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Now Streaming: Is “Mrs. Maisel” Marvelous?

There was no question that I would watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” pilot on Amazon Prime. An hour-long dramedy created by Amy Sherman-Palladino featuring a brassy female protagonist? Sold. Oh, and it’s set in New York in the late 1950s, scratching that “Mad Men” itch I’ve had for two years? Double sold.

But after the ups and downs of Netflix’s revival of “Gilmore Girls” last fall (that musical, the fat jokes, Rory in general, etc.), I did have some reservations. ASP (and her creative partner and husband Daniel Palladino) sometimes mistake quirk for personality, and are rather tone deaf to sensitive identity issues.

The period setting, though, helps alleviate some of Palladinos’ weaknesses. They may try to get by some political incorrectness with the lame excuse that “It’s the 1950s!” And their Achilles’ heel – critical commentary on the developments of modern technology verging on Luddism – is no more advanced than a scene with an electric pencil sharpener and a befuddled secretary.

Plus, those costumes, those hairstyles, those settings … it’s a visual delight for lovers of mid-century modern décor and Spoolie hair rollers.

“Mrs. Maisel” is Midge, an Upper West Side, twenty-something housewife and mother who supports her nine-to-five husband Joel in his late night attempts at stand-up comedy in Greenwich Village. Local viewers are in for a treat(?) when, prior to Joel’s set at the Gaslight Café, a dour Beat poet recites an ode to her hometown (“rumble of lumber trucks … robbers of the indigenous … Spokane … man.”).

Spokane poem
"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" Pilot (Amazon)

After a (somewhat rushed) series of events leads Midge to a crisis, she ends up on stage herself and discovers that her voice is just what the comedy scene has been missing. Think Joan Rivers, pre-plastic surgery and “Fashion Police.”

Rachel Brosnahan plays the title role with strength and impeccable timing. She has the wit and charisma that Alexis Bledel always seemed to lack as Rory Gilmore.

Rory Gilmore and Midge Maisel
LEFT: "Gilmore Girls" Season 5 Episode 22 (Netflix); RIGHT: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" Pilot (Amazon)

The comparison between the two characters isn’t hard to make, right down to the dual image of the pretty waifs with mussed, brown hair being bailed out of jail in powder blue. But while Rory succumbed to her setbacks, Midge confronts them – with encouragement from ASP mainstay Alex Borstein.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is part of Amazon Prime’s original pilot season, which means viewers must vote for their favorite shows before they’re picked up to series. Given ASP’s legacy and enthusiastic fanbase, I look forward to seeing more of Midge’s misadventures in Manhattan in the future. 

TOP PHOTO: "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon)

Binge Watch preview: “Transparent”

Post script to last week's Thanksgiving edition: Amazon Prime released the first episode of the second season of Emmy-winning "Transparent" last night. The remaining seven episodes will be available on Friday, Dec. 11.

The first season followed the Pfefferman family as patriarch Mort (Jeffrey Tambor) comes out as a transgender woman, now Maura, to her grown children and ex-wife. While the half-hour series is darkly comedic, it's primarily thoughtful and sad. It’s also infuriating as the Pfefferman children make the same selfish mistakes in their relationships at every turn.

Nothing appears to have changed in season two, as barely divorced Sarah (Amy Landecker) walks down the aisle with a rekindled college flame, middle child Josh (Jay Duplass) shares a secret against his partner's wishes and youngest sister Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) generally stirs up trouble with her compulsive lies.

We also learn that Maura has not come out to her mother, and is estranged from her sister Bryna (Jenny O'Hara). I'm much more interested in exploring Maura's feelings and relationships—especially regarding her ex-wife and current housemate Shelly (Judith Light)—than her kids', but I think we're in for plenty of lying and cheating between the younger Pfeffermans this season.

If you were able to stomach the family dysfunction of "Casual," you might be ready for an even bigger dose in "Transparent." This uncomfortable second season teaser is merely a taste of the awkwardness that awaits you.