New York Magazine

“NOTHING LIKE A JEW EATING A PICKLE AND YOU PUT SOME CHRISTMAS CAROLS OVER IT.”

Gilmore Girls creator AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO’S new show is a dreamy televisual concoction of 1950s New York and the comedy world of Joan Rivers. But just because it tastes like candy doesn’t mean it isn’t prestige TV.
Amy Sherman-Palladino in her New York office.

ANYONE FAMILIAR WITH Gilmore Girls, the beloved television series about garrulous best friends who are also devoted mother and daughter, would immediately recognize Amy Sherman-Palladino, the series’ creator, as an Amy Sherman-Palladino character. She is a fierce and funny talker who yaks copiously, referentially, and caustically. To spend time with her is to hear how she wanted to play Rumpelteazer in a road production of Cats; learn that she can’t work in silence and so for a while was writing to Sophie’s Choice; be distracted by accessories that include a rhinestone flying-pig ring the size of an uncracked walnut; and witness her running argument with her Minnie Mouse iWatch, which is always telling her to breathe even though she is breathing and not just breathing but producing, writing, and directing Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the most ambitious TV show she has ever made.

In the first episode, Miriam “Midge” Maisel—a Jewish, Bryn Mawr–educated, 26-year-old wife and mother of two who is supremely content with her life as the queen of the 1958 Upper West Side—is abandoned by her husband, Joel, who name-checks the bohemian life he wants to be living and the secretary he’s sleeping with as he leaves. Midge wanders downtown onto the stage of the Gaslight Café, where she delivers an honest, raucous monologue. “All that shit they say about Jewish girls in the bedroom? Not true. There are French whores standing around the Marais district saying, ‘Did you hear what Midge did to Joel’s balls the other night?’” she punches, suddenly blessed and cursed by a calling to be a stand-up comic.

Mrs. Maisel is, among other things, a shimmery reverie about upscale Jewish New York, and in late July, Sherman-Palladino was filming in a delicatessen on the Upper West Side, a few blocks north of Zabar’s. “If I may,” Sherman-Palladino called through the room to the dozens of extras in period winter clothes, “in the 1950s, there was no manspreading. Put your knees together!”

Sherman-Palladino was a dancer into her early 20s, a background that you can see in her work—in the long swooping shots, the avoidance of close-ups, the length of scenes that unfold like a play. She had spent hours attending to the camera’s choreography, having it glide by the pickled tomatoes next to the cashier, slide underneath dangling salamis and over the counter as green-clad waitresses peeled off like kasha varnishkes–carrying dancers to reveal a sign offering borscht for 45 cents and a resplendently maroon Midge, played by Rachel Brosnahan, looking for her dining companion, a joke-writer played by Wallace Shawn. Now she wanted to ensure that the scene’s dialogue, a back-and-forth involving chopped liver and Eve Arden, zipped like screwball. “This is the part of the game where I start to say, ‘Pace it up!’”

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