We may not need another Gilmore Girls revival to fill the void where Rory and Lorelai’s witty chatter used to be: Meet Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), the pastel-clad star of Gilmore creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s delightful new Amazon series, set in 1958 New York.
When her story begins, Midge is like a Jewish Betty Draper, but with 10 times the personality. She applies fresh makeup each morning before her beloved husband Joel (Michael Zegen) wakes, can charm everyone from the local butcher to the irate woman she cuts in line — all before she bribes the booker at the Greenwich Village comedy club with homemade brisket to get Joel, an aspiring comic, a better time slot at night. But after one disastrous evening brings her marriage to an unexpected halt, Midge drunkenly stumbles onto the stage herself and is — you guessed it! — marvelous.
Brosnahan’s casting is impeccable. She’s so charismatic that things can dull a bit when she’s off-screen, if only because her deftness with Sherman-Palladino’s script is so captivating. And while she may project the air of a sweet housewife on the outside, she’s got plenty of bite, too — and knows when to use it. Midge is so clearly smarter and more interesting than everyone around her, and it’s delicious to watch her slowly realize that. (And for the more visually minded: Her wardrobe, by costume designer Donna Zakowska, is a dream, with its long pink coats, chic pedal pushers, and exquisitely patterned dresses.)
That’s not to say the supporting cast isn’t excellent: As Susie Meyerson, the misanthropic comedy club employee who becomes Midge’s manager, Alex Borstein provides a hilarious and fitting foil to our star. Tony Shaloub and Marin Hinkle play Midge’s high-strung, neurotic parents, and Bailey De Young is delightful as her best friend Imogene Cleary. The show’s biggest risk might be including actual comics from the time as characters, like Luke Kirby’s slick Lenny Bruce, but a little suspension of disbelief never hurt anyone — and the scene was small in those days.
Still, the series belongs to Midge, and you live for the final moments each episode when she pours her inner thoughts and keen observations out onstage. And that’s where she might have those Girls beat: As a stand-up, Midge doesn’t even need a sparring partner. A-