Thanks to Louie, the world isn’t exactly lacking for TV shows about stand-up comedians these days. So, why do we need Amy Sherman-Palladino’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?
Because it’s damn good, that’s why.
Back up. What are we talking about here?
Last month, Amazon unveiled its latest batch of original TV pilots for us to sample, rate and review. The last time they did this all three of their pilots were received warmly enough to be picked up to series, though the resulting full seasons of I Love Dick, The Tick and Jean-Claude Van Johnson have yet to arrive. Obviously, it remains to be seen what will become of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (or of any of the other new pilots, which include one other hour-long drama and three half-hour comedies), but this seems like a slam dunk. Oh, you have a pilot for Amy Sherman-Palladino’s new show after the Gilmore Girls revival broke the internet last year? Um, yes please. Why didn’t you just order this straight to series?
Alas, all we have at the moment is this 57-minute pilot about a good Jewish wife in 1958 who turns out to be far funnier than her wannabe stand-up comedian husband, a 9-to-5er who moonlights at comedy clubs.
The pilot open with the titular Mrs. Maisel, full name Miriam “Midge” Maisel (played by Rachel Brosnahan as if she was born to be a Sherman-Palladino fast talker), delivering a funny, but informative toast at her wedding. We learn everything we need to know about her background and type A personality from this toast, and surprise, surprise – she comes from money and has brash, but well-meaning parents (most notably, Tony Shaloub plays the dad). A 4-year time jump then takes us into her happy home life as the most kickass housewife in the history of kickass housewives:
Her brisket? To die for!
Her classic six Upper West Side apartment? Immaculate and spotless!
The two kids? Almost entirely unseen, but we assume they’re off somewhere already training to grow up to become a lawyer or doctor.
Her body? Divine. She still measures herself every day, and hasn’t gained an inch since college, a fact she proudly boasts about to an envious friend.
Moreover, she’s constantly there to clean up her husband’s messes, securing him better timeslots at the Gaslight Café in Greenwich Village, taking dutiful notes of the audience reactions to his jokes. Plus, she just convinced the rabbi to come to their place for Yom Kippur. Put an S on her chest because I do believe we found ourselves a Superwoman.
But there’s no story here if it’s just a Jewish superwoman supporting her husband into greatness. [SPOILER ALERT] That dude needs to go so that Mrs. Maisel can truly become marvelous. Thus, by the end of the pilot her husband has suddenly bolted for another woman, causing Midge to wander into the Gaslight Café where she gets drunk and storms the stage to humorously but honestly vent her frustration over the sudden sad turn her life has taken. It’s similar to what happens to Pete Holmes in the Crashing pilot except there his attempt to pull a Tig Nataro and instantly turn personal tragedy (he walked in on his wife with another man) into stand-up comedy gold results in him bombing whereas Midge slays and wins the crucial support of a longtime comedy club worker played by Alex Borstein.
The series, should it go forward, will chronicle Midge’s attempt to become one of the first female stand-up comedians, with the help of Borstein’s character and possibly with some form of assistance/or resistance from Lenny Bruce (played by Rectify‘s Luke Kirby), who she briefly rubs elbows with in the pilot.
We’ve only just begun to glimpse the potential greatness of this series, which has all of the classic Sherman-Palladino traits but not quite as overwhelmingly as Gilmore Girls. For example, instead of an entire town full of characters who talk as if they are all in a classic Hollywood screwball comedy Marvelous piles almost all of that into Midge, leaving the rest of the characters struggling to keep up with her. Plus, the pop culture references aren’t quite as fast and loose, which gives the show a little more room to breathe. Thus, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel can likely be enjoyed by even those who never quite warmed to Gilmore Girls or Bunheads. If you do like those shows, though, then get thee to a streaming device to check out Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, tout suite.
Amazon currently has some egg on its face over the strange cancellation of the apparently well-performing Good Girls Revolt, which attempted to be a Mad Men from the female perspective (Mad Women, I guess). Marvelous Mrs. Maisel could make up for it by covering a similar time period and place (i.e., late 50s/early 60s New York) and focusing on a strong central female character. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
UPDATE 4/10/17: Amazon just ordered not one but two full seasons of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. So, yeah. That happened. Wow-zuh.