What Makes The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 4 So Great?

by Tulsi Shah

Part of S35 TV’s Making Of Feature Series

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a comedy-period drama about a 1950’s housewife who becomes a stand-up comedian after her husband leaves her for his secretary. The series has become extremely popular for its developing characters, storyline, and setting, which provides natural challenges for our protagonist. In season 4, Midge (played by Rachel Brosnahan) has been dropped from Shy Baldwin’s tour, she must now repair her career with the fear of rejection.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was inspired by the experiences of executive producer and television writer Amy Sherman-Palladino. Palladino’s father was a stand-up comedian based in New York, where the series takes place. She was also inspired by the first women of stand-up comedy, such as Joan Rivers and Totie Fields. After Amazon greenlit a pilot episode in 2016 and the pilot episode was a success, Amazon gave the production a two-season order. The series is so popular that a 5th Season was ordered the same day season 4 was released.

One of the reasons why this show is so critically acclaimed is its cast, with Brosnahan was the first cast member to join the production. In an interview with Script Magazine, Brosnahan stated she wanted to do this show when she read the first page of the pilot script. She liked that her character was on cloud nine at first, only to have the rug pulled from underneath her. To put it in the actresses’ words, she is “getting taken down a peg.” Another thing Brosnahan and many people like is that Midge is not a typical housewife. She is not just at home with the children. Now, she is working to provide for her children in a non-traditional way.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel references 1950’s New York through its set and costume design, and even some of the characters are homages to 1950’s comedians such as Lenny Bruce. The sets have become somewhat iconic to the show with the Gaslight Club — where Mrs. Maisel gets her first audience — based on an authentic café. According to Bustle, the real Gaslight café was an underground speakeasy mainly aimed at gay people. It was a famous spot for poets, featuring the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Kaufman but closed in 1971.

The exterior shots used for the Gaslight Club are of an actual apartment building and many of the building’s residents did not appreciate the noise and disruptions caused by the shooting of this show. The set designs are excellently highlighted through the show’s use of long shots as the camera continuously pans around the scene without any edits, with these shots giving the feeling of this fast-talking, fast-moving life where characters must act quickly, just like New York itself.

Oh, did we mention the costumes? These are some beautiful recreations of 1950s fashion, with two of the costumes worn in season 2 even taken to be displayed at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. Costume designer Donna Zakowska, however, changes it up for season 4. As the series pushed into the 1960s, the skirts got less fluffy and ‘squarer’, though elements of the 50’s still resonated throughout the show, designs from the 60s are becoming more prevalent with the use of colour empathised through Midge’s stage outfits, moving from her usual black stage attire to more colourful costumes. This wardrobe change can be seen as Midge develops past her former persona. She is no longer a housewife or even a married woman. It could also symbolise her shift in attitude. In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, Zakowska mentioned colours to empathise with a character’s set of mind and with the clothing — as with the set design and long shots — the goal is to “create something that will enhance the action in the scene.”

The show has received plenty of awards and positive reviews. Season 4 is no different. Winning multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Awards, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has earned a name for itself as one of the best comedy-period dramas of all time, however many reviews have stated that the show feels like it is running out of things to say. With Season 5 confirmed to be its final season, let’s hope The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel gets her marvellous ending.

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