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5 December 2017

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is a riotous delight – with an irresistible star

The new Amazon show from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is full of period charm.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, the new show from the Gilmore Girls creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, introduces us to the charmed life of Miriam “Midge” Maisel. It’s 1958 and the chirpy, whip-smart, doe-eyed Midge is married to the likeable (if less impressive) Joel Maisel, an amateur stand-up comedian. They have two children – a boy and a girl – and they live in an enormous Upper East Side apartment decorated to perfection, in the same building as Midge’s parents.

Midge is stick-thin and gorgeous, diligently removing her make-up and taking her measurements each night, but only after her husband has fallen asleep, so as not to shatter the illusion. She’s the architect of her own good fortune, with a picture-perfect cosmopolitan Jewish family: she even gets the rabbi to come to her Yom Kippur breakfast. But by the end of episode one, her husband has left her. Her dream life has slipped through her fingers. Midge suddenly finds herself onstage at the Gaslight Café, drunk, telling the whole, embarrassing story – and a comedy star is born. She becomes a regular, sneaks into Red Skelton shows at the Copacabana and rubs shoulders with Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby).

It’s a riotous delight, tethered by an irresistible lead performance from Rachel Brosnahan. Midge is privileged enough for the stakes to remain low, while the Fifties setting ensures that although this is a show about scandalous comedy, the humour never feels edgy to a modern audience. Instead, it’s full of charms similar to those of Sherman-Palladino’s other work: an infuriating but witty brunette in the lead role, delivering impossibly fast monologues. Add a period soundtrack, costumes and sets as sumptuous as Todd Haynes’s Carol, and that makes perfect winter watching. 

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This article appears in the 29 Nov 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The most powerful man in the world