If you watched the Golden Globes, then you watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel win for the two categories it was nominated for, saw Amy Sherman-Palladino, the show’s creator and executive producer, as well the creator of the much beloved show Gilmore Girls, give a slightly odd speech. And, if you’re like one of the fabulous editors here at TNL, texted a friend (in this case me) to say that they should probably start watching the show. (You should).
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel tells the story of Miriam (Midge) Maisel, a Jewish housewife on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1958 who seemingly has the perfect life. Two children, parents who live upstairs, a husband with an interest in becoming a stand-up comedian. All of which falls apart when her husband decides to leave her for his secretary after bombing a set. This sends Midge into a downward spiral that leads her to trying stand-up and finding that it suits her. The first season, which consists of eight episodes, tracks this shift for Midge and what it means for her to step out of her assumed role in life, with the help of manager Susie, who spots her first drunken set and sees something special.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is, on its surface, a radical departure from what might be expected from Sherman-Palladino, whose work in the past has focused on small-town life, mother-daughter relationships, and familial tension. Maisel has some of these elements, but rather than being set on a sleepy town in present-day Connecticut, the action is moved to New York City in 1958. 50’s New York feels like the place where Sherman-Palladino’s writing was always meant to go, with the quick-witted quips and fabulous hats, and to a network that allows her more breadth in language (which is where the title of this review came from).
The performances in Maisel are incredible. Rachel Brosnahan is amazing as Midge, Alex Borstein, a perennial Sherman-Palladino favorite shines as Susie, and I will watch Tony Shalhoub in literally anything. The jokes are funny, the stakes feel real, and Amy Sherman-Palladino has finally found the story that best fits her very unique voice.
The music choices are incredible, the costumes are sumptuous. Historical figures like Lenny Bruch pop up and are played well (though I am biased as I have loved Luke Kirby since Slings & Arrows). And despite Midge being upper middle class, the audience can fully relate to her struggles as a woman who is attempting to survive in a world where she doesn’t quite fit.
I could quibble on things, such as the history of female stand up in the 1950s and how it wasn’t as empty as the show portrays, or the lack of Jewish actors in Jewish roles only feeding into Sherman-Palladino’s continued lack of diversity, which are all important issues. Yet, I hope the show addresses some of them as Maisel already has a guaranteed second season.
So, if you are looking to laugh and cry and think and see how the more things change the more they stay the same, check out The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It’s worth the watch, and we all need a laugh these days.