Interviews & Profiles

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel: A Profile of Amy Sherman-Palladino

If one were to find themselves as a character in a Amy Sherman-Palladino television series, you can expect one thing; you’re going to talk fast. Very fast.

The creator of one of television’s most popular dramas, if Gilmore Girls was all that Sherman-Palladino had on her IMDb page, it would be enough to make her something of a television legend, but with a background in sitcom writing, and a distinct writing style that immediately recalls the works of many a screwball comedy from the 40’s, Sherman-Palladino has made herself into one of American television’s most distinctive voices.

Originally setting her sights on being a trained dancer (something that would be at the heart of her one-season wonder, Bunheads), Sherman-Palladino found herself having to decide on either answering a callback for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, or taking on a staff writing position on Roseanne.

There is possibly an alternate universe out there where Amy Sherman-Palladino took Cats and television is a lesser place because there is no dog called Paul Anka who meets the real Paul Anka in a Lorelai Gilmore dream, but she took the writing position for one of the America’s most famous and influential sitcoms and the road to Stars Hollow was paved.

The writersroom for Roseanne has become the stuff of legend, for right reasons and wrong, but also because at various points it housed Amy’s future husband Daniel Palladino, as well as Joss Whedon, Chuck Lorre and Norm McDonald. From Roseanne, Palladino went on to write for other sitcoms, some that did pretty well like Veronica’s Closet, others that didn’t such as the Tim Curry/Annie Potts vehicle Over the Top, as well as an early creation of her own in the shape of Love and Marriage.

She then subsequently got invited to The WB Network to pitch ideas, the last of which was a comedy drama about a mother and daughter who were more like best friends due to the mother having had her daughter when she was a teenager herself. By her own admission on the Gilmore Girls season one DVD, Amy made it up last-minute and wasn’t sure what the show was going to be, but in the end it would give Amy her biggest ever success, the show being a mainstream hit for The WB, as well as capturing an adoring fanbase.

Debuting in 2000, the series did solid numbers but it wasn’t until its second  year that it really took off, the tale of Lorelai and her daughter Rory becoming a flagship series for the network, not to mention gaining critical acclaim thanks to its brilliantly written and quickly delivered dialogue, as well as for the performances of Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel and Kelly Bishop.

The series documented the ins and outs of the characters brilliantly, and for the first five seasons was seen to barely put a foot wrong. The sixth drew criticism for panning out a storyline involving a schism between Lorelai and Rory for far too long, and using the old trope of a long-lost daughter coming into the life of a pivotal character, in this case Lorelai’s soulmate Luke, as a means to cause further drama.

Controversy then struck before the seventh season started production when The WB merged with rival network UPN to create The CW, and with it failed contract negotiations with both Amy and her husband Daniel Palladino. The husband and wife team had wanted to take on more writers and a permanent in-house director, but since both Palladinos’ voices were very much the most prevalent on the show, The CW didn’t go with their request, and as a result the series lost its creator, as well as one of American television’s most witty voices.

The series would come back under the eye of showrunner David S Rosenthal, but it wasn’t the same and the series would, in the end, be cancelled at the end of the seventh season.

Her next creation would be The Return of Jezebel James for the Fox Network, a thirty minute sitcom which would end up being something of a disaster, gaining negative reviews and low ratings and would end up being cancelled after a mere three episodes.

Bunheads, a creation for ABC Family, fared a little better, but it would also be a short run thing, lasting only for one season,. Starring Sutton Foster and set in The Paradise Dance Academy, the series  featured appearances from several Gilmore Girls performers, including Kelly Bishop, Sean Gunn and the late Jon Polito. Despite being cancelled, it did gain good reviews from critics and was considered a much better show that Jezebel James.

Several other projects were in development at various points of time, but for a while there was nothing, but like buses, two new shows would come bearing her name more or less at the same time, one of which was one of the most eagerly awaited television revivals of 2016.

The announcement of a Gilmore Girls revival at Netflix was met with eager anticipation, primarily because it would give the show a chance to attain closure under the eye of its creator that it hadn’t been able to before. Picking up nine years after the end of the previous season, Sherman-Palladino didn’t shy away from things that had happened under Rosenthal’s year, and instead of doing twenty-two episodes like the original series, the revival would be done in the form of four feature-length specials, with each episode covering one season of a year, beginning with Winter and working its way to Fall.

Like all revivals, opinion was split on its merits, not least the famous final word words that Amy had been promising would end the show since the original run, but it was Amy’s show again, and with both her and Daniel calling the shots, the series was a lovely warm, nostalgic return to a firm old favourite and featured many moments that could arguably be considered the best in the entire run of the series.

At the same time, Amazon announced that one of their forthcoming pilots would be a Sherman-Palladino creation. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel debuted to critical acclaim and was immediately picked up for a two season run. Set in 1958 New York, and starring Rachel Brosnahan as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, whose husband leaves her for another woman and subsequently discovering a talent for stand up comedy, the series will also star Alex Borstein (the original choice for Sookie on Gilmore Girls, a role that subsequently went to Melissa McCarthy), Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle, and became one of the most popular pilots in Amazon’s pilot season of 2017, gaining high star rating from viewers.

Incredibly confident in its approach, the pilot arrived almost perfectly formed and leaves one with a very high anticipation for the series, whilst allowing Brosnahan, who had previously appeared in darker roles in things like House of Cards and The Blacklist, to stand out in a more comedic vain, but one with streaks of great drama.

Its mixture of comedy and character drama is a perfect combination and is brought together brilliantly by Sherman-Palladino’s fantastic ability to combine both, sometime in the space of a single scene, even sometimes in the space of a single moment. It’s this mixture of laughs and seriousness, not to mention fast paced dialogue, which marks her out as one of American television’s greatest, and most underrated voices, and with a new and original series on the way, hopefully we’ll be greeted with it for some time to come.

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is now streaming on Amazon Prime. Let us know what you think of it.

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