Show + tell: Paul Flynn’s top TV
It’s back to ’50s Manhattan for more unexpected stand-up comedy and tears from Mrs Midge Maisel
AT THIS YEAR’S Emmys, the newcomer announcements went almost unanimously, in all the categories that counted, to The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Best comedy series, lead actress and supporting actress were all bagged. When season two drops in all its delicious glory this week, Mrs Maisel, and her cutesy world of blown switchboards, broken marriages, Busby Berkeley setpieces and ’50s high camp in mobster New York, lands back on screen a bona fide star.
Mrs Maisel is the stage name of Miriam ‘Midge’ Weissman (Rachel Brosnahan: amazing). The mise-en-scène of her Upper West Side domesticity was interrupted in season one when she found Mr Meisel, Joel (Michael Zegen: not unhot), father of their adorbs children, cheating with his secretary. Miriam channels her heartache into a second career as a stand-up comic, finding an unlikely patron in the shadow of Lenny Bruce. When she finally makes it to curtain call, Joel hears his now ex-wife badmouthing him from the sidelines. Et voilà: Ross and Rachel by way of Mad Men are given wings. His weakness can only lead to her strength.
The hit factor is easily dissectible. The handiwork of Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-paladino, revels in its own theatricality, wrong-footing the audience at each immaculately art-directed turn. Brosnahan goes hell for leather on Miriam’s tenacity while nursing her shattered life. In the first episode of season two, she travels to Paris to try and rescue her mother who has walked away from her marriage. She finds her way on to a drag club stage, effortlessly entertaining a smoky room of cynical Parisians. The rose-tinted thrill of the show – pacey and distinct – is never less than an inch below the tear-stained maquillage of its surface.
As an ensemble piece it’s pretty much flawless. Mrs Maisel’s butch agent Susie, her parents Rose and Abe, her brawling mother-in-law Shirley all feel like they’ve been cast from the toast of Broadway. But it’s the messaging at the heart of Mrs Maisel in which its true marvel resides. Some people get a new haircut when they’re dumped. Mrs Maisel gets a shot at a whole second life. That will never not warm the cockles of a mass market hungry for the tiniest morsel of sincerity among the broken trust of modern Americana. Bravo and encore, dear Midge.