The Mavelous Mrs. Maisel pilot brings together the following: late 50s fashion, Rachel Brosnahan (not her identical twin Evan Rachel Wood), the creators of Gilmore Girls, and Amazon’s checkbook. The result is a fast-talking delight. Amazon has pioneered the concept of making some pilots available before they have been greenlighted for a full season, then allowing their viewers to fill out a survey indicating whether they’d invest in a whole season of the same. This year there are five candidates and Mrs. Maisel is almost certainly going to make it through the final eliminations, so don’t worry about wasting an hour or so on a show you will never see the rest of.
Midge Maisel is living her version of the perfect life: funny cute husband, two kids, pre-kid body, Upper West side apartment in the same building as her parents’, and the rabbi is even coming over for Yom Kippur. Her whole life appears to be a version of that feeling you get when you’re just on fire and couldn’t possibly trip or drop anything or say the wrong thing to anyone. Her children are so well-managed there’s barely any evidence they exist and her cooking is scrumptious enough to melt the hardest of hearts. Basically, Midge has it all figured out.
Her husband Joel (Michael Zegen) is an amateur stand-up comic by night and Midge has thrown herself into promoting his hobby, trading her cooking for better time slots and recording each laugh in a pink notebook. The level of control she maintains over her universe could put some viewers off (she measures her baby’s forehead frequently to see if it’s abnormally large), but Rachel Brosnahan and the writers invoke the magical efficiency of Donna Reed without allowing Midge to seem trapped in a gender stereotype. There’s something of “Lorelai on five cups of coffee” about Midge and even a little bit of the better parts of Emily Gilmore in the portrayal. Midge could plan any party to perfection but there’s little evidence that’s the only thing her world expects of her.
The plot moves forward through an expected route and Midge soon realizes that it’s not her husband who’s funny: it’s her. As soon as she does, I expect everyone will feel themselves loosen up and smile, as the one thing the pilot suffers from is the consciousness that Midge is hiding her light under a bushel without even knowing it. You spend the episode wanting to see what this broad can do because damn, has she got potential.
The show creators make what I will assert is a near-perfect pilot (Westworld‘s pilot is last year’s reigning champ), hitting all the notes a solid pilot should. All our main characters make a memorable appearance (Joel’s secretary Penny Pam takes the award for most done with the shortest screen time) and we are given a hint of the shape of things to come through Alex Borstein’s Susie and Luke Kirby’s Lenny Bruce (yes, that Lenny Bruce). For any fans of mid-century Jewish comedians, this is already obviously for you. For any devoted fans of Gilmore Girls, this is also already obviously for you. For whoever is left out of that Venn diagram, there’s plenty to entice you in: Tony Shaloub as Midge’s reticent father, bad Abraham Lincoln jokes, dreamy portrayals of The Village in 1958, Allen Ginsberg references, and did I mention the late 50’s fashion?