A Jewish housewife in the 1960s who chases a stand-up comedy career is most likely not the first storyline that comes to mind when thinking of successful TV show premises. Nor would it be the second or even the 100th. The premise for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” would probably fall somewhere right after “a police procedural about the local DMV” and “a mortuary workplace sitcom.” Yet, thankfully, “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino thought to create a show about a fast-talking 1960s Jewish housewife, Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), as she leaves her cheating husband and pursues a stand-up career in New York. Because now we have the third season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” to cheer us up during the dreary winter season and to show us how amazing 1960 was — if you were born into an affluent white family.
The whimsical show made its debut two years ago on Amazon’s streaming service to critical acclaim, winning Emmys and Golden Globes left and right. Now in its third season, the former sleeper hit has become the show to watch, both literally when each season is dropped and during awards season when Amy Sherman-Palladino, in all her top hat glory, accepts Emmy upon Emmy for the critically acclaimed show.
The third season picks up shortly after the second season left us: Midge is now opening for singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) on his tour, so it’s goodbye sets at The Gaslight and hello episodes in Las Vegas and Miami in a “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” version of “Green Book.” Midge’s father, Abe (the forever delightful Tony Shalhoub), is dealing with an existential crisis after he quits his job, wanting to regain the stick-it-to-the-man rebellion of his beatnik youth. Even Midge’s mother, Rose (Marin Hinkle), is feeling the counterculture of 1960 as she impetuously denounces her trust fund after being told she can’t participate in family business as a woman.
Meanwhile, Midge’s ex-husband Joel (Michael Zegen) is busy opening up a club in Chinatown, which seems to be Sherman-Palladino’s response to the lack of diversity on the show. Joel falling for a Chinese woman and one scene set in a Chinese restaurant? Hello, post-racial 1960 America!
Shy and his entourage also make up for the lack of any people of color in the show’s previous seasons. “This Is Us” darling Sterling K. Brown stops by as Shy’s manager and best friend Reggie, but he’s criminally underutilized in a role so un-meaty that it could be considered vegetarian.
For a show set in a sociopolitically turbulent time in the United States, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” does a great job at skimming the turbulence without ever diving in. The (formerly) wealthy Midge has always lived in an Upper West Side bubble, but that bubble seems to extend to the United States in the 1960s in this season. While Midge tours with Shy, there is only one mention of segregation. Similarly, the show only makes the slightest of references to the homophobia and misogyny that occurred during the time. It’s an outlook that would make even “Green Book” say, “Hey, that’s pretty sugar-coated.”
But it is a testament to the show that despite these missteps, season three of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is still better than most television out there right now. Midge and the show may live in a bubble — a bubble filled with gorgeous costumes, hilarious fast-paced dialogue and loveable characters. The quality of production on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” rivals even any of HBO’s million-dollar-per-episode shows, making you glad that something good is coming out of Jeff Bezos’ empire.