In the messy video universe of today, answering the casual question "What's so good about television?" It can be complicated.
It's nothing complicated with Amazon The wonderful Mrs. Maisel . This new series, which is launched on Wednesday in the broadcast service, is simply good television.
Like in, really good television.
Rachel Brosnahan plays Miriam "Midge" Maisel, who seems to be living the dream.
The year is 1958 and she is a housewife in a luxurious apartment on the Upper West Side with a seemingly excellent husband, Joel (Michael Zegen) and two children.
His parents Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle), who also live in this giant apartment, are annoying in a way that makes us roll their eyes and understand that being upset is just what they do. They can not avoid it.
Joel works in real estate, or something like that, and longs to become a comedian. To this end, he steals one of Bob Newhart's routines and opens mic nights at Gaslight, a legendary Greenwich Village club in real life.
Miriam encourages him, attending his shows and talking about comedies.
Everything is fine until one night he bombs and when they return to the apartment he announces that he is leaving. We wonder for a moment why he can not just have the shroud like everyone else, until he announces that he has had an affair with Penny, whom Miriam accurately evaluates as her "mediocre secretary".
Miriam, understandably in shock, begins to swallow a bottle of sweet wine and takes a taxi, still in a nightgown, to Gaslight. She stumbles on stage and turns the events of the past two hours into an impromptu routine that leads to what Rick in Casablanca once called wow finish.
Hey, it's a way to enter the world of entertainment.
Who knew it was that simple?
Miriam had not really planned this little episode as a professional move, but a Gaslight employee, Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein), recognizes it as just that. Susie tells Miriam that she has been watching comedians for 20 years and that the only one who had that intangible magic on stage was Mort Sahl.
Sahl's reference is genius on the part of Amy Sherman-Palladino, who with her husband Daniel created Mrs. Maisel . So Miriam comes across another comedian of the new wave in real life at the time, Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby).
Its inclusion, and the unique style of Mrs. Maisel, give the program an intelligent background and knowledge of the history of comedy, recognizing a time when the winds changed and nobody knew exactly where they would fly.
Ms. Maisel also skillfully explores the Jewish culture of the late fifties. The most familiar comic part, the part that turns our eyes, is woven into the tragedy of a community still plagued by indescribable losses.
Less than 15 years have pbaded since the death camps, and everyone had someone, usually several, who did not return.
Grief permeates the air, with fury next to it.
"You want a friend who catches you," Abe tells Miriam, "not someone who points to the attic and says, 'They're up there'."
Strong things. Still, the heart of Mrs. Maisel in every way, is Miriam de Brosnahan.
Live in a world that, by all appearances, is perfect, exactly what you wanted, until a moment reveals how much of its façade and how fragile that facade can be.
She defines her life for Joel, which is what she is supposed to do, then leaves. She addresses her parents and tells her that she must have done something wrong.
She is a victim, although it was not defined that way in 1958. She defines herself, and by the end of the first episode it is clear that this will be the program.
Despite the bottle of sweet wine, she does not spend much time in self-pity. Find a course and follow it, not always with total success, but always with, well, heart.
Brosnahan captures Miriam perfectly. She is bewildered and terrified without being intimidated. She is funny without sounding simple.
After the first configuration episode, you can not wait to see how Ms. Maisel will navigate the world. Sometimes it is irregular, sometimes messy and sometimes clbadified R. It is also fun and it is almost always very good television.