This week Amazon kicked off their new pilot season, offering one episode each for new shows they'll potentially pick up for their original programming. One of the more intriguing offerings is a new series from Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls.
The show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, takes place in Manhattan in 1958 where (after a quick introduction to the couple at their wedding four years earlier) we meet Miriam “Midge” Maisel (played expertly by Rachel Brosnahan) and her husband Joel (Michael Zegen), living in a classic six on the Upper West Side. Joel is a 9-to-5er who performs regular open mic comedy sets at the now-legendary Gaslight Cafe (which in 1958 had just opened in Greenwich Village), and Midge is his adoring housewife who secures him good set times and takes notes on audience reaction, all while tirelessly attending to her beauty regimen and briskets, and doing anything he can do.... better. She's also a witty, charming, fast-talking brunette (sound familiar?). Together they have two children, including one (a baby) who you'll see for about 30-seconds. (It's very unclear where these children are the rest of the time!)
If you've watched every episode of Sherman-Palladino's seminal series Gilmore Girls (or her love it or hate it Bunheads), you know that not every moment is a gem. Gilmore Girls is still one of my favorite, most rewatched shows, however, so the bar and my hopes are high for Mrs. Maisel, but honestly, I didn't like the pilot until about 35 minutes into the hour-long episode. This is in large part due to The Pilot Problem—often they aren't as wonderful as the shows turn out to be—but it was also something else.
Let's go back to Stars Hollow for a moment—when I rewatched Gilmore Girls in more recent years, there were a number of double-take moments, many coming when a character blurted out some out-of-nowhere fat-shaming comment. Seriously, there were a lot. Surely in 2017 Sherman-Palladino has lost her affinity for this kind of dialogue, right? No. Within the first few minutes we get this remark from Mrs. Maisel herself: "My roommate [in college] was friendly and fat, which was perfect, because I had someone to eat with who wouldn't steal my boyfriend." Sure, maybe it's of-the-era humor, but it's being brought into a 2017 TV show under the assumption it's amusing, when really it's just unnecessary commentary on physical appearance.
During the second half of the pilot things come alive, as the series gets set up through a glimpse of the real Midge, as she (literally) sheds her perfect housewife costume during an impromptu, drunken, and extremely raw stand-up act at the Gaslight. Finally, the Sherman-Palladino heroine shines through. And together with Alex Borstein (who you may remember as "Bitter Woman on Stage" in Friends!), Midge is primed to conquer the comedy world.
Once the show hit its stride, it seemed clear that this marvelous idea for a series was created by the right woman, her protagonist was perfectly cast, and the supporting characters are as strong as those we met in Stars Hollow.
You can watch the pilot for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon now.