THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL: SEASON 4 (Amy Sherman-Palladino). First two episodes begin streaming Friday (February 18) on Prime Video, with two episodes dropping each Friday until March 18. Rating: NN
Amy Sherman-Palladino’s beloved series about housewife-turned-stand-up-comic Miriam “Midge” Maisel’s personal and career ups and downs in the late 50s and early 60s is beginning to wear thin, especially if you’ve watched the superior series Hacks, also about female comics.
Season four begins right after the third ended, with Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) and her manager Susie (Alex Borstein) dealing with the aftermath of her innuendo-filled confessional set at the Apollo Theater, which got her abruptly fired from touring with closeted musician Shy Baldwin (LeRoy McClain).
Now the two have major money issues – remember Midge bought back her old Upper West Side apartment from her father-in-law, while Susie gambled away Midge’s earnings. And without the tour, Midge is at a career crossroads, wanting to develop a more authentic onstage act. Meanwhile, Midge’s parents, who decamp from the Maisels’ Queens home to move back in with their daughter, are also busy: Tony Shalhoub’s Abe working as a theatre critic at the Village Voice, and Marin Hinkle’s Rose building her reputation as a professional matchmaker.
The series has always coasted a lot on period fashions and acting, and the first two episodes shown to critics are filled with gorgeous costumes and delightful performances. Along with the leads, scene-stealers like Bailey De Young (as Midge’s BFF Midge) and Stephanie Hsu (as Mei, Midge’s ex’s new girlfriend) are back. Domenick Lombardozzi, Chris Eigeman and Gideon Glick pop up as potentially interesting new characters on the sidelines, but so far they haven’t been given much to do.
The comedy this season seems especially forced, however. Even experienced comic actors like Shalhoub, Hinkel, Kevin Pollak and Caroline Aaron can’t pull off a groan-worthy comic set piece set on a Coney Island ferris wheel. And an extended visual gag involving taxi drivers dropping off Midge’s suitcases falls flat.
That said, the second episode ends in a setting that could be promising for the season’s evolution – and for Midge’s act. This season desperately needs something.
For the first time, Prime Video isn’t releasing the entire season on one day; instead, it’s being parcelled out in two-episode weekly instalments. Whether this gamble pays off remains to be seen. I just hope the next few episodes are more marvelous than what we’ve seen so far.