Plot: Miriam (Rachel Brosnahan) is a devoted wife and mother, doing whatever she can to support her husband Joel (Michael Zegen) and make their life together as happy and fun as possible. This includes being supportive and engaged with Joel’s interest in stand up comedy, as he likes to perform at a local club from time to time. While he doesn’t do that well, Miriam is always there for him and encourages him, even taking notes to help him improve his routine. She seems to have the lifestyle of her dreams, but after Joel bombs on stage one night, Miriam’s world is turned upside down when he lets her know he is leaving her. He has been sleeping with his secretary and doesn’t want the life he and Miriam built together, which devastates her, but she doesn’t break down. Instead she gets drunk and storms the stage where Joel often performs, ranting about her woes in life to the delight of the live crowd. This makes her realize she has a passion to perform, but can a woman, especially a beautiful housewife with a smart mouth, make it in such a competitive, male dominated field?
Entertainment Value: I found Miriam Maisel to be one of the most captivating, fun to watch characters in a long while and in this first season, we are introduced to her and the colorful world she lives in. The show is able to capture the look and feel of the 50s with great skill, not just in the production values, but in how the characters are handled and the interactions between them. I loved the emphasis on family life and community, which aren’t elements just used as a backdrop, but play an important and consistent role in the events of the show. That sense of community really makes the entire world seem alive and that is no simple task. A lot of the themes here involve Jewish culture, but even if you aren’t familiar with the finer points involved, you won’t feel lost or miss out on the humor. The show is able to explain most of the cultural elements in humorous ways, so it never feels like exposition. The stand up aspect of the series is a prominent piece, but it is an organic, natural part of Miriam’s narrative. Even if you don’t normally love stand up comedy, the show’s journey inside the process of the craft and the world it takes place in is quite interesting.
The role of Miriam is the center of the series and as such, needed a dynamic, charismatic performance to ensure the show worked. Rachel Brosnahan is more than up to the task, turning in an effort that is never short of brilliant and sometimes feel more like a force of nature than a mere character. She is able to convey such deep love and dedication, but also the no holds barred ambition and drive, just nailing every little detail of what the role demands of her. Brosnahan is also so skilled at showing the changes that pulse through Miriam as she discovers herself, the highs and lows of her life, and the subtle elements of the character. She received much acclaim for her work here and it is well deserved, as she is phenomenal in this series. I also loved Tony Shaloub as Miriam’s loving, but quirky father and the interactions between the two are wonderful. All of the family social dynamics are well played in this show, but I found the scenes between father and daughter to be the most memorable. Alex Borstein is great as Miriam’s caustic friend/manager, while the cast also includes Kevin Pollack, Jane Lynch, Michael Zegen, Bailey De Young, and Marin Hinkle. I found this first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to be excellent, so it earns a high recommendation.