By Kevin McDonough
There's a lot to like about the new Amazon series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." And there's a lot to think about, too. And the more I think about the series, the less I like it. It's that kind of show.
Written and created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, it has all the strengths and weaknesses of her acclaimed series "Gilmore Girls."
People simply talk too much. All the time.
Sherman-Palladino is not the only offender here. The kinds of TV writers people often single out and admire, say, Aaron Sorkin, tend to be over-writers. Their characters nervously rattle on, either delivering speeches or blathering on in nervous ways that are supposed to seem cute. Both writers seem smitten by the screwball comedies of director Howard Hawks. Sometimes it works ("West Wing") and sometimes it's embarrassing ("Newsroom"). I found "Gilmore Girls" a bit of both.
Chatter aside, "Marvelous" is a sight to behold. It's a love letter to late 1950s New York. The camerawork is fluid and the production design just short of magical. Think of "Mad Men" shot like a musical and you're coming close.
As a result, the style complements the excessive dialogue. Sherman-Palladino's characters would really be more bearable if they simply burst into song and dance. Instead, we're served up a terrific soundtrack of vintage pop standards by the likes of Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra. Like I said, there's a lot to like here.
Rachel Brosnahan ("House of Cards") is perfectly cast and completely lovely as Miriam "Midge" Maisel.
She's a married mother of two, very, very comfortably situated in New York's Jewish community on the affluent Upper West Side. Tony Shalhoub is great as her father, Abe, a math professor who's anything but rational. His temper comes to the fore when Miriam's junior executive husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), decides to leave her for his secretary.
A loyal wife, Miriam had been supporting Joel's amateur attempts as a standup comic. Upon learning of his desertion, she drinks too much and returns to the club and delivers a bracing monologue on marriage and men that gains the attention of a comedy pro (Alex Borstein). She is, it seems, a natural.
"Marvelous" goes on to move between the lofty affluent comforts of her Riverside Drive home to the gritty confines of downtown comedy clubs in the wee, wee hours. And that's when things become a bit much.
"Maisel" simply has to have it all. It's a tale of bourgeois life and downtown squalor, garment district melodramas and meetings with the great comedy martyr Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) himself.
The show is simply a tad too greedy in trying to evoke all those divergent settings. Is "Mrs. Maisel" marvelous? Or simply slumming?
Fans of retro holiday splendor should not miss the 1967 special "Christmas With the King Family" (10 p.m., getTV).
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• A tree is illuminated to music on "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" (8 p.m., NBC).
• Work comes to a halt on "Empire" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• A victim's plight brings out buried emotions from Benson on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• Ragnar's heirs squabble on the fifth season premiere of "Vikings" (9 p.m., History, TV-MA).
• A singer performs in a legendary venue on "Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo" (10 p.m., CBS).
• Voight is linked to a grim discovery on "Chicago P.D." (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• A secret mission to a war zone on "Designated Survivor" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
Behind the wheel on "The Goldbergs" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * An ominous challenge on "Riverdale" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) * A college tour on "Speechless" (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * Jealousy strikes on "Star" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) * Name dropping on "Modern Family" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * Fallon and Steven ruin the holiday on "Dynasty" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14) * Charity becomes a blood sport on "American Housewife" (9:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
Talib Kweli appears on "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" (11 p.m., Comedy Central) * Rob Riggle is on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) * Justin Timberlake and Carmen Yulin Cruz are booked on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) * Armie Hammer, Juno Temple and Charlie Puth appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
© 2017, United Feature Syndicate