Tuesday, January 2, 2018

TV Show Review: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Amazon has a delightful new comedy that is uplifted and funny even as likable characters stumble and get in their own way. The titular Miriam "Midge" Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) is a loving wife and mother who supports her husband Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen) and his dreams of being a comedian. She bribes the man, Jackie (Brian Tarantina)  who controls the lineup at the comedy club, the Gaslight. The manager Susie Meyerson (Alex Borstein) keeps an eye out for talent but doesn't see any in Joel. Midge tries to help Joel with his act but Joel feels so disappointed with failures to get laughs that he decides to leave his wife. It doesn't help that he has been sleeping with his secretary. Midge is baffled to find that Joel has been stealing his act from a famous comedian but more importantly that he was having an affair and plans to leave. 

Distraught from this new development in her life, Midge gets drunk on champagne and heads to the Gaslight. She bravely strides onto the stage and drunkenly lays out her personal problems in a hilarious comedy routine that receives amazing feedback from the crowd and convince Susie that Miriam has talent. She ends the act by taking off her shirt and exposing her breasts so the police come in and arrest her. She meets Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) on her way out of prison and they share a bond over comedy. Susie bails Midge out because she desperately wants to help manager Mrs. Maisel and help hone her talent. 

Miriam's close-knit family soon gets involved when news of the separations spreads. Rose (Marin Hinkle) and Abe Weissman (Tony Shalhoub) are concerned about their daughter's separation but allow her to come live with them when Joel's father Moishe Maisel (Kevin Pollak) takes away their apartment. Midge starts to work on her act and her stage name but just as she is gaining confidence with her act, she bombs. She says a ton of stuff that just isn't funny and the crowds react poorly. Repeated failures frustrate Midge plus she finds herself in more legal trouble after another one of her acts catches the eye of the police. Her parents are demanding that she do chores and return home at a specified time so she recognizes that she must work for her independence. She applies for a job at the makeup counter. Her routine still fails but she finds success among crowds at parties and begins to treat them like gigs. 

Susie is unimpressed when she reconciles with Midge and finds out about her performances. She is especially wary of the male talent agent who tries to recruit Midge into a duel act with another male comedian. Susie encourages Midge to start to work on her cat and she develops a tight ten minutes performing at the Gas Light. Susie reaches out to the big talent agent Harry Drake (David Paymer) to try and get Midge to open for the big time talent Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) but when Mrs. Maisel finds out that Sophie is faking her act to create a character, she performs a routine skewering the famous comic in front of her agent. Midge's career seems dead until Susie manages to pull some strings and has Lenny Bruce introduce her before a solid act. Midge also starts to rekindle her relationship with Joel who becomes jealous when he finds out his wife is better at comedy than him.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel had been gaining some buzz before I got around to watching it and Amazon series are never high on my list but I decided to check it out and was completely charmed from the first few scenes. Rachel Brosnahan gives an extraordinary performance and I'm not sure if she does an accent but from what else I've seen her in, I was totally shocked by this character she did. Alex Borstein has been doing comedy for as long as I can remember and she adds another hilarious performance to her list. The supporting cast is rounded out wonderfully and this show has plenty of funny subplots that I wasn't able to address in this review. I will be waiting anxiously for the second season of this Amazon series.  

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