Maisel Tov

Not exactly kosher, but…(Photo courtesy of The Atlantic)

Last week I wrote a story about Lady Bird and the Golden Globe Awards. Truth alert: the story wasn’t about the Globes but about the afore-mentioned film which, while winning some GG’s, could have won none and still been one of my favorite films of the year.

Medium tracks for me the number of people who view my stories and the number who actually read my stories. That’s cool, and I cannot hope that everyone who views will decide to fully read. Still, I wish people would get beyond the first graph.

Someone in my Facebook feed, however, not only did not get beyond my mention of the Globes, but decided to vent about his or her disdain of the Awards and to admonish me to “keep my wows to myself.” This person clearly misunderstands the nature of blogging and, apparently, the reality that one simply does not have to read, scan, comment on, or notice anything coming into his or her online feed.

In other words, no one is forcing you to consider the nature of awards shows.

As I wrote the other day, I am alike Alabama football coach Nick Saban in this regard: I’m a bit of a masochist.

So, did you notice that the Golden Globes also honored the Amazon Prime Original Series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? It won for Best TV Musical or Comedy, and its star, Rachel Brosnahan, won for Best Actress in the title role of Miriam “Midge” Maisel in the same genre.

My sister-in-law and her husband had already suggested that my wife and I give the show a look. It’s about a Jewish family living in 1950’s Manhattan, they said. Kind of Woody Allen-ish. Funny, sexy, and not at all violent. These traits make it acceptable viewing for both my wife and me. So in all humility, I will admit that despite their kind suggestion, it was The Globes that made me think: “Hhm. My in-laws might be on to something,” so we began watching last week.

We are savoring this compelling, smart, and very funny show, watching only one episode per night and refusing to binge. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (of Gilmore Girls fame), “Mrs. Maisel” encounters the triumphs and sorrows of being a fairly wealthy Manhattan socialite whose husband, sadly, does what too many skunks posing as men do. Not only is he a schmuck, he steals material for his so-called comic performances at the Gaslight Club. He is such a schlemiel that through episode four, he still has no idea how funny his wife is, that she not only already has but will continue to “kill” on the stand-up comic stages of mid-20th Century New York. The show incorporates legendary, and very real, comedians like Red Skelton and Lenny Bruce into its plot, and also convinces us that what you see is not always what you get in its choice of actors/roles (I’m looking at you, Tony Shalhoub and you Kevin Pollack, and yes, you Alex Borstein!).

I cannot begin to describe how smart this show is — how deeply it accords with my own, my wife’s, and apparently many many others’ sensibilities. So rather than try, let me do this.

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I often judge a film or TV series by the music that the filmmakers choose to heighten, accompany, or underscore their work’s action or theme. Think Rushmore’s Wes Anderson choosing The Faces’ “Ooh La La” for the final dance scene; or Jared Hess choosing “The Promise” as Napoleon (Dynamite) plays tetherball with his girlfriend “Deb”; or Sofia Coppola filtering The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey” into our ears as Bill Murray kisses Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation (a film that my daughter, alone out of almost everyone else I know, hates). Choosing key songs is like finding a perfect shirt in a random yard sale. How the hell did that get here?

Sherman-Palladino knows her music, or at least knows how to listen to series’ music producers Eric Gorstein and Sam Phillips. Period music flows from New York streets and bars: Ella Fitzgerald & Louie Armstrong, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand (OK, this one, Babs singing “Happy Days Are Here Agin,” might be a bit later than the setting). My wife kind of sighed when the Mills’ Brothers’ “Nevertheless (I’m in Love With You)” played in episode three.

As for me, its the final scene of each show bleeding into the ending credits that gets me. Much like the reboot this past summer of Twin Peaks, which always set its ending at the Road House, and had real-life indie stars such as Au Revoir Simone and The Chromatics musically closing the episode, “Mrs. Maisel” picks songs that stir, that leave us pining to dance or sing or, actually, write a new story.

Episode One, for instance, as we are getting insight into Midge and her world, ends with Dave Edmunds’ poppy 80’s hit “Girl’s Talk.” Maybe Elvis C. did it better, but you have to love going with the original. Episode Two, after Midge is thrown in jail for “indecency” (see, I told you that bit about seeing and not getting), closes with Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel.” Episode Four chooses XTC’s “Dear Madam Barnum” (What the hell?). I’m just happy that anyone remebers these tunes other than the DJ’s on First Wave.

After each of these, I wanted to download every 80’s tune I ever knew, or at least jump onto a dance floor somewhere. I don’t know where that dance floor would be, though. Even when we moved to our town of Greenville, USA, back in the 80’s and went to a club, I got into trouble with the DJ for asking that he play The Pet Shop Boys:

“Our crowd doesn’t like that music,” he informed me.

That music.

He then played “Celebration” again just to prove something.

So where would I go now to dance to XTC, or even Rockpile?

You might have noticed that I skipped Episode Three. I know, but I saved it for this moment. I don’t want to give away plot points, but if you know (and I know you know) what it feels like to face a world alone, then you might want someone, anyone, wise enough to underscore your alienation with Frank Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” And I don’t know if this matters or if you’d want it if it did, but on the heels of Sinatra, “Mrs. Maisel’s” creators segued into this. Listen to it. It’s kinda drivin’ me insane.

Like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is every night for as long as it lasts. The music, the lives, and from time to time, a knish or two.

L’Chaim.

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