The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (season 1)

TV-series review: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – season 1 (Amazon Prime, 2017)

Woman looking back at camera in a crowd of men facing the other wayCreated by Amy Sherman-Palladino is the story of Miriam, or Midge, Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), a housewife and mother of two in late 1950s/early 1960s New York who regularly bribes the local comedy club with briskets to get her husband Joel (Michael Zegen) a better time slot for his stand-up comedy routine.

Midge takes notes to help Joel improve his act – what did people find funny, what didn’t they? – but out of the two, she’s the naturally funny one. When her husband turns around and dumps her for his dimwitted secretary, her whole world falls apart. She drunkenly staggers on stage and … could she actually find herself a new career as a stand-up comic?

Comedy club manager Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) certainly thinks she has potential, and that’s the basic premise of this series.

Midge and the children move back in with her parents, Rose (Marin Hinkle) and Abe (Tony Shalhoub) Weissman, and their housekeeper Zelda (Matilda Szydagis). The Weissmans and the Maisels (Kevin Pollak and Caroline Aaron) try to get their wayward children back together again, because what would the Rabbi say?

The first season is Midge getting to grips with being more than just a mother and a housewife – and is stand-up comedy really her thing? Established comedian Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) certainly seems to think so, at any rate. She finds herself a day job, and her not-particularly-funny husband continues to struggle with his borrowed comedy routines.

I had seen the trailer and was interested in the show, but hadn’t got around to actually watching it – it’s an Amazon Prime original, so it’s not likely to be removed while you’re in the middle of watching it (like s5 of Brothers & Sisters – thanks, Amazon!), so no rush – until I found out who was in season two, and in order to watch season two, I had to start at the beginning. Not that I’m complaining, because it turned out to be a very watchable show.

Rachel Brosnahan is radiant, and while Midge is arguably not the best of people at times, she’s still likeable and I found myself rooting for her. Joel, on the other hand, UGH! What a drip! He’s an unsupportive husband, and it turns out he’s been cheating on his wife for months, and he’s not half as funny as he thinks he is. Midge is clearly much better off without him, and she’s clearly a much funnier person naturally than he could ever hope to be.

The Weissmans are a neurotic kind of couple in various ways, but I liked Abe better – he didn’t at least go on about measuring every inch of your body every single day and make notes, because that’s how a whole heap of body image problems start.

My number one favourite character, though, is Susie Myerson. She’s a tough cookie who does not conform to traditional ideas of femininity, and I just found her sort of relatable in some ways. But mostly she’s a grumpy nugget of awesomeness and I love her!

As I’m very much not and have zero real-life experience with, or exposure to, Jewish culture (bagels don’t count), at times it’s perhaps hard to fully grasp concepts? Not that it’s a problem watching the show, though, it just surprised me how alien it seemed. But then it’s also set a good 20-odd years before I was even born, and in a country on an entirely different continent, so it all adds up to “wow, I have no frame of reference for this at all” … which is a good thing. I love learning new things in general, and key to not be a racist dick is willingness to learn about people other than yourself.

All in all, I really like this show and while I did start watching it so I could get to season two, by the time I was ready to start on season two, I was happy to do so even without the carrot of who was going to be in it. Like I am now looking forward to season four when that comes out.

4.5 out of 5 freshly cooked briskets.

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