The next few entries on the blog will explore streaming shows that center their stories around strong female characters. This week, we’ll start with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-) on Amazon Prime Video.
IMBD Score: 8.7
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
When God granted me a free Amazon Prime Video account, I took it without hesitation. I have not watched anything else on the platform other than The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-) since. Probably because nothing seems to catch my eye on Amazon and the company is weak on the advertising front. Nonetheless, here is why The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is different than your average streaming production—You cannot binge it. I can hear some of you disbelievers already; Believe me when I say I tried, but the content is too rich to shovel it down your brain that quickly.
The show is set in the 60s and it follows the loving housewife (Midge Maisel) who finds out her husband has been cheating on her with his empty-headed secretary, and the rest of the plot easily peels away. While Midge tries to navigate being single in the world, her life changes completely: She moves in with her wealthy parents, starts working low-paying jobs on top of her occasional comedy performances. Season 1 is a testimony that it is faith that brings her to the stage; Midge holds the reigns and stays to succeed.
Season 2 (the best season in my opinion) is about the theme of change; Midge happily juggles between her old life and the new one, while the audience visits not one, but two scenic locations. Rose (Midge’s mother) realizes she might not be as happy as she put out to the world and moves to… France! These episodes provide the audience with an opportunity that shows them a different side of the stone-cold Weissman Family. It turns out that they are funny and lovable, too. Season 2 takes a small step back from Midge and shows the audience the people who influence her shows, and in return, she influences them (as observed in Rose’s sudden move to France in S-2, and Abe’s career decisions in S-3).
After a few episodes in France, The Weismann Family (Midge’s parents) take their annual trip to the Catskills, a popular American-Jew destination between the 1920s to 1970s. In a way, the episodes show Midge in her comfort zone, but she is forced to move on by a new love interest played by Zachary Levi (who most definitely stole my heart), and Midge’s agent on the clock to get her career on track. The plot is always striking and unpredictable; it does not follow your typical protagonist arc.
Another reason to praise this show is for its Creator’s (Amy Sherman-Palladino) ability to organically pay her respects and lift the communities who have long been disregarded on TV. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a breakthrough for the Jewish presence on screen. In both seasons 1 and 2, Sherman-Palladino comically describes to the viewer what Jewish weddings should look like and shows them the tragic turnouts, too. In season 3, the viewers experience a typical circumcision ceremony gone unappreciated by other family problems; the result is very funny as expected. Finally, the Rabbi might be the most popular character whom we don’t get to see enough on screen. The Jewish jokes are definitely the highlight of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Moreover, Sherman-Palladino does not think it is only Jews who can showcase their talent in the series. Season 3 distracts the audience with Shy Baldwin (played by Leroy McClain) who almost steals the light with his charisma. McClain portrays an African American male singer with an angelic voice. Midge nails a job to open for Baldwin and they become close friends. The plot twist reveals that Baldwin was gay all along, and the audience gets to imagine the hardships of Baldwin’s inner trauma as a gay man of color in the 60s. Again, Sherman-Palladino so gracefully blends an intimate topic with the rest of the feminist agenda of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and gets an A+.
Charisma is the word that defines this show. Rachel Brosnan is a charming actor who can have chemistry with a garbage can on the screen—just like her character Midge Maisel. And luckily, it runs on the family! Abe and Rose Weismann are equally fun to watch on screen and the audience might involuntarily find themselves wondering about what the Weismann’s do while the audience is busy watching Midge perform (I could happily watch a show solely based on the pair).
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a must-watch for many reasons, but for the sake of narrowing down the long list I talked about a few above: It is not a binge-worthy show. It requires your full attention to appreciate the blend of its advocacy driven platform with comedy. Plus, it has a charismatic ensemble.