The Marvelous Debut of “Mrs. Maisel”
This winter break, I fell in love. When I heard “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had a new show on Amazon Prime, I cancelled all my (nonexistent) plans and buckled in for what I knew would be an epic television viewing experience. I was right. I laughed, I cried, I rewinded to make sure I caught all the witty dialogue, and I finished the show, excited for a future where television is lead by female characters.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” follows an upper class Jewish housewife in 1958 New York who decides to become a stand-up comedian after her marriage fails with the help of bar manager Susie (Alex Borstein). It’s like AMC’s “Mad Men” meets HBO’s “Crashing.” Every aspect of the show — the stunning costumes and cinematography, the genuinely laugh out loud funny dialogue, the amazingly accurate depiction of a Jewish family’s dynamic — comes together in a whirlwind to create a charming yet fiercely poignant show about comedy, women and family.
Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnashan) is a fantastical, almost unbelievable character. She’s the perfect wife and mother, whose eyelashes are always in place and never has a nail chipped. But the brilliance of Palladino, and the rest of the show’s writers, shines just when the audience is about to shut off the television with an eye roll, until Midge gets drunk and rants about the failure of her marriage before flashing everyone in a grimey bar. From the pilot episode, the juxtaposition of societal expectations of housewives in the 1950s (which hits just a little too close to home considering it’s 2018) with the unhinged scorn of a drunk woman is hilarious and sets up the show’s appeal as a whole. Everything in Midge’s life is sprinkled with a bit of stardust because that’s how she’s told it should be. Her marriage falls apart, and her mother asks her what she did to cause the failure. She undoes her bra before having sex to make it easier on her husband. Yet when the reality of being kicked out of her apartment and having to find a job sets in, everything that seems perfect crumbles. But the stardust is still there, and watching Midge find it is one of the best things I’ve seen on television this past year.
I could probably go on for ages about the costumes, which for any fashion nerd is a dream to look at, and the beautiful, cinematic shots but that would be boring. I will say that this is one of the only shows I’ve seen that can make drunk guys peeing in the streets of New York look pretty in a walking shot. But the heart of the show comes from Midge’s interactions with her parents Abe and Rose Weissman played by Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle. Abe Weissman, a serious but slightly neurotic mathematics professor, is hilariously out of his depth trying to deal with his mid-20s daughter and wife. No matter how many times he says he’s the head of the house, it’s simply not true and the hilarity of watching it play out is amazingly reminiscent of my own family dynamic. His determination to do what he believes is best for his daughter is a touching example of how even the best of intentions aren’t actually what’s best. No matter how much he loves his daughter, his is unable to comprehend her as an independent. The tension is a product of the times, but the show doesn’t villainize Abe which provides a refreshing understanding for an older generation.
It’s a show unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The performances are outstanding and like Palladino’s other shows, there are just so many good elements to the show that it just feels a bit like magic. It’s hilarious, vulgar and sweet. A perfect way to end a winter break or the best way to start the winter quarter.