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Helmed by Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, the creative duo behind Gilmore Girls, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel centers on a female comedian who didn’t know just how funny she was until life forced her hand. Set in the late 1950’s, Miriam Maisel is the perfect housewife who cooks briskets to perfection, measures herself every day to make sure she stays fit and supports her husband’s hobby to be a stand-up comedian. But after a bad set, Miriam’s husband realizes he doesn’t have what it takes to be a famous comedian – a good indication could have been that he never wrote his own material, but stole from other famous stand-ups – and decides that his life hasn’t turned out how he wanted. His perfect wife, two kids and VP job aren’t making him happy so he up and leaves his family for his secretary, a woman who can’t even use an electric pencil sharpener correctly.
The pilot isn’t without its faults, but it’s smart, funny and from the heart. The Palladino duo have done it again. From the beginning, when Miriam, aka Midge, gives a speech at her wedding you know that she’s a special character that sees the humor in life and isn’t afraid to poke fun at it. And, this really comes out in the second half of the episode.
After her husband leaves her, a drunk Midge goes down to the comedy club where her husband used to practice his ‘craft’ and gives a performance of her own. Seeing just a glimpse of what Midge has to offer is enough to make you realize this show is going to be something you can really sink your teeth into … (read more)
via HUNGRY WATCHING
Yes, she’s a little too on-the-nose, but ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ earns her title.
… Visually, it’s also a treat for you midcentury nostalgia nuts, minus the “Mad Men”-style gloom and doom. Set in late-1950s Manhattan with an extravagant and vivid attention to detail, the show is about 26-year-old Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan of “Manhattan” and “House of Cards”), a Jewish, Upper West Side housewife and Bryn Mawr alum, the overachieving daughter of Columbia University professor Abe Weissman (“Monk’s” Tony Shalhoub) and his prim wife, Rose (“Two and a Half Men’s” Marin Hinkle).
Midge married her dream beau, Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen), right after graduation and then what? Thanks to family connections, Joel got a corner-office job at a plastics firm while Midge keeps a pristine home in a spacious apartment that’s only three floors below her parents’ place.
The pitfalls of such a life are in fact the show’s strongest message: As a wife and mother (the Maisels have a toddler son and a baby daughter) who has cocooned herself in correctness and even waits until her husband is asleep to remove her makeup (which she then reapplies before his alarm goes off), Midge has set herself up for the shock that life is not always what it seems. She dotingly accompanies Joel to amateur nights at a downstairs dive in the Village, where she bribes the manager with a Pyrex dish of home-cooked brisket to give her husband a turn on stage. Once there, Joel’s stand-up routines are nothing special — and stolen from famous comedians.
Nevertheless, Midge loyally praises her husband’s attempts, right up until the moment he informs her that he’s having an affair with his ditsy secretary and wants a divorce. Enraged, Midge heads off in her housecoat to the nightclub, ostensibly to recover her missing Pyrex dish. In a drunken fit, she seizes the microphone and delivers her first unhinged routine about the real-life pain of dashed domestic dreams. After she bares her breasts to make a point, the cops barge in and arrest her.
Midge is bailed out by Susie Myerson (“Getting On’s” Alex Borstein), a tough-acting bartender who sees in Midge a potential to be the next big thing in comedy, maybe even the female version of Lenny Bruce. Yes, the Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby), who becomes a friend of Midge’s after she bails him out of jail and he returns the favor by bailing her out of jail a few nights later, when she again gets arrested on trumped-up charges of indecent behavior onstage. A career in stand-up comedy, he warns her, is something that, “like cancer and God,” ought not to exist …
… There couldn’t be a better moment for a show to explore the sort of obstacles waiting for a young woman trying to break into comedy more than half a century ago — and it seems that “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” like this summer’s 1970s-set “I’m Dying Up Here” on Showtime, could confront them bluntly. In the wake of Louis C.K.’s admissions of sexual misconduct toward women who worked with him (or aspired to), the comedy business still struggles with its inherent sexism. But rather than choose stridency and suppression as her show’s thematic thrust, Sherman-Palladino opts for a sincere form of big-city sass and striving … (read more)
Amy Sherman-Palladino Debuts Her Most Ambitious Show Yet
Willa Paskin writes: Anyone familiar with Gilmore Girls, the beloved television series about garrulous best friends who are also devoted mother and daughter, would immediately recognize Amy Sherman-Palladino, the series’ creator, as an Amy Sherman-Palladino character. She is a fierce and funny talker who yaks copiously, referentially, and caustically. To spend time with her is to hear how she wanted to play Rumpelteazer in a road production of Cats; learn that she can’t work in silence and so for a while was writing to Sophie’s Choice; be distracted by accessories that include a rhinestone flying-pig ring the size of an uncracked walnut; and witness her running argument with her Minnie Mouse iWatch, which is always telling her to breathe even though she is breathing and not just breathing but producing, writing, and directing Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the most ambitious TV show she has ever made.
