The blurb I read about the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel talked it up as the second coming of Gilmore Girls. Co-created by Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, the team behind Gilmore Girls, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel certainly shows promise. The Gilmore Girls comparison is a little unfair. Aside from the sheer amount of dialogue, the tone, the era and the relationships are completely different. And other than a couple of inconsequential crossovers (did the Palladinos have a Russian winter themed wedding, do they wish they had? Not sure, but that specific reference pops up in both series) you would not necessarily know the shows share a creative team. My intense devotion to Gilmore Girls, and the expectations built up by the blurb, may have colored my first viewing of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I wanted to fall heads over heels in love with it, and I can't say that I did. That said, if a bit slow to start, there is potential in the premise and character development. Plus, I now want to move to New York City – in the 1950s.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel follows Miriam “Midge” Maisel after her husband, who dreams of trading in his office job for stand up comedy, leaves her for his secretary. Miriam is left to pick up the pieces and create a life with the leftovers. After an angry, drunken, unintentional night on stage at the Gaslight club, Miriam teams up with Susie, the hard scrabble Gaslight manager. Together the two decide to make a go at crafting Miriam into a true comedienne.
While I can appreciate that streaming TV is a great outlet for creative freedom, there is something I miss about a traditional 22-episode season. The first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a tight eight episodes. In order to be truly invested in the characters, there is a whole lot to learn about them and not a lot of time to do it. The first three episodes were mostly expositional, but with episode four it seemed that the show had found its’ voice. At that point the jokes seem less forces, the banter rolls off the tongue. That naturalism can be attributed to the depiction of the blossoming friendship between Miriam and Susie.
|Brosnahan and Borstein|
Even though Miriam and Susie come from completely different worlds they speak the same language, literally and metaphorically. Rachel Brosnahan (Miriam) and Alex Borstein (Susie) are fantastically natural in their shared scenes and, as a result, their banter is sharp and their relationship feels authentic. The same cannot be said of the other relationships depicted in the show. To start with, a classic TV arrangement: Miriam’s two kids are always conveniently with the sitter, her parents or sleeping. Anywhere but with her. If the premise of the show is that a young wife and mother gets the rug pulled out from under her but the kids don’t really seem to be a big part of her life, what, exactly, has she lost? Miriam’s relationship with her parents doesn’t ring true; there are glimpses of change heading to the end of the season so it will be interesting to see where that goes in the next season – especially if she continues to live with them.
One of the best things about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the setting. Having never been to New York nor lived during the 1950’s, I’m in love with the Greenwich Village folk scene. The whole show has a Carousel of Progress feel to it. Colorful old appliances, Zagnuts and Boston Baked Beans at the newsstand and Howdy Doody on TV all combine to pick you up and transport you to into an alternate reality. And the music, always a highlight on Gilmore Girls, is carefully chosen to underscore the tone of the scene or the moods of the characters. Hits and lesser-known songs from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Blossom Dearie and Paul Revere and the Raiders blend seamlessly into the environment of the show. Streisand’s version of “Happy Days Are Here Again” playing over a montage of Miriam moving back in with her parents intercut with scenes from her and Joel’s milestones in their apartment comments on both time periods in Miriam’s life but in very different ways. The acts at the Gaslight are fun as well. I hope beyond hope that some of those acts are intentional homages to Pete Seeger and the Smothers Brothers.
It is great to have the Palladino voice back on TV, or at least in our streaming services. The end of Gilmore Girls left a hole in a lot of hearts, mine included. And while The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel may not compare, that’s okay, because they really shouldn’t be compared. The charm of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has only started to reveal itself. Season 2 ought to be a hoot.