Marvelous Mrs Maisel review

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

2017 - United States

Season 1 Review by Anna Mae

It is fair to say that a good comedy series is pretty rare these days. Finding something that lacks in crudeness and actually offers good clean fun is one thing, but finding a comedy where the female character is not only the protagonist but highly successful - rather than the writers taking the mickey out of her, is something else. The fact that we are now on season three of The Marvellous Mrs Maisel is a testament indeed to just how successful this Amazon Prime original series has been.

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Our leading lady is Midge Maisel, played incredibly well by Rachel Brosnahan, and when we first meet her the initial impressions are that she is a bit of a mediocre and subservient housewife. We could not be further from the truth. It is written by Amy Sherman Palladino (Gossip Girls) and her husband Daniel Palladino, but this is a woman doing it for themselves type comedy, so it is clear that she is the leading light. He is there to support her. It is set in New York in the 1950s, and the family are a well to do Jewish pairing and have a comfortable life on the Upper Westside. Naturally, Mitch is a doting housewife, looking after the children and ensuring that she always oozes elegant perfection, which means waking up before he does to take her hair out of rollers and put on a full face of makeup. You would have thought all this effort would help, but instead, she discovers his secret that he is having an affair with his secretary; why is it always the secretary?

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

She was also supporting him in his attempts to become a stand-up comedian; however, he isn't very good and frankly failing. It turns out that our heroine is hilarious, and when it is discovered that she will need to earn a living for herself and the children, she decides to take to the stage. Of course, this does not go down well with her posh parents (Jewish father Abe portrayed by Tony Shalhoub) or her jealous (of her career and success) ex-husband Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen), all of whom would prefer that she stands endlessly day after day at a department store makeup counter rather than simply stand up. In this powerful and inspiring comedy, she goes against the grain and ends up with a fabulous sidekick in the form of Susie (Alex Borstein), who becomes her manager, the quirky pairing of the Butch Lesbian in overalls and hobnail boots is quite a contrast to our stunning starlet.  

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

When she first takes the stage, her audience is less than impressed to find a woman in front of them; stand up is a man's profession, and the audience is also primarily male. However, with persistence and various knocks along the way, she slowly begins to win them round, and they realise she is talented and incredibly funny. The grotty club that she first starts in gave her a chance to show just how clever she can be, and no one is expecting this elegantly dressed well to do lady to come out with the language and zingers that she does. Her ability to improvise and use the daily goings-on of the Manhattan area brings her so much success as the audience identifies with her struggle.

The relationship she has with her mentor Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) is platonic yet sweet, and together they plan for her to take on the world as a semi-professional comedienne, with Susie ever on hand to offer words of wisdom such as, 'look at you it's like a dollop of whipped cream grew a head', just the kind of support one would want from their manager!

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

The characters are so well written, with the Jewish/Manhattan jokes flowing and a refreshing outlook on women breaking free from the stereotype. The success is impressive, and this is already a Golden Globe and Emmy winning show. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend that you check out Amazon prime, but be prepared to bed down as this is a binge-worthy series that you will not be able to stop once you start. While there are currently three series, there certainly seems to be enough material for this to go on longer, and I, for one, cannot wait for more adventures to hit our screens. You will love the characters, you will want to be Mrs Maisel, and you will be recommending it to all your friends.

Review by Anna Mae

Anna Mae is a writer, proofreader and voice artist. 100% Storyteller, 90% Talent and 10% Coffee. Her website can be found at Home | Anna Mae Author

Season 5 Review by Jeniffer AJ

Despite the vibrant visuals, the show never shies away from the shadiness of showbiz

It’s “tits up” for the last time for Mrs Maisel as the Amazon Prime series came to a close with its fifth season. Midge Maisel’s rise to comic stardom has seen its ups and downs, and her big break always seems to be on the horizon. In four seasons, we’ve seen her and her intrepid agent Suzie go through so many mischiefs, many of their own making. With the show ending, will their efforts finally pay off?

Well, the show answers that question right off the bat: they did it. In a series of flash forwards, we see that Midge eventually becomes an A-list celebrity while Suzie establishes herself as a powerful Hollywood agent. The question isn’t really “when” but “how”. The 9-episode season explores that.

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

We revisit Midge as she begins her stint at The Gordon Ford Show, the show’s fictional late-night programme. Because she’s a writer now, season 5 has fewer stand-up acts but more plot progressions. Sprinkled throughout the series are snippets to different points in the characters’ future. Their ever-changing dynamics through the years provide a juxtaposition to where they stand in the present-day timeline of 1961. It’s an ingenious storytelling device that actually builds suspense for the main timeline. Kudos to writer-director team Amy and Daniel Sherman-Palladino for the creative choice.

Visually, Mrs Maisel never disappoints. When it comes to sets, props, and costumes - this show is as frugal as its protagonist (meaning: not at all). From season 2 onward, this little comedy exhibits a level of ambition usually reserved for big-budget tentpoles. The set pieces are shot in long takes, involving numerous extras in period regalia, set on location in various New York City iconic landmarks. Just like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl, this show adores New York. The creators really made a point to feature every historic corner of the city: from icons like Grand Central Station and Radio City Music Hall, to deep-cut spots like the old TWA Flight Center and Chelsea’s Garment District. All the more impressive given they had to scrub off all traces of the 21st century from the shots.

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Maisel’s ambition also shows in the way they do mise-en-scenes. It’s rarely ever just the speaking actors interacting. Extras don’t just pass by aimlessly. There will always be activities in the background: some kids playing and then making some sort of mess that will come into the forefront, performers in a dressing room chilling before something triggers some hijinks, restaurant guests having their own thing going captured on camera but never brought too much attention to. This style harkens back to the classic filmmaking technique of Hollywood’s Golden Age - certainly period appropriate for Mrs Maisel - and yet another thing that sets it apart from other comedy series. 

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

None of those flourishes matter if the story doesn’t work though. Following rather wobbly seasons 3 and 4, Maisel is back in fine form for its curtain call. Despite the vibrant visuals, the show never shies away from the shadiness of showbiz. Mobsters, sexism, drug addiction, the perils of aging - Mrs Maisel managed to tackle these subject matters with surprising sensitivity. The show also boldly admits its protagonists’ flaws: Midge is an absentee mother who puts her career above her kids, Suzie’s reliance on the mobsters fuels her rise to the top but costs her freedom, Lenny Bruce’s severe drug habits eventually catches up to him. Until the end, we never got neat bows for those facts, thankfully. 

That doesn’t mean the series didn’t wrap with a sense of satisfaction. No traditional happy endings here, but everyone ended up in full-circle moments. Joel began the series betraying Midge and ended it as her biggest ally. Midge’s parents eventually came to terms with their daughter’s unconventional path. It might not be an eye-popping finale, but it works as a proper sendoff - which is more than fans of so many other hit shows can hope for.

15 June 2023

Published on March 13th, 2021. Written by Anna Mae and Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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