The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – on Amazon Prime:
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premiered on Amazon Prime in 2017 and is now preparing for its fourth season. The series chronicles the life of Midge Maisel (played by Rachael Brosnahan), a young and bubbly Jewish wife who is devoted to her handsome husband Joel (played by Michael Zegen). The two are living the idyllic upper middle class life in New York in the early 1950’s. They have a wonderful apartment in the same building as Midge’s parents – a convenient arrangement as Rose Weissman (Midge’s mother played by Marin Hinkle) can always be counted to provide a place for their two children when the couple want to get out on the town.
The Maisel’s good life is more precarious than Midge thinks, as Joel’s well-paid executive position is in his uncle’s company and their apartment is actually owned by Joel’s father Moishe (played by Kevin Pollak), a very successful garment manufacturer. The serpent is already polishing apples when the story begins. Joel is bored with his job and has dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian. Midge is happy to follow him to a seedy nightclub that caters to an open mic amateur talent pool. Midge is ready to bribe the bar manager with tasty dishes in exchange for Joel getting a better time spot for his act. But there’s a problem – Joel is just plain terrible on stage – not to mention his penchant for stealing material from established comedians like Bob Newhart. Midge is blissfully unaware of these shortcomings, always looking at her husband through the rose colored glasses she began wearing when Joel first began courting her.
The situation deteriorates when Joel falls for his decidedly young and goy secretary. Fate pulls the trigger on the marriage when Joel flops one night at the club, unable to remember his lines. He blames Midge for the disaster and the next thing she knows, he’s left her for his secretary. What follows is the best comedy routine of the entire series. Midge, not much of a drinker, polishes off an entire bottle of wine and finds herself in the club. She barges onto the stage and starts a monologue on being dumped by her husband. Working with a theme of ‘how could he give up this for her?’ she is arrested for indecent exposure. She’s unaware that Susie Mayerson (played by Alex Borstein), the actual manager of the club, has watched her act and decided that she’s got the potential to be a superstar comedienne.
Rose Weissman is scandalized by the marital break-up of her daughter – even her psychic hadn’t warned her! There is a campaign to get them back together. Rose enlists her long-suffering husband Abe (played by Tony Shalhoub) to do what he can. Abe swallows his pride and seeks help from Joel’s father Moishe, a man he cannot stand at the best of times. Moishe does his part and Joel soon discovers a new secretary assigned to him – an older matronly woman. It doesn’t help and Joel moves in with the secretary, losing his apartment in the process, and causing Midge to move back in with her parents.
Midge meets the legendary Lenny Bruce (played by Luke Kirby) at the police station, giving him bail money and cab fare. By this time she’s got the performing bug and is determined to succeed where husband Joel failed. Susie is convinced that Midge will be her path to fame and fortune managing Midge’s career. The series continues with Midge and Susie teaming up as Midge learns the ropes and suffers some hard lessons while trying stand-up comedy at the club. All the while she’s living at home, finding work in a department store and resisting the efforts of everyone trying to get her to reconcile with Joel.
There are wonderful things about this series, the first of which is the cast. Right from the first episode all the characters jell – they feel right and comfortable with their roles and interact splendidly. The whole cast if really first rate. The New York of the fifties is splendidly captured as is the upper middle class Jewish life. The series has the same kind of comedic feel you get listening to the early Woody Allen nightclub monologues.
I was wowed by the first episode and swept along by the second episode. Then came two episodes where Midge faced the tough realities of doing stand-up comedy. They were no doubt necessary for the character’s development but these episodes left me a little flat – wondering if it was going to be one of those series that illuminate the skies for a brief moment, only to fizzle out fairly quickly. I thankfully continued on and found it springing back to life, with lots of good and funny comedy routines, although nothing yet that has topped Mrs. Maisel’s first appearance.
The second season opens with Rose abandoning her family for Paris with her husband Abe and Midge tracking her down and trying to convince her to return to New York. The two episodes in Paris are a splendid tour de force to showcase the talents of the supporting cast – Shaloub and Hinkle are magical together.
If you are tired of the usual ongoing political comedies, and looking for an alternative for a good laugh, I would recommend this series as great place to spend some time.