In the first episode, Miriam “Midge” Maisel — a Jewish, Bryn Mawr–educated, 26-year-old wife and mother of two who is supremely content with her life as the queen of the 1958 Upper West Side — is abandoned by her husband, Joel, who name-checks the bohemian life he wants to be living and the secretary he’s sleeping with as he leaves. Midge wanders downtown onto the stage of the Gaslight Café, where she delivers an honest, raucous monologue. “All that shit they say about Jewish girls in the bedroom? Not true. There are French whores standing around the Marais district saying, ‘Did you hear what Midge did to Joel’s balls the other night?’ ” she punches, suddenly blessed and cursed by a calling to be a stand-up comic.
Mrs. Maisel is, among other things, a shimmery reverie about upscale Jewish New York, and in late July, Sherman-Palladino was filming in a delicatessen on the Upper West Side, a few blocks north of Zabar’s. “If I may,” Sherman-Palladino called through the room to the dozens of extras in period winter clothes, “in the 1950s, there was no manspreading. Put your knees together!”
“I just love Disney. I’m a child. I love Hello Kitty. I love anything that’s got a face. It’s like all my lamps have faces on them.”
— Amy Sherman-Palladino
Sherman-Palladino was a dancer into her early 20s, a background that you can see in her work — in the long swooping shots, the avoidance of close-ups, the length of scenes that unfold like a play. She had spent hours attending to the camera’s choreography, having it glide by the pickled tomatoes next to the cashier, slide underneath dangling salamis and over the counter as green-clad waitresses peeled off like kasha varnishkes–carrying dancers to reveal a sign offering borscht for 45 cents and a resplendently maroon Midge, played by Rachel Brosnahan, looking for her dining companion, a joke-writer played by Wallace Shawn. Now she wanted to ensure that the scene’s dialogue, a back-and-forth involving chopped liver and Eve Arden, zipped like screwball. “This is the part of the game where I start to say, ‘Pace it up!’ ” she called out, her image reflected in a dozen diner mirrors. “Pace it up, kids!”
“I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Tokyo. First of all, it’s the greatest place in the world, and I would live in Tokyo … we went to Tokyo, and it was a whole city of pink and sparkly things, and I’m like, ‘Where have you been my entire life?’ Like I knew as a child, I knew this place existed.”
— Amy Sherman-Palladino
A standard rule of thumb for a TV show is that a page of dialogue equals a minute of screen time. Mrs. Maisel’s episodes are around 50 minutes, but the scripts regularly edge up to 70 or 80 pages. “If it’s not fast, I’m bored,” she says. “The way I write, if you do it slow, I’m watching Narcos, I’m changing the channel. It’s got to have a pace and an energy and a rhythm to it.” The actress Alex Borstein, who plays Midge’s manager and has been friends with Sherman-Palladino and her collaborator and husband, Daniel Palladino, for years, says, “Sometimes you say [to them], ‘I think this line should be delivered slower,’ and they say, ‘No, no, no.’ If you don’t do it at that pace, the shows would be four hours long.” Sherman-Palladino’s request for speed is so common that, on hearing it, Brosnahan cheerfully said to no one in particular, “All day, every day.”
When Gilmore Girls was filming in the early aughts, its long, carefully synchronized scenes would often extend shooting late into the night. Lauren Graham, who starred in the show as Lorelai Gilmore, recalls that the only other series still on the Warner Bros. lot at such a late hour was also the only other one shooting pages and pages of walk-and-talks, Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing. Sorkin, like Sherman-Palladino, writes long, mannered, thickly worded scenes and has a thing for musical theater. But his walk-and-talks acquired a very different reputation than hers did — his work celebrated for its writerly parsing of politics, her work for the cute gabbing of its chatty Cathies.
has all the trademarks of a Sherman-Palladino show — the bold female lead; the dense, almost musical chatter; the dysfunctional but fundamentally loving family — previously evinced in Gilmore Girls and her short-lived ABC Family series about loquacious dancers, Bunheads, but it is thematically and logistically more “muscular,” to use Sherman-Palladino’s term, than what has come before. “I never thought of Gilmore Girls as a woman’s show. I thought of it as a show. I thought of it like Northern Exposure was a show,” she says, but while she was working on it, every job she was offered “had the word girl in it.” She found herself having to tell people, “I can write for someone who’s got a penis and a set of balls. Even if he’s just got one ball and a penis, I can write for that guy too.”
