Audrey Kupferberg: Mrs. Maisel | WAMC

Audrey Kupferberg: Mrs. Maisel

Dec 30, 2019

Audrey Kupferberg

Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the popular series offered on Amazon Prime, recently became available to subscribers.  Midge Maisel, played brilliantly by Rachel Brosnahan, is the main character. Every other character serves as a satellite to her egocentric personality.  This thirty-something year old sees herself as the focus of her universe. With few exceptions, any other character serves her bidding—or serves to further the plot which revolves around her most of the time, although maybe a little less in season 3.  And that in itself is an interesting script decision.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has won multiple Primetime Emmys, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards.  It has a devoted following of which I am one.

At the start of season 1, Midge—a soon-to-be divorcee with two very young children—will become a smalltime stand-up comic.   Before you get the impression that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a story of a brave feminist with a heart of gold, here is more information.  Midge is inconsiderate and has a loose tongue, especially when she thinks some dirt on a friend or family member will get her a laugh, even if it’s a cheap laugh.  As for her mothering skills, more often than not, she leaves the children with their grandparents or their father so that she can pursue her career or any other interest she may have at any given moment. As a result, the children, instead of being adorable additions to the cast, are underplayed, close to being forgettable characters.

Midge has an agent, Susie, who would sacrifice plenty for Midge’s success. Susie, played by Alex Borstein, is an outstanding character in the series, quite unique.  Midge has parents who allow her to spend enough cash on her endless wardrobe of designer fashions to choke the proverbial horse.  Her father, a wonderful character named Abe Weissman, played by Tony Shalhoub, is a Columbia University professor.  Her mother, Rose, is an underdeveloped flower who searches in several directions for a more fulfilled life.

It is proper to categorize this series as an historical comedy/drama.  The first two seasons take place in the late 1950s, but in season 3, it is 1960.  That decade, which viewers look back upon as a time of social transformation, triggers new challenges, or at least an attempt to make changes, for many of these characters. 

The budget for season 3 seems to have exploded, along with bursts in subplots. There is more flash, pizazz, and production value than ever before. While a USO show, followed by stints in Las Vegas and at Miami Beach’s Fountainbleau Hotel provide a certain kind of excitement, but the real reason audiences are so stoked up about season 3 is superb acting combined with gifted script-writing. 

At times, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel shows New York upper-middle-class, super-capitalist-oriented Jews in ways that make me uncomfortable… ways that may serve to prolong negative images. At one point, the Weissmans have their maid working for them even when they have had to vacate their sprawling upper West Side apartment due to a financial reversal.  At another point during that period, Rose orders endless martinis at the Fountainbleau.  Doesn’t she realize how much a martini costs at the Fountainbleau Hotel???

Towards the end of the season, certain plot devices are questionable, and I will not go into detail in order to avoid spoilers.  Only viewing the yet-unproduced season 4 possibly will convince me that those plot twists are justified.  So please, Amazon, send me season 4 asap.  I can’t wait!

Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and appraiser. She is lecturer emeritus and the former director of Film Studies at the University at Albany and co-authored several entertainment biographies with her husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.