Miriam "Midge" Maisel seems to have it all.
It’s 1958 New York City, Upper West Side, and she’s a quick-witted Jewish housewife with two kids. She and her husband live in a plush apartment just a few floors below her meddling yet endearing parents.
He’s the head of a plastics company by day and an amateur comedian by night. Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) butters up the owner of a local open mic with homemade brisket to get Joel (Michael Zegen) a better time slot. She also records her husband’s act in a bright red pocket notebook, noting how many laughs he got.
But after an awful set the night before Yom Kippur, Joel leaves Midge, citing unhappiness and an affair with his "dimwitted; can’t even use a pencil sharpener" (Midge’s words) secretary.
Midge drunkenly takes the subway to the club to retrieve the Pyrex she left, but ends up on stage delivering an impromptu set that quickly has the audience in stitches.
The marvelous Mrs. Maisel is born.
There’s no doubt that Brosnahan’s character has immense talent in Amazon’s new series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, premiering Nov. 29. Brosnahan plays the perfectly poised, foul-mouthed Midge with an energy that seems ready to burst from the screen.
The very first scene is at her wedding, Midge delivering her own toast. "Who gives a toast at her own wedding? I do," she says before regaling the audience with quips about her new husband and jokingly exclaiming there are shrimp in the egg rolls. Her large Jewish family in attendance, including the rabbi, are not pleased.
The new series is from Amy Sherman-Palladino and has the same quick, clever dialogue as Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls. Similar to the stories out of Stars Hollow, Mrs. Maisel is full of hilarious family drama and fast-talking women with an emphasis on female independence and friendship.
Fans will inevitably draw comparisons between the wise-cracking, coffee-drinking Lorelai Gilmore and Midge Maisel. They’re both smart, opinionated people who own their confidence and flaws.
But Midge openly flaunts her foul mouth and riotous sense of humor during a time when women were often told to keep quiet. She frequently bears the brunt of this extreme sexism and misogyny, doing short jail time for "indecent exposure, simulating a sex act, operating without a cabaret license and using obscene language."
She luckily has Susie (Alex Borstein) by her side as her agent. Susie sees Midge’s great potential and encourages her to keep chugging through the gritty comedy clubs of downtown with her sights on the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show.
The series is also harsh commentary on mid-20th century misogyny and often echoes the experiences of pioneering comics like Joan Rivers and Jean Carroll. In one scene, we see Midge wait until Joel is asleep before leaping out of bed to take off her makeup and set her hair for the following day. When she wakes up, before he does, she primps herself and goes back to bed to ensure he only ever sees her fully made up.
She also meticulously measures the parts of her body and records her findings to make sure she isn’t getting bigger. At one point, her mother expresses concern over Midge’s baby daughter’s large forehead, saying, "Life’s easier when you’re pretty."
In another, Midge apologizes to a judge through gritted teeth for her "foul language" while he calls her "little lady" and comments on how beautiful she looks.
But Midge isn’t a "little lady" by any means. She radiates a personality that fills every room and trails her on the streets of New York City. From the deli counter to the rabbi, everyone knows Midge. She’s a marvel.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.
"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"
Season 1 premieres at midnight Nov. 29 on Amazon.