The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime
■ By Jim Hitt / Media Columnist
Comedy falls into two categories. Low comedy is often defined as physical or slapstick. Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges are practitioners of low comedy. High comedy is characterized by witty dialogue, satire, biting humor. Television series such as Seinfeld, Arrested Development and Modern Family fall into this category.
In a television, good comedy is hard to sustain, especially in a series that produces 18 to 22 shows a season. The British were the first to discover that series like Faulty Towers worked best in a limited run, often only 8 to 10 shows. The writing was better, the scripts tighter. More laughs, less drag time.
American television is catching up. Channels like USA, TNT and FX have produced terrific series by making fewer episodes that carry more punch. Streaming services have followed suit.
In March 2017, Amazon Prime TV broadcast the pilot of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and in November added seven more episodes to complete the first season. Can a streaming service really produce series as good as major networks? The answer is simple. They can produce quality series better than the networks. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is an excellent example of high comedy. Each episode looks and feels like a movie rather than a television show. The writing is sharp, the actors flawless. No canned laughter here, which makes the humor all the more genuine.
The story is simple enough, even if the characters aren’t. In the late 1950’s, Midge Maisel supports her husband’s dream of becoming a stand-up comic until one night he bombs and blames her. This sends her back to the club where, in an extemporaneous monologue, she delivers a scathing evaluation of her marriage. This sets her on the road to becoming a stand-up comic.
Rachel Brosnahan as Midge is perfect as she stumbles from success to failure to success. She does not exist in a vacuum. After her separation from her husband, she and her son return to live with her mother and father. Tony Shalhoub, who you may remember as the lead character in the series Monk, plays the father, and the writers often give him the best lines. Ditto Alex Borstein who plays Susie, Midge’s manager. In truth, this is one of those series where every character is three dimensional.
I need to point out this series is not for kids. No nudity but the language is frank.
Earlier, I said good comedy is hard to sustain. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is great comedy, which is even harder. What sets this series apart from others is that it is a drama about a single parent trying to make it in show business. The drama supplies the comedy, which may well define its greatness. Great comedy grows out of characters and situations.
Among its many honors, the show won 2018 Golden Globes for Best Musical or Comedy Series, and Rachel Brosnahan won Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy.
Amazon Prime TV has renewed The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for two additional seasons.
Wrap up—One of the best drama-comedy series ever.