Dec 11, 2017

TV Retrospective: "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" - Season 1

Rachel Brosnahan
The year 2017 has been great for women. They have felt more comfortable in being vocal about their personal issues, which has lead to significant changes in society. While it's often presented as harrowing tales, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino makes the suggestion that sometimes airing grievances doesn't need to be dramatic. Sometimes it can be funny. With her latest series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, she travels back to the 1960's to explore the rise of a stand-up comic named Miriam Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), who over the course of the eight episodes explores how she managed to find her voice and stand out from the shadow of her hack comedian husband Joel (Michael Zegen). The show has the familiar Sherman-Palladino wit with plenty of the energy that made her other shows charming. It also is a breath of fresh air at the end of a long and arduous year.
The story begins almost by accident. Following the events of the pilot, Miriam finds herself a sensation thanks to a drunken night where her stand-up career was born. With brief nudity and a lot of profane moments of commentary, she discovered a new passion: speaking out. She found that being repressed by Joel was making her depressed. She needed a voice for herself, and she turned to the stage. Much like the average first seasons of shows like this, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel begins as an origin story, chronicling her desire to perform under her own name. She goes through horrid stage names, travelling around various dive bars in New York City. She wants to find her voice, and she gets it in various party records from comedians like Lenny Bruce and Redd Foxx. 
It's the perfect contradiction then that this doesn't fit her persona. She may be confrontational, but she is at the same time a bubbly persona. The soundtrack is filled with whimsical pop tunes meant to reflect the eccentric core of the story. Even at her weakest, Miriam is wanting to define herself against a patriarchy that wants to keep her down. Each story develops a conflict, of which she eventually finds herself discussing on stage by episode's end. She isn't the best at first, but the show's ability to chronicle her evolution is uncanny, managing to have Miriam slowly discover that there's life outside of family and husbandry. She can be the life of the party, and it becomes the most appealing part of the series.
As a whole, the show is a charming look into an artist finding their voice. Her struggles start off manufactured for the stage, but slowly become real. She finds catharsis in being vulnerable on stage with her catty persona. The one advantage is that Sheman-Palladino is a master at capturing a joy and optimism within the harrowing subject matter. Miriam is never a martyr so much as a woman wanting a career change. By the end, she embraces it as she takes to the stage with the alliterative name of Mrs. Maisel. It's the only name that really ever mattered to her, and now hopefully it will help her be taken seriously as a comedian on the stage. 

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

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