‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ is a treat not to be missed
I have little in common with a wealthy Jewish family living on the Upper West Side in the 1950s.
This is in contrast to most of New York City, with its tiny, crowded sidewalks full of pushy people in a hurry, bicyclists on a mission to run you over, funny smells and energetic excitement.
Although the likelihood of me residing on the Upper West Side is on par with taking up residence in Antarctica, I have become completed enamored with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a new series recently produced by Amazon Prime which is set in that very location.
This wonderful series, written by Amy Sherman-Palladino of “Gilmore Girls” fame, premiered its pilot in March, with the remaining seven episodes released on Nov. 29.
It has already been nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and three Critics’ Choice Television Awards. I have no doubt other nominations and awards are coming its way.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” tells the story of Miriam “Midge” Maisel, played by Rachel Brosnahan, who is enjoying married life in 1958 with
her husband, businessman Joel. In the evenings, the Maisels don black turtlenecks and take a taxi from the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side’s Gaslight Comedy Bar, where Joel moonlights as a struggling comedian – mostly stealing material from Bob Newhart and telling jokes written by his wife. He really is not very funny.
After one particularly bad performance, Joel confesses that he has been having an affair with his secretary, Penny Pann, packs a bag and leaves Miriam and their children.
Miriam gets drunk, goes to the club, grabs the microphone and delivers a funny, off-the-cuff standup routine that lands her in jail for obscenity. She is bailed out by real-life comedian Lenny Bruce (played by Luke Kirby of “Rectify.”)
And this is all in the pilot episode.
The remaining seven episodes introduce Miriam’s eccentric family, including her father Abe Weissman (played by the wonderful Tony Shaloub) and her manager Susie (played by Alex Borstein) as she attempts to break into the business during a time when women were just arm candy to male comedians.
Anything written by Sherman-Palladino is sure to contain quick dialogue and a joke a minute, and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is no exception.
In one flashback, Mariam is remembering her wedding, and we see the dancers that she hired perform a bottle dance – made popular by the Broadway version of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which opened in 1964.
“Someone should really do something with that,” she tells her new husband.
The sets, costumes and musical productions are pieces of art unto themselves, and the series deserves a second viewing just to luxuriate in Mariam’s period-perfect designer duds.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is a smart, funny and entertaining way to spend an hour – or eight if you choose to binge watch.
Susan Campbell may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.