Sherman-Palladino doesn’t like to think of her shows as making arguments so much as having characters, and while Mrs. Maisel is feminist, she says, it’s not “in the sense of I’m out to make a point — hammer, hammer, hammer — about feminism.” But the points, still, are there to see, and only more so in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations (the ramifications of which have included the resignation of Amazon Studios’ director Roy Price for sexual-harassment allegations). “People still don’t fucking think women are funny,” she says. “There’s a lot of dudes out there doling out cash who don’t believe women are funny.” Midge Maisel is a woman fighting this misconception in the 1950s; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a TV show fighting this misconception right now.
Mrs. Maisel takes on these heady themes with a light touch. Though it was faithfully filmed on location all over New York City, guided by a production team that had previously worked on Vinyl and Boardwalk Empire, it has an optimistic camera that gives even real places and difficult circumstances the bounce of fantasy. “I think drama has gotten out of the habit of comedy and finding the absurdity in life and relationships and tragedy. It feels like you’re very, very serious or you’re very, very not serious, and I just personally have never found that that’s my reality,” she says, sitting at a green Formica table in the delicatessen, the room stinking of herbal cigarettes, nearby tables peppered with milkshakes and half-sandwiches covered in Saran wrap while the cast and crew take lunch. “Maybe it’s me. Maybe I walk through a minefield of comedic tragedy, but grit is something we did not want for this.” Mrs. Maisel’s aesthetic lodestar isn’t realism so much as The Pajama Game. When you watch it, you’re supposed to feel good. “When you see a woman up onstage, talking in a certain way,” Sherman-Palladino says, “it can make you feel like, All right, she’s up there, so maybe it’s not going to be The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Sherman-Palladino has three more chandeliers hanging in her office than seems strictly necessary: One could sufficiently light the place. She spends an inordinate amount of time in her office doing what she calls “purging words that I then try and pat into a paragraph” — i.e., writing. She prefers to do it in an environment more inspiring than typical drab desk-job décor. She recalls with particular fondness — “It was fucking great” — a burgundy-and-gold Gilmore Girls office, inspired by the Moulin Rouge, complete with mannequins and a broken piano. Her current work space, a previously nondescript gray corner in Steiner Studios, recommended only by its expansive view of Manhattan and the Williamsburg Bridge, has been redecorated in the spirit of “Paris atelier.” In the corner, an ornately dressed statue benignly stares off in the direction of an oriental rug, itself placed over a leopard-print carpet. The wine-red walls are hung with tasseled drapes, flowered wall sconces, and a large abstract yellow-and-red canvas with fraying edges. On her marble desk sits a Minnie Mouse mug, a Minnie Mouse travel cup, a black boater hat, a box of F*CK TRUMP lip gloss, and various papers. The overall effect is very madcap saloniste.
As she hangs a ukulele back on the wall, I ask her why she likes Minnie Mouse so much. “I just love Disney. I’m a child. I love Hello Kitty. I love anything that’s got a face. It’s like all my lamps have faces on them,” she says, gesturing across her office to a swooping floor lamp that, lo and behold, has a face peering out of its stem. She continues, “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Tokyo. First of all, it’s the greatest place in the world, and I would live in Tokyo. Do you want a pretzel? I exist on those pretzel chips because I get tired of takeout after a while.” She offers me some without missing a beat. “But we went to Tokyo, and it was a whole city of pink and sparkly things, and I’m like, ‘Where have you been my entire life?’ Like I knew as a child, I knew this place existed.”
Sherman-Palladino’s characters often sound as if they are preparing to jump off the bench and take over for Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. Talking to Sherman-Palladino feels the same, but with no possibility that a plot will get in the way of the patter. Her shows rarely make this mistake either — banter rules. Which reminds Sherman-Palladino: What’s the big deal about plot, anyway? “We always got slammed on Gilmore Girls because it was like nothing ever happened, there’s no plot,” she says. “But there’s a lot of plot! There’s a lot of emotional plot. I’ve never liked things where … (read more)
*This article appears in the November 27, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.