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<em>Maisel</em>, take two

Rachel Brosnahan as Miriam Maisel (Amazon)

Television

Maisel, take two

Second season of award-winning series surpasses the first

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, streaming on Amazon Prime, constantly teeters on turning quite cynical—but never does. And considering the setting—a housewife breaking into the New York comedy scene (and show business) in the 1950s—that’s pretty impressive. 

Season 1 mused on whether it would be possible for Miriam Maisel’s marriage to survive her comedic career. The big questions season 2 asks: Does success in show business require total independence? Must one be all alone to make truly great art?

Despite that heavy theme, the show stays solidly upbeat, with many sweet moments. It may border on the same time period, but Maisel is no Mad Men; in fact, it may be the antidote.

This season has none of the first season’s shock-value nudity, but it retains the near-constant bad language. There are also plenty of bawdy sex jokes, about as bad as you might find from one of Shakespeare’s raunchier characters, and a singing performance by drag queens in the first episode. Miriam (Rachel Brosnahan) starts seeing another man while separated from—but still married to—her husband. 

Otherwise, this season surpasses the first, which won four Emmys, including best comedy and best actress, and was nominated for several Golden Globes. The show uses color, costumes, show tunes, and even historical figures deftly. It also crosses artistic boundaries, experimenting (with great success) with cinematography methods typically seen only in movies. Certain scenes, like one when Miriam’s family moves into their summer cottage, will surely be used as a master class in timing for writers and actors on stage or screen. Just as Miriam uses recurring bits onstage in her set, the show and the viewer share long-running, relatable jokes, like Miriam’s manager Susie (Alex Borstein) fighting with the phone company over her bill. 

The character of Miriam, too, is masterfully written by Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, creators of Gilmore Girls, and acted by Brosnahan, who leans into each line as if she is on a small theater stage, and not waiting around for a camera to zoom in on any subtleties. 

Although Miriam struggles to break into a man’s world—after all, she gets booted from one club for talking about pregnancy—she really doesn’t have to work to support herself. That means she has nothing to lose, except her familial relationships. From her privileged position, she is often clueless about the realities of life for women without the same resources she has. 

But she’s not ashamed of her upbringing, or of her femininity. Miriam’s tremendous likability—both for us as a character and for her 1950s audience as a comedienne—comes from her unique combination of wit, naïveté, and willingness to question. Even after complimenting a drag queen’s "curves," she muses into the microphone: “It’s not enough, now, for women to have to compete with other women? Men are getting in on the act too?” Then the very Maisel punch line: “You can’t have it all. You can’t run the world and have all the pretty underwear too.”

Comments

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  •  colorpet's picture
    colorpet
    Posted: Thu, 12/27/2018 02:28 pm

    I am once again upset that I just had given to World Movers. Now I want my money back.

    This show, Marvelous Maisel, my wife and I were enjoying nicely for a couple of episodes before it quickly turned into a crass, cynical, lewd and crude take on modern culture's "a woman who needs no man" that the secular world now embraces. The show promotes rebellion from all that is traditional and all that is holy. I turned it off.

    Ironically for those who know me I am not a total prude. I think sometimes heavy flirtation, language that can be foul and a measure of nudity has it's place in some stories, but this story doesn't have an ounce of wholesome in it. For this World writer to even remotely suggest this show to any reader of World and not completely condemn the show horrifies me.

    For an organization that condemns Roy Moore and promotes this crap I take a rest from.

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Fri, 12/28/2018 12:41 pm

    In response to Colorpet: I haven't watched Maisel, mostly because of the way it's been so heavily advertised. I shy away from Amazon originals, because--let's face it, Who is Amazon that I should trust myself to them?  I keep looking, however, for a series I can feel comfortable with. Except for the oldies--Mr. Monk, Rockford Files, and some of Dr. Who, I haven't found any. As you wrote, there may be two or even three episodes in a row that are acceptable; however, nearly every series takes a turn and becomes unwatchable. Crud sells. Let me know if you find an antidote to the poison of "show" addiction. The days of my being content to sit and read during evening hours seem to be over. If you ever try it, you'll discover how truly difficult it is to turn off the broadcasts completely and entertain oneself at home. Until we're able to do that, the producers have us where they want us--we can't live without their product.

  • dnase77's picture
    dnase77
    Posted: Fri, 12/28/2018 12:50 pm

    We cannot believe the review of The Wonderful World of Mrs. Maisel. We couldn't make it through episode one of the first season, much less season two. The F-bomb and the blatant use of the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ was enough for us bail out and we would never consider recommending the show to anyone. Your reviews of movies and books often seem to be critical of Christian themes and generous to some of the filth that parades as entertainment in our World today. Your values and ours do not coincide. We have a problem in our nation today with apostasy of the church, immorality and compartmentalization. We met Joel Belz in Cuba back in the early 90s at a church service that my husband was preaching. The theme was immorality in these last days. The erosion of the moral fiber in both America and Cuba. I'm surprised that he would approve of some of reviews of books, TV shows and movies. Please cancel our subscription and refund to us the money we donated to World Movers.
    Dan and Marilyn Nase

  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Sat, 12/29/2018 06:01 am

    Thanks for this review. I lost interest, as I notice a couple other commenters did, early in season 1. This review does mention the elements that might make Maisel objectionable to many Christians or otthers with similar sensibilities. I think the reviewer, Laura Finch, is clear about the bad parts but I also fear she is too enthralled by "take two" to really drive home the depravity of this Netflix Original. However, I can't go as far as other commenters to accuse World or its editors of seemingly capitulating to the Enemy by giving this mostly positive review. We Christians are not a seamless cloth of perspectives and attitudes on these things. But again it seems to me that the way this review ends leaves one feeling too accepting about smut. I am reminded of the dilemma of whether to laugh when someone tells a truly funny dirty joke in he workplace. How can we be salt and light in this fallen world?!