Amazon Prime is the home to this monster of a show, which has drama, humor, gives you a great feel for the late 1950’s, and at times seems on a break neck pace. In short, it could be my favorite series out there.
Rachel Brosnahan plays Midge Maisel, our hero of the show. Midge was a supportive wife to a husband who had dreams of being a stand up comedian, all the while supporting them at a job he was good at, successful, but really wasn’t thrilled with.
One of the perks of the job was a secretary, which Joel (Michael Zegen) takes full advantage of, and has an affair with. He chooses her over Midge, so Midge gets drunk, goes to where Joel always performed (to lukewarm audiences at best), and slays it, telling the story, and then taking her top off (5 stars).
The bartender Susie (Alex Borstein (Lois on Family Guy), who is an absolute mess with big dreams, decides to manage Midge, and the journey starts.
Rachel Brosnahan is so good as Midge. She is a typical Jewish Princess of the time, but she also has a fiercely independent streak. This allows her to work in the department store by day, raise her kids (barely), and go out and perform at night.
Susie books her all over town, but one thing that Midge has is zero brakes, so she talks about everything and everyone. She starts out as a “blue” comic, and later adjusts to being clean. She literally takes ever chance she gets to riff, is a stream of consciousness comic, so you rarely get the same jokes twice. She’d be called an observationalist comic today, along the lines of Jerry Seinfeld, but funnier.
Joel is a rarity. He quits his job, ends up streamlining his family business and modernizing it, gets a lesson in how some things are best left unchanged, patches up his relationship with Midge to the point they sleep together a few times, gives her support, all the while raising the children while she is out, chasing her dream.
Susie is a strong character in herself. She has the personality I wish I had. She is Midge’s Yin to her Yang. Both are confident Jewish women, but in different ways.
Where Midge is all refined and…clean. Susie is dirty. She dresses like a man (and casually mistaken for one all the time), she talks like a man, has ties to a criminal element, and will do anything to get a meeting.
She has a vulnerable side as well. She’s poor (though a hustler), not that educated, comes from a bad background, and not well versed in anything outside of her neighborhood. Every once in awhile they give a glimpse of the scared Susie, but then she comes back and fakes it until she makes it.
Put all that together, add in Midge’s parents, Joel’s parents, a rival Comedian played by (Jane Lynch (hate her)), a relationship with a doctor, Joel changing careers, a big break (Shy McBride), an underlying vibe that some people are hiding things that you just don’t go public with at that time, and you get this show.
My favorite part of the show is every time there’s some momentum, Midge and Susie somehow blow it up. Almost to the point they can’t be saved, yet they show with some preserverence, hard work, lies, and luck, they keep moving forward. It adds a naïve side to Midge, to let you know that she has led a bit of a sheltered life, and much like Susie, is trapped in her own little universe as well.
The story is amazing. I’m really digging it. Sure, I have a few issues with some of the facts. I’m don’t really believe that someone just breezes their way to that level, that quickly (I have countered this by telling myself they don’t show her grinding it out in clubs), and I don’t see the Apollo scene happening that well, but I’m suspending belief so that I can enjoy what is good.
Other than that, it moves quickly, the characters side stories are fun and entertaining, there is very few cringeworthy moments, and every episode makes you want more.
The little sub plots flow in and out, and when you think something is pointless, they blend it in, or cap it off, and it all makes a lot of sense in the long run.
They do a nice job of blurring lines. You think someone is a bit bad, then they redeem themselves, you think someone is good, and they do something shifty. More importantly, they solve issues logically, have a really good late ‘50’s mindset, and you don’t really hate anyone. (well, I dislike Jane Lynch’s character, as does my cousin, and Midge’s mom is a bit of a twat)
The casting is amazing. We talked about the main characters, but Tony Shalhoub as her dad is amazing. He plays a guy about my age, having a crisis about where he’s at in life, and wants to capture his youth…nails it…trust me…sigh.
Marin Hinkle as Midge’s mom is great. She is another one having a crisis, you feel some jealously, and she just does a bang up job. Every time I see her, I feel Tony Shalhoub’s character overkicked his coverage, but it adds to him being in love with her, and getting out of his comfort zone, and I feel that also awakened a part of him.
LeroyMcClain as Shy Baldwin is outstanding. I’m not sure if he does his own singing, but he’s great. Sterling K Brown as his manager is really good too.
Zachary Levi (Shazaam) shows his acting chops as the spurned Benjamin. I was really surprised at how good he is. I knew he was in it, but had to look him up to see who he was, I got lost in the character.
Luke Kirby should win an award for his portrayal as Lenny Bruce. He is jazz club smooth in the role, very nonchalant when getting arrested, and just a great character. I really think they understate Lenny, because he was a very polarizing figure then. It should be right around when he quit being a clean Catskills comedian, and turned into the “dirty” observationalist comic that he is known for. I really think his character was added, to give Midge credit as a cutting edge comic, and street cred as a rebel, but I really enjoy his portrayal.
For all you kids out there reading this, or adults, Lenny Bruce’s material does not age well. His albums are funny, but many of his references you need to look up. A lot out there is his later stuff, where he is riffing on his legal problems, and it will be as funny to you as it was to the audiences. Never forget, Lenny forged the way for comics today, served some jail time, arrested many times, but is really a hero to free speech as we see it today. (Check out the movie “Lenny” with Dustin Hoffman for a more accurate portrayal)
The sets were spot on. The clothing is spot on. The vehicles are all amazing. They did a great job creating the atmosphere of the late 1950’s. They also did a nice job dancing around taboo subjects like homosexuality, and treated it like they did in the time period. It’s really quite masterful what they did.
I am a fan of comedy. Moreso, I am a fan of comedians. I like standup, I like to hear their views and perspectives. This show does a nice job at first, showing the comedy world what it was before people like Midge and Lenny. Hack guys, stealing jokes from each other, with wife jokes being as edgy as they got. I often wonder if this is a subtle way to show us where we are going to end up again, with people being offended by every little joke told.
That is an article for a different day. I highly recommend this show. I thank the Beautiful Sara for allowing me to use her Prime account to watch this. I also advise you all to look up her articles on www.scpod.net. Unlike myself, she can put thoughts together in a way that are logical, well thought out, and entertaining.
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Author: Jay Roach
Jay was born and raised within a 30 mile radius of Ottawa IL, home of Scotty Bowers and a guy who was in soap operas. His family was Catholic, somewhat filled with ’50 Ideals and conservatism, which they attempted to pass down, and lifetime Democrats.
Jay am none of that nonsense, though he is probably more liberal in social views than most of them. He's tattooed, has two wonderful boys who are both talented, one a musician, the other designing games. He have two ex wives that he still get along with. Jay have two cats (Chloe and Panda Lucifer) who are ambivalent towards Jay's existence unless wet food is involved.
Previously, Jay was the cohost of My Worst Holiday, and left on good terms but will still fill in on occasion. He now write nonsense articles about whatever grabs his fancy, from old Universal Monster movies, to lunch health, to lists that get stuck in deep in his head and has to purge them.
Jay is pretty sure he is allowed to hang around because he have watched a LOT of Burt Reynolds movies. (This is true)