Every now and then you stumble upon a TV series that just works. It hooks you from the beginning. Even if you hadn't heard much about it and went in blind, the pilot episode did what it was supposed to do. Convince you the series will be well worth your time. In this day and age, with television being so different, falling in love with the first episode may not be the best thing to do. You may have loved it, but it might not be able to convince the right people to let it go on and prove itself as a regular series. And here I thought all digital platforms were flawless.
The Amazon Studios pilot of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is everything fans of Amy Sherman-Palladino could want, but it also has enough appeal for every other type of television viewer. So, apparently it's Pilot Season at Amazon! The time when the company puts out a few pilot episodes for the public (those who have Amazon Prime subscriptions) to watch and vote on. I guess those that receive the most praise are the ones picked up to series. I'm not truly sure as before now, I've never partaken. I just accept what's put out and either watch the series or not. But this time, largely due to Sherman-Palladino and some of the cast, I knew I needed to check out this episode! I wasn't sure what to expect as I hadn't previously seen any footage of the episode, but as it turns out, it was well worth it! I'm highly confident in this episode and that many other people will give it the necessary praise for the company to order a first season. I'm also confident, that if it does get picked up, it'll achieve so much. There's a lot of potential.
It's Amy's World And You're Just Visiting
It's a Sherman-Palladino episode, and features everything the public has come to know and love about her writing style over the last 17 years. With that in mind, do I really need to go on?
There's rapid fire dialogue, which I was blown away at hearing Rachel Brosnahan's Miriam "Midge" Maisel deliver so well. Flawlessly I might add. Between Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, Michelle Simms, and even Sarah and Coco Tompkins (I'll let you do some Googling with that one), it's difficult to believe there's someone else who could not only get Sherman-Palladino's words right, but deliver them at an even faster pace than the other women mentioned. In this case, I somehow found that this helped to develop Brosnahan's character a lot more and faster than the other women. There was something drastically different with Brosnahan's Midge, but I can't really put a name to it. I just know that because of the quick dialogue on display by everyone, which also led to some great back and forth moments and #comedy (see: the finale stand-up bit and scene that occurs after), I'm fully on board with this becoming a series. I absolutely love this character!
Another recurring element, which was just as fascinating to see on display, is the use of pop culture references. With this series taking place in 1958, the use of all sorts of references had to change. When I thought about that at the start of the episode, I was instantly curious. How deep is Sherman-Palladino's well of pop culture references? Did she have to look any of them up and understand them herself? While I'll probably never know the answer to these questions, it gave me enough reasons to want to see this episode. Now that I know what kinds of references she can use, and still in that brilliant way I've come to love, I'm hoping to get more. I'll be supremely disappointed if this doesn't happen. And I must say, my favorite reference, which I'm just assuming is one and with good reason, is her Gaslight one. In the episode there's a cafe called "Gaslight Cafe". That can't be a coincidence.
One last and crucial bit that's very Sherman-Palladino is the score. It, like with Gilmore Girls, Bunheads and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, is once more composed by Sam Phillips. It wasn't noticeable right away, but as the episode went on, and the whimsical sounds kept coming and going, I became more and more intrigued. It was Phillips, but not just her. For this episode, Phillips is joined by Eric Gorfain. Perhaps he's why the score was able to achieve another certain kind of sound and feel, but even if he's not, it still works. This show takes on a life of its own, which is both welcome and expected, but easily allows for it to sound familiar and be different enough.
And as an added bonus, before I forget, the episodes use of music is incredible too! So many songs I've never heard of and instantly loved. Somehow they just worked. They conveyed all the emotions you needed, even if it was just to slightly uplift you and put you in the same mood as Brosnahan's character. That alone makes me want more of this world and these characters.
Big City, Familiar Quirks
Like with any Sherman-Palladino series there's going to be at least one quirky character. She just knows how to create them and make them work in whatever world she's come up with. This is still true in a big city in the 1950's.
Primarily, this is showcased by Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle's characters. They play Brosnahan's parents. Have I mentioned how some of the cast drew me to this episode? Not only are they each able to bring about some honest and well executed comedy, but their characters are still able to come through. You have no doubts about who they are. While I feel that there's more to explore with them, particularly after the way the episode ended, I've got a good sense of who they are and what matters to them. Seeing as I had no problems enjoying their quirky antics, I'm also excited at seeing what other things will make them stand out as memorable characters in this series.
