The Marvelous Mrs. Maizel
If it weren’t for The Good Place this would probably be the only good comedy in the last few years. But now we have an embarrassment of riches. Rachel Brosnahan is the perfect little Jewish American Princess, living with her dreamy hubby in a fabulous Upper East Side apartment with her two young children. She puts out more energy than the Hoover Dam. As a planner, an organizer, a tastemaker she puts Dolly Levi of Hello Dolly to shame. Her attention to detail is frightening. How about this? Every night for her entire marriage she has waited for hubby to go to sleep, then she sneaks into the bathroom to put gunk on her face and do all the other fairly ugly things women do to themselves to maintain their beauty. Then every morning before he wakes up she sneaks away again and takes it all off, styles her hair, and puts on make-up. The poor schmuck must think that’s the way all women look in the morning!
Then perfect hubby announces he is leaving her for another woman. She cracks up, wanders out on the New York streets in her nightgown, and ends up in a comedy club improvising a stand-up routine about how fucked-up her life is. And she’s good!
Not only is she good, she is a potty-mouth. Her rant is sprinkled with fuck and shit and cunt and dick … which attracts the attention of New York’s Finest. In 1958 talking like that could get you thrown in jail. Which she soon realizes when none other than Lenny Bruce shows up to bail her out! They soon become good friends.
She begins to realize just how narrow her life has been, and that there are other possible ways to live.
If you haven’t heard the hype around this show, you must be hiding under a rock. But I don’t mean hype in a bad way. Terrific reviews, sweeping the Emmys and every other award in sight. And you know what? It’s all true. This is a dazzlingly wonderful show. I adore everything about it. We waited impatiently for the second season, and now we have to wait for the third. It won’t be easy. Rachel Brosnahan and writer Amy Sherman-Palladino have created a character that will stand beside other great female sitcom women like Lucy Ricardo and Mary Richards. She is that good.
The supporting cast is wonderful. Alex Borstein won the Emmy for playing Susie, Midge’s hard-nosed (and possibly gay; we don’t know yet) manager. Tony Shaloub and Marin Hinkle are terrific as her parents. The production design … is way beyond awesome. It is a bright, clean, Technicolor world that syncs with my earliest memories, right on through junior high.
And of course it never existed. Those who look for something to complain about (and there are a few) can’t stand something like that. Please, folks, lighten up. It’s a comic fantasy. Nobody is that funny, no town was ever that bright and shiny. And fuck it, I just don’t give a damn.
The other thing the professional complainers complain about is her children. They barely exist in this story. She has her parents to watch over them most of the time. “She’s a bad mother!” they bleat. Well, shit, maybe she is! And I don’t care! The show is not about the fucking rugrats, it’s about her discovering the possibilities of life. I would hate it if she let her children stand in the way of her career. For some reason, if she falls a little short of perfect these critics pounce on it. Okay, she neglects the kids. She’s not the first, and it ain’t the end of the world. The 1950s were notorious for stuffing women into the straitjacket of “homemaker” and mom, ladies without a brain in their heads. It’s wonderful to see a woman who is not going to settle for that, even if she has to not like herself a little bit for not being there for the children. I would hardly have given it a second thought if I hadn’t seen the headlines: “Midge is horrible! She should be a helicopter Mom, like we have today!” The weird thing is, much of that criticism comes from feminists.