Get ready to add another show to your list in this golden age of television!
If you’re one of those Gilmore Girls fans who also watched Bunheads for Amy Sherman-Palladino’s writing style, and continued to watch despite the fact the show had its flaws, we have a new show for you! OR if you didn’t watch either of those shows and have no idea who Amy Sherman-Palladino is, we have a new show for you! The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel pilot was released on Friday, and transports us back to 1958 in New York City, where a woman (the titular Mrs. Maisel played by Rachel Brosnahan) goes from “uptown housewife to stand-up comic in Greenwich Village.”
Like all Amazon pilots, the company bosses determine which shows they’ll pick up based on what the viewers want. You can currently watch the pilot for free (even without an Amazon Prime subscription), but if you need some convincing (or watched it already and want to relive it), read on to see why you need to add Mrs. Maisel to your queue.
I appreciated her as a prostitute in House of Cards, but TBH when I heard she got cast in this show, I had some hesitation – solely based on her playing Rachel in HoC, which I understand is unreasonable. But boy oh boy did she impress me in Maisel. She completely inhabits Midge Maisel’s New York housewife persona, and I felt like “House of Cards Rachel Brosnahan” and “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Rachel Brosnahan” are two completely different human beings. Her performance is not forced – it’s honest, hilarious, and heartbreaking all at the same time. It’s one of those things where you think, “My god, she’s going to be a star.”
The character of Miriam “Midge” Maisel is strong right from the get-go, as we see her giving a toast – more like a stand-up act complete with upright mic – at her wedding reception. She’s a loving and doting wife, but doesn’t let the “Mrs.” in front of her name define her. She has gumption but isn’t overbearing and annoying, and you find yourself rooting for her throughout the entire episode. She’s a character not to be slept on.
Mad Men Fix!
One of the things I loved most about Mad Men was just being in that world of 1960s New York. If you miss having that period piece in your life too, Maisel will definitely feed your addiction. The costumes (more on that next), sets, props, etc. are Matthew Weiner level detailed.
If you were to ask me what decade I’d like to live in, I will one hundred percent say the 1960s. Besides, like, the environment of segregation and racism that I’d have to endure, take me back. The music, the arts, the clothes – oh the clothes. In Maisel, every person on the screen is wearing an outfit that transports you back a few decades, and I am so here for it. And speaking of Mad Men, Midge even rocks a flowing blue nightgown that is v Betty Draper Francis. I loved it.
Amy is like the Christopher Guest or Ryan Murphy of reparatory players. She has an arsenal of actors she likes to work with, and they keep coming back for more. In Maisel, there were two Gilmore Girls alums – Alex Borstein, who played OG Sookie, Drella, and Ms. Celine and Brian Tarantina, who played Bootsy. Plus Bunheads ballerina (and GG: AYITL 30-Something) Bailey DeYoung aka Ginny has a lovely scene with Midge. And also Gilbert Godfried, because, comedy.
I’ve never watched anything on AmazonPrime but if you hover over the screen, it’ll give you a brief IMDb-type breakdown of the cast plus, details of the song that’s playing. Brilliant! Is this something they do all the time?
One of ASP’s off-screen rep players is musician Sam Phillips, who you know better as the woman who sings all the “La Las” in GG. She serves as Maisel’s music supervisor and while there are thankfully no La Las in this, she did curate an amazing soundtrack which in the pilot alone features ’60s staples Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, and Peggy Lee, among others.
Classic Amy Sherman-Palladino!
ASP’s trademark is her fast-paced dialogue and it does not slow down in the ’60s. If you didn’t like the fact that Lorelai and Rory spoke “too fast” on GG, don’t bother wasting your time on Maisel, because the swift, quirky, borderline over-the-top scripts are back. And with that comes some of Amy’s Palladino-isms, that only a crazy person like me would notice. For instance, characters frequently use sarcasm to get their point across, or use it to hide behind real emotion or confrontation (see: Lorelai/Emily). Then there’s giving inanimate objects names: in Maisel, Midge says Ted the Moth ruined her husband’s sweater, just like Luke kept forgetting Bert the Toolbox and Lorelai’s house.
In Maisel, there are odd tertiary characters like the one spoken word poet who just kept saying the city “Spokane” over and over again, which is something Kirk would totally do on open mic night. At one point, Midge says the phrase, “Goodnight, Gracie”, which is a) the name of a GG episode S3, E20 “Say Goodnight, Gracie”, b) is an exchange Luke and Lor have and c) all of the above are a ref to a George Burns and Gracie Allen play. Another Palladinoism in both GG and Bunheads are pop culture references up the wahzoo, but luckily, not many pop culture references (besides Ed Sullivan and Bob Newhart) in Maisel. However, there are some questionable lines (“You get chick raped?”).
Then there are character parallels that stood out to me between Maisel and Gilmore, and it’s probably because I know GG so well. To regular viewers, this won’t be a thing. And TBH, it’s not a thing to me either, but I’m just saying I see Richard and Emily in Midge’s parents, Abe and Rose. It’s not as blatant as it was in Bunheads, and I think that’s what makes this show 10xs better than Bunheads both in the pilot and entire series.
All this being said, what I think makes this show different is that this era is the era that ASP was born to write for (or born to live in), and it hits all the right notes the entire episode.
Watch this pilot! (and tell Amazon you want it picked up for an entire season). I dare say it’s as strong, if not stronger than the Gilmore Girls pilot. I was impressed with Amy’s next level writing and storytelling, and how she’s managed to create (hopefully) another hit.
“Did we have kids?” Joel inquring about his children’s whereabouts when he comes home after work
“Your daddy is crazy… Now let’s measure your forehead.” Midge
“I’m just afraid she’s not a pretty girl.”