Alex Borstein, no stranger to Sherman-Palladino or to comedy, is actually playing a vastly different type of character than I've seen. Sure Susie's got some quirks, but I don't know what they are yet. The one thing I'm certain of, she'll be one you'll probably grow to love. As Borstein is primarily known for her comedy, that's still something you get with this Susie character. She's quick witted and intelligent. She's also sympathetic, which is where we'll get something even better and more important with this series, should it become one that is. There's going to be a big focus on female friendships. Yes, there's already the obvious female focus as Brosnahan's the lead and this series is about her, but we'll get to see how she interacts and grows alongside Borstein. It'll probably be the perfect balance to all the other societal expectations that were placed on women at this time, which will no doubt be explored. More on this in a moment.
And, of course, Brosnahan. I can't get enough of this character. After watching this episode, I, like so many others who watched, dutifully took to Twitter to comment on what I thought. Needless to say, I highly praised it. But, more importantly, especially to me, I wrote "Look out Rebecca Bunch! #TheMarvelousMrsMaisel is looking to steal your spotlight! Gonna be hard to decide whom I like most." That was one of three tweets I sent out, and if you hadn't caught on yet, it includes a reference to a very fascinating and quirky character on a little show called, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I never thought I'd find another character like Rachel Bloom's Rebecca Bunch. Granted there's a lot more to Bloom's Rebecca, which also and rightly makes her stand out on her own, but the fact that I was instantly reminded of Bloom's character, says something.
If anything, not only does my instant love of Brosnahan's character show how effective the pilot was, it also shows the great thing about digital platforms and original TV. There's more time to develop a character you'll want to see again and again. Not really some new discovery, but every now and then you can find yourself easily forgetting this. Midge is quite complex and in a short amount of time this is evident. We see all of the things that make her so multi-faceted. She's a wife, a mother, an educated woman who's quick witted and supportive, among many things. What's not to like about this woman?! While I'm sure there is in fact something or could be later, we'll have to wait and see if we get a chance to explore this in later episodes.
Complete With Commentary
While Sherman-Palladino's always had a particular style to how each episode looks and feels, with this new one, it's almost unrecognizable. Don't get me wrong, it's amazing, but it's still a change. Fortunately it doesn't take long to long to get used to.
What I'm talking about is the cinematography and every bit of creativity needed to bring 1958 to life! It's incredible and absolutely beautiful! It's what you'd expect to see in a feature film, which makes sense since this is Amazon Studios we're talking about. Regardless, everyone involved clearly knew what they were hoping to achieve. Thankfully this execution worked so quickly, as it's integral to getting into everything else. Also, the cinematography is just another way in which you can tell this is something Sherman-Palladino has a hand in. She does love certain types of shots. And because of these shots, you're also going to be able to get a bigger and clearer picture of the time and judge for yourself what it would be like to live then.
One of the biggest things this episode achieved, and showed it could still achieve in some way in a full fledged series, is the commentary that automatically comes with this episode being set in the late '50s. Not only is this a perk and new area for Sherman-Palladino to explore, but it's also going to be informative in some way. I'm a believer that shows and films don't have to be just entertaining. They can be entertaining and informative, and be worth so much more than most others. This one could be just that, complete with smart comedy.
While I can't go into specifics on one of the moments of commentary, which I just realized before typing this sentence, I'll do my best to make it clear. Thus far, which really is enough already, the prime focus is on the view of the role that women take in society. There's certain expectations, and while Brosnahan's character seems to enjoy fulfilling these roles and is quite good at them, it's still not that simple. When the #drama really hits, which gave you an even better way to connect with her character, all you can do is side with her. It's ridiculous how she's being treated. Another area of commentary, which I already mentioned is that of the relationships that women have with one another. Borstein may be the one that interests me most, but it's not the only one that Brosnahan has. Seeing as she's such a free spirit and venturing out into the world of stand up comedy by the end of the episode, it'll be interesting to see how her peers view her. Will they be supportive or believe that she's stepping too far outside the societal norms of the time? I'm also wondering, how else life during this time will be explored. Midge is Jewish, so how else will that be portrayed? What about other aspects of life? There's so much there, that all I want to do now, is go back.
Originally Aired: March 17, 2017
Written and directed: Amy Sherman-Palladino
Starring: Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Michael Zegen, Marin Hinkle and Tony Shalhoub