new level. “It’s huge,” he said. “This talented cast … I’m happy to be going out this way.”

Creator Jill Soloway isn’t thinking much about the show going out. She said Transparent can run for seven or eight seasons.

“We’re gonna do the show as long as we can,” she told The Watchman. “I think they’re just getting started, the Pfeffermans.”

Soloway gives Amazon high marks as a partner. Earlier in her career, she said, traditional networks gave notes about “what annoyed them or what scared them.”

Amazon Studios, she said, is more focused on character arcs. “We have bigger conversations,” Soloway said. “They don’t really micromanage.”

Transparent has welcomed a new showrunner to the set, with Jill Gordon running season five. Soloway said Gordon brings increased focus to Transparent. “We throw a lot of scripts up in the air and see what happens when we get to the set,” she said. “Having that more bound-aried storytelling will allow us to prepare more, and be a little less dependent on the magic … even though we love the magic.”