By: Jack Sellers
I spent a lot of my Christmas break from school watching shows that I’ve wanted to watch since they started. I finally decided to start playing catch-up on all the amazing content out there, but the thing that I watched that stood out the most to me was Amy Sherman-Palladino’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime. It’s no secret now that this show is fantastic. The series won several Emmy awards for acting and in general categories, such as its win for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2018, so it should’ve been no surprise to me that this show is great, yet it still found a way to surprise me at nearly every turn.
Midge Maisel, the titular main character of the show, seems to have her life entirely figured out at the start of the first episode, but before the end of the first episode her entire life falls apart. Her husband Joel leaves her after having an affair, and she’s arrested for doing an unlicensed set at a comedy club. This first episode sets Midge on a trajectory that will affect her for the remainder of the series. Midge is excellently portrayed by Rachel Brosnahan, but one of the biggest show stealers is Alex Borstein as Midge’s reluctant friend and manager Susie Myerson, but the series is filled to the brim with excellent characters beautifully portrayed by talented actors. Tony Shalhoub as Midge’s neurotic Jewish father Abe is a particular favorite of mine. There aren’t really any bad characters throughout the series and I found it hard to find any characters I really disliked, other than maybe Jane Lynch’s love-to-hate-them performance as Sophie Lennon. The characters all have dynamic personalities and complicated motivations. Some of my favorite moments in the series is when the characters go against their better judgement and do something that they will inevitably regret. That is a perfect demonstration of the excellent writing on display in this series.
The writing in this series is incredibly good. Every character, even characters that might seem one note early on, gets in-depth development and explained backstories. Rose Weissman, for example, in the first season is something of a one note character. She fills out the position of the housewife and mother, but as the series goes on we learn more about her ambitions in life and more about her family and why she ends up in the position she’s in at the start of the series. Every character has desires and goals, but these characters, much like people, have flaws, relapses, make compromises, and as much as anything else they make mistakes and try to grow from these mistakes. I think that distinction might be what distinguishes this series so greatly, it’s not that these characters never grow, but there are multiple setbacks to their goals. What truly sells the series in my opinion is the comedy. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this show, but when I started it I didn’t really think it would be funny. I know, a show about a stand-up comedian that isn’t funny would be ridiculous, but I thought it would lean harder into the drama aspects than the comedy. I was really wrong. The drama is omni-present throughout the series along with its sense of humor, and often the funniest moments are either brought about because of the drama or undercut by it or the opposite happens. There are more than a few truly hilarious stand-up sets that are presented in the show, and some of the best are done by Luke Kirby’s portrayal of Lenny Bruce.
These stand-up segments occur often in small, detailed recreations of time-accurate New York clubs, which is one of the first things I noticed about the show. Its dedication to its time period is truly commendable, and its portrayal of late 1950’s New York is stunning. There’s this beautiful rhythm to most everything in the series—which makes complete sense in a show about stand-up comedy. Timing is everything. You can tell when something is wrong with a character when their movements are off on either the show’s or the individual character’s rhythm. A stand out sequence is when Midge goes to her father-in-law’s clothing company and the camera follows her through the busy street filled with cars, people, and racks of clothing and into the manufacturing floor itself all while Midge does precise movements—almost dance moves—to avoid others and get where she wants to go. The second and third seasons take us to places outside of New York City and we get a better view of this time and world. The third season in general takes our characters out of their comfort area and into unknown territory both physically and mentally. In this season we spend a lot of time with Shy Baldwin and his band and get a far different picture of life than what Midge was used to. There’s some really great twists and revelations in this season that I don’t want to spoil, so go watch it for yourself!
Just this week The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel began filming its fourth season. The third season left on a large cliffhanger and has brought our characters into a very different situation than before, and I for one am incredibly excited for what’s to come. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was a shining bright spot during a rather difficult time in my life. It was my favorite series that I watched over Christmas break, and it is certainly some of the best TV that the streaming service era has to offer.