The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is not a usual comedy material. It is not a sitcom or a slapstick comedy, nor is it a timely masterpiece people have come to adore so much in times of political perils. The show is exactly what it strives to become and is consciously aware of, a fantastical look at the jolly ol’ 50s with a Jewish, high-class, and separated housewife getting arrested for flashing her tits in an underground café; and subsequently rising through the ranks to become a star of stand-up comedy.
Most of the series’ weight was carried by its actors with House of Cards’ Rachel Brosnahan playing the titular role complemented by Alex Borstein as her tomboy-ish personal manager, Susie Myerson and Michael Zegen as Midge’s estranged husband, Joel Maisel.
All of them did a wonderful job of giving these characters the life and soul of their own. Midge’s broken life, facing her parents who blame her face and dressing (both of which are beautiful, by the way) for Joel leaving her, or every single stand-up act she does is presented much more than well enough to get us invested. This can be concurred by the Golden Globe nomination earned by her for 2018.
Though Susie as a foul mouth manager and Joel as a broken man were wonderful in their own right, the true star of this series was Tony Shalhoub as Abe Weissman, father of Midge Maisel. Every single moment he spent on-screen was a wonder to behold. Be that him being impressed at Midge getting a job, or mad at her getting back together with Joel, or breaking down in front of an entire class in a hilarious fashion. He nailed all of those moments with no effort whatsoever.
Acting aside, another strong-point of this series is its soundtrack. All the forties and fifties magic oozes out of each musical montage, nicely paralleling the arc or the emotion the audience or the character is going through. Rarely does a series nail its soundtrack so well.
Costume-designing and the subsequent colour fest of the 50s New York is beautiful as well. Sequences like her marriage memories, or her first day at the job, or every other stand-up she does or goes to, are so full of unique and beautiful colour palettes, with combinations that could almost put Netflix’s The Crown at shame (probably an exaggeration, but come on now).
The plot itself of the story is pretty un-spoilable, with rare minor twists and a whole lot of jokes or quips everywhere. And it is structured in a way that criticising any particular part of it is near-impossible. Every single arc and gags run like a Beethoven’s symphony, never failing a tune. I can’t remember a single piece that I saw and thought of how it could’ve been done better had it been this way; because that was the extent of the effort they put in it.
Another one of its quirks was using real-life stand-up comedians in the tale as a fictionalised versions of them. Be it Bob Newhart, Joan Rivers, Totie Fields or the much more significant one for this series, Lenny Bruce. His presence in the series provided for a great chance of pseudo-realism, while keeping the fun quotient up.
With such a unique plot and premise, there were so many ways this show could’ve gone wrong, but it was its best it could be on every step of the way. Rarely does it happen that I am put in a jiffy to find a valid criticism to a series, and this one definitely makes to that exception. There is literally nothing to criticise in this series, and nothing to doubt upon. When it comes to comedy, this is the utmost best one can do.