TV discussion

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – Season One Review

After a fantastic pilot earlier in the year, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel arrives for its eagerly awaited first season, adding another seven episodes to its roster, and, with a huge sigh of relief, shows that Amy Sherman-Palladino’s promising pilot episode was not a fluke. If anything, it simply gets better and better.

In fact, it arrives so perfectly formed and brilliant, that it almost feels as if there was no gap between the pilot and its additional seven episodes, the quality of the series simply only sharpening and getting better as the season continues.

The entire cast returns, with Rachel Brosnahan cementing what really should be a star making turn, while the scripts which come from Sherman-Palladino, Daniel Palladino and Sheila Lawrence are all consistently brilliant, with nothing in the way of a dud.

The second episode is such a strong return that one worries that everything after it will struggle to compete with it, but this is such a brilliantly consistent run of episodes that while eight episodes has probably ensured a high turn in quality, it still has the effect of leaving one wanting more after that glorious freeze frame final image of the season, even if it is feasibly one that could conclude the show on a satisfactory note.

There are many aspects that reminds one of Gilmore Girls, not least a brilliantly awkward dinner sequence that takes up the last third of second episode “Ya Shivu v Bolshom Dome Na Kholme” that is an undoubted season highlight, and possibly one of the greatest things that Amy Sherman-Palladino has ever written, not least for a one liner delivered by Tony Shalhoub that pushes the boundaries of taste, but which you can’t help but laugh out loud about in any event.

In fact the entire sequence is made up of one liners, an intense mixture of comedy and drama, with a cast doing brilliant work throughout. It’s sometimes uncomfortable, but in a way that great, cringe-comedy can do so well.

Similarly a moment later on in the season when Midge “bombs” on stage makes one want to hide behind their fingers, but Brosnahan’s performance and the writing from Amy, Daniel Palladino and Sheila Lawrence is so astute and makes you care for her so much, you’re just dying to cheer her on to get back from it. In fact, as a portrayal of a comedian “bombing” on stage goes, it is an incredibly raw and hard to watch moment, making you cringe instantly and wishing more than anything for it to stop.

The supporting cast is wonderful, with Tony Shalhoub in particular being a real stand out as Midge’s father Abe, but this is truly Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein’s show. Although theirs is a female friendship that sometimes recalls the one between Lorelai and Sookie in Gilmore Girls, there is a touch more grit to Midge and Susie in this series, their arguments are more charged, not least by the fact that since the series is an Amazon Prime series it can get away with more swear words than on network television.

Their friendship is the beating heart of the show, and better yet, the series never tries to hammer down a romantic subplot for either character. Yes, Joel (Michael Zegan), Midge’s husband who abandoned her in the pilot, is still there, and the series does focus on him at times, thankfully not to the extent that it overshadows either leading lady, but given that Midge’s marriage has fallen apart, none of the scripts try to put romance front and centre in a way that intrudes on to the themes that the series carries, themes that are paramount to what makes it deeply relevant in this day and age.

Once again, the more adult nature of the series compared to that of one on The WB/The CW is not forced, but natural, with the infrequent use of four letter words used minimally and, subsequently, being allowed to carry more impact than if the scripts were littered with it.

It is without doubt one of the most brilliant female driven comedy dramas to emerge in a very long time and, along with brilliant use of an anachronistic choice of songs for the end credits (there is never a bad time for David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel), combines to make for one of the most joyous and engaging viewing experiences of the year.

Amazon has struggled somewhat with their television output, what with The Man in the High Castle and Transparent being their biggest successes, while other projects have failed to capture the public’s imagination in the manner that Netflix and Hulu have managed to with their shows. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel should right that wrong somewhat, since it’s coming from one of television’s most popular and brilliant writers, but one that is doing something different from her biggest success, but doing it in a way that it should appeal to fans Gilmore Girls. It manages to be every bit as engaging, dramatic and gorgeously angst-ridden as that of life in Stars Hollow.

The wordplay, engaging drama and brilliant comedy is all there, and it has two female characters that are carried by two fantastic actresses in such a manner that you’re rooting for them to succeed all the way. Funny, charming and downright wonderful, it’s one of the best things that 2017 has given us.

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