It began from nowhere, without any sign that it was on the horizon.
But just around the time the world was winding 2017 down, there emerged a lot of chatter around the The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, an Amazon Original series. A couple of months later, the series would go on to win the Golden Globes for Best TV Series (Musical or Comedy) and Best Actress for it’s lead actress Rachel Brosnahan, who also played the ill-fated character of Rachel Posner in House of Cards.
In India especially, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was the kind of series that travelled purely through word of mouth and little external advertising. Earlier this year when Amazon Prime Video was going all out to promote Breathe and The Grand Tour, Mrs. Maisel, had many a discerning millenial eating out of her hand. In entertainment industry lingo — it was a true sleeper hit.
This is an interesting lesson here for all content. No matter how much money you pump behind a piece of content, it gets discussed near the water cooler only if it is really really good, which the series most definitely is. Which is exactly what happened in our offices at Discovery. It was only a matter of time, before I could chuck away everything else one fine Saturday and finished the 8 episode series.
The setting of a Jewish family in the 1950s living on the Upper West Side, in New York and the adventures of their daughter in open mic events amidst her crumbling marriage was a terrific recipe. The casting complemented the quirky characters with each actor wearing his part on the sleeve, including the character of Mrs. Maisel’s husband, Joel essayed by Michael Zegen, a spineless and selfish twat, that reminded me very much of Vincent Kartheiser’s Pete Campbell from the early seasons of Mad Men.
Our series derived much of its strength from the shenanigans of this very gentleman. Simply because, behind every delightful, caring wife is a dickhead husband. Joel Maisel is the antagonist suppressing the charm of our lovely protagonist, Mrs. Maisel. We are quietly cued into the fact that she is way better than him in talent and wit and yet not only does Joel fail to see it, he leaves her for another woman, his fledgling dim-witted secretary.
The writers of Mrs. Maisel, the formidable Amy Sherman and her husband want us to believe that Joel leaves his wife because he couldn’t see himself bomb in front of her at an open mic stand up event. We are then told that he is also in love with his secretary. That to me was a bit of a hard sell and perhaps the only weak point in the show. If this character is as gullible and waffle-minded, as he is shown to be, how does he manage to stand up to his overbearing father? Not for once, does he flinch in front of his authoritative father, who threatens to take away his home and his job, if he doesn’t mend his way.
In another turn of events, Joel Maisel towards the end, is also able to take control of his uncle’s business without any external help. The convenience of situations that define Joel Maisel’s motives was where I had a tiny problem with the series. Additionally, we never see Joel’s romantic equation with his secretary who is shown to be nothing more than a twig, flowing wherever the river takes her.
In the last episode, Joel realizes he was wrong and that his behavior was regrettable. Yet again, he is upset that his wife has taken a comedic inspiration from their marital years and another scene later he is seen punching a guy in the street who calls his wife “unfunny”.
In spite of this minor problem, I do think the series can only get better from here on. I suspect, Lenny Bruce and she will team up to take on the formidable Harry Drake. If I may indulge in some soothsaying, they will become a hit pair and perhaps a hint of romance will strike the air between the mother of two, and the irrepressibly funny Lenny Bruce. And just before it all gets better Lenny Bruce will die leaving Mrs. Maisel at the mid-point of the series to fend for herself. If anything, I am quite sure in fact that Season 2 will be way better than Season 1.
Lastly, I just wish the last line of the series weren’t Thank you and Good Night. It was a rather poor finish to a triumphant monologue and the preceding line that really was the best punchline of the whole series.
I am not sharing it here because you ought to watch it yourself. Because if there’s one thing about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, it’s that it makes for perfect company.