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Josh Reviews The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season Two!

I rather enjoyed the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but I had a smidge of hesitation entering into season two.  That first season was a wonderful concoction, fun and original, and it felt like a complete story.  Was this a story that had legs, to continue successfully into multiple further seasons?  Did I really want to continue following these characters?  I’m pleased to report that I found season two to be very enjoyable over-all, displaying an impressive amount of craft in front of and behind the camera.  The season does have some flaws, which I will discuss below, but there’s enough about this show that’s good-to-great that I enjoyed making my way through this sophomore season.

As season two begins, we see that Midge Maisel is now working as a stand-up comedian.  She seems to have skill in the craft, and she and Susie have started to scrape together a career for her.  But the two women face several challenges.  The first is Midge’s resistance to fully embracing this new path (she never considers canceling her usual summer vacation trip to the Catskills) and to being honest with her friends and family about what she’s doing.  The second is Susie’s inexperience as a manager and her persistent money problems.  The third is the walls that both women repeatedly encounter as they attempt to succeed in a man’s world in the late nineteen-fifties.

I was surprised and pleased by the degree to which this season, particularly the first few episodes, focused on Midge’s parents, Rose and Abe.  Rose in particular was mostly in the background in season one, but I was delighted by the way the season premiere allowed us into this character, exploring how trapped she felt in New York and the pull of a life on her own in Paris (where she’d enjoyed herself as a younger woman).  This was a surprising and compelling way to begin the season.  Marin Hinkle really shined as Rose in this moment in the spotlight.  I was a little bummed that, once Rose and Abe returned to New York, Rose faded back into the background somewhat.  Now that we’ve proven that Rose is a fully-realized character, I hope the show continues to explore her, and to allow her to have greater agency in the stories to come!

Tony Shaloub’s Abe was a stand-out character in season one, and season two continued to give this great character a lot to do.  Abe was still lovable and Mr. Shaloub’s comic timing and note-perfect line-delivery makes him one of the show’s comedic powerhouses.  But this season didn’t shy away from challenging Abe, as he was forced to confront martial issues and Rose’s unhappiness, … [continued]

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Catching Up on 2017: Josh Reviews The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season One

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the latest show created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, and produced by Ms. Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino, the duo behind Gilmore Girls.  Set in New York City in 1958, the show tells the story of Midge Maisel, who discovers that she has an aptitude for stand-up comedy and sets out to try to make it in the business.

I have never seen Gilmore Girls, though from what I have read about it I suspect I would have enjoyed the writing.  I certainly quite enjoyed The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Centering on a smart, strong female character, the show feels wonderfully of the moment, and while there are many reasons why the show works, Rachel Brosnahan’s spectacular performance as Miriam “Midge” Maisel is the key.  This is a great blend of character and performer.  Midge isn’t perfect.  She can be a little blind to what those around her are thinking and feeling, and she sure can talk a LOT.  But she is fiercely intelligent and admirably persistent at striving towards her goals.  She is a fascinating character, and Ms. Brosnahan easily shoulders the weight of the show.

I recently wrote about The Deuce, a show that explores the seedy underbelly of New York City in the 1970s.  Compared to that, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, set a little over a decade earlier, feels like a fairy tale.  And perhaps it is, but there’s nothing wrong with that!  What I appreciate about the show is that it creates as distinct and complete a portrait of New York City as The Deuce does, albeit one that is very different.  (One example of the gulf between the two shows: I believe that mob boss Rudy Pipilo is the only major character on The Deuce who is nearly as affluent as the majority of characters on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.)

I was intrigued by how Jewish The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is.  Midge and the majority of the characters on the show are Jewish —even the comedians like Lenny Bruce, more on him layer — and the show takes the care to allow this Jewishness to be a major part of these characters’ lives, as of course it would be, without skewing into caricature.  There were a few mis-steps that caught my eye (many TV shows make the mistake of showing a rabbi wearing a tallit outside of prayer services, and in the pilot we see the rabbi wearing a tallit at Midge and Joel’s wedding dinner, which no rabbi would actually do), but overall I was pleased by how smoothly these Jewish elements were integrated into the fabric of the show.

After Rachel Brosnahan as Midge herself, I was most taken … [continued]