It feels like cheating to write about a series when it’s had a second season already and has been as critically acclaimed as Mrs. Maisel has recently. I imagine if someone were to just see the title of my posting and the fact that I’m writing about it for my blog, they’d go, “Oh – another person to pile on the praise to this show. BORING.” And yeah, they might be right about it being boring to pile on praise, but guys – there’s a reason why. Also, I don’t feel too much like a Johnny-come-lately with this show since it was one of the ones I watched back when I was on maternity leave, and I loved it back then too.
So – what’s the story, and what’s to like? The show centers around one Midge Maisel, a housewife in 1950s Manhattan, living a privileged life in a beautiful apartment in the same building as her parents. She and her husband are able to abscond down to the Village on weeknights by leaving the kids (including a newborn?) at home with her parents maid (because…yeah). Midge’s husband Joel has aspirations to be a stand-up comedian, and so she does what she can to support him – making delicious food for the open-mic night bookers, and generally greasing all the wheels. But when Joel starts sleeping with the secretary at his corporate job on the side and Midge finds out, she loses it in a new and very interesting way. She gets very drunk, marches down to that comedy club where she has spent so much time supporting him, and gets up on stage in her nightie and proceeds to perform a set that gets her the attention of a woman who works the club and wants her to continue with comedy, the audience (who eats it up), and the police, who put her in jail for the night because she flashed her boobs at the audience.
All of this is the first episode, and it is FASCINATING. Not only do we get a glimpse into what could be, but we get terrific winks with the appearance of Lenny Bruce as a character, and an amazing soundtrack. Seriously – this show re-introduced me to the music of Peggy Lee, and helped me realize how much little babies love a steady rhythm, making her song “Pass Me By” which features prominently in the first episode one that I had on repeat often during B’s first months.
The show feels like a fantasy though – obviously it’s based on some fact, and there were some progressive women doing crazy things in the 50s the way that Midge does. But sometimes it feels like you have a modern woman, brainwashed into the 1950s attitude at first, slowly realizing how modern she is as the show goes on. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but either I don’t know a lot about what attitudes were like in the 50s towards various issues, or else ladies back then were more progressive than I imagine. In any case, Midge is a force of nature. She is not so much played as embodied by Rachel Brosnahan, who I knew primarily from the early seasons of House of Cards. Brosnahan is a revelation, and is perfectly able to deliver the rapid-fire dialogue that show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is known for.
The other thing that I love about the show is the inside look at a few different areas of life that I had no experience with otherwise. First and foremost being the world of underground stand-up comedy in the 50s. I’d heard the name Lenny Bruce before but didn’t have a good idea of who he was or what his deal was. He and Midge become friends of a sort, and it was cool to see him as a sort of mentor to her. It was also fascinating to see how Midge develops her act, and then attempts to get more gigs and visibility in the comedy world (at the same time as she tries to hide her second life from her parents). The final area where I went, “Huh!” was in the second season, which features a long stretch of time where Midge and her family are at a resort in the Catskills. I’d heard of the Borscht Belt (but always imagined it being in Pennsylvania somewhere?), and I’d seen Dirty Dancing, but I had never put two-and-two together that these were the same kind of place, and that they were such an intrinsic part of being a mid-to-upper-class Jewish family in the NYC area.
Anyways – the point is that the show is great. The hype is real, and very deserved. At 10 hour-ish long episodes per season with only 2 seasons aired so far, it’s a very manageable show to catch up on. With season 2 released in December of 2018, chances are the third season won’t drop until sometime much later this year, and so it’s an easy show to watch. It’s also the kind of show you need to be wary of bingeing, because you will suddenly find yourself with no more episodes to watch, and a lot of disappointment to deal with. But based on its awards success so far, chances are good that Amazon will keep this show around for a long time. And I for one, appreciate that.
Details: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, streaming on Amazon Prime. Season 3…coming?