Like practically every television critic, I instantly fell in love with season one of Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
After the first season won eight Emmy Awards, I couldn’t wait for season No. 2, which starts streaming on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, the first three episodes of season No. 2 that Amazon sent to preview were so disappointing that newcomers to the show may wonder what the fuss was all about in season one.
The first three episodes made me wonder if it was going to be difficult for executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino (“Gilmore Girls”) and Daniel Palladino to re-create the marvelous magic of discovering the characters last season.
The episodes made me fear “Maisel” was going to turn into another award-winning Amazon series, “Mozart in the Jungle,” that couldn’t duplicate its first-season success.
Thankfully, the magic partially returned for me with a family visit to the Catskills in the summer of 1959 for episodes four and five that rekindled the nostalgia, the classic music and the stand-up comedy that made me fall in love with the series in the first place.
“Maisel” really is a love letter to a bygone era. To paraphrase the old Levy’s rye bread commercial in the 1960s, “you don’t have to be Jewish” (like I am) to enjoy it. But it may help to relate to certain aspects of it.
“Maisel” fans may recall that season one focused on the surprising success of irreverent stand-up comic Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), whose accomplishments threatened the masculinity of her husband Joel Maisel, (Michael Zegen), an aspiring comedian himself, and their marriage.
The couple with two children separated. Fast-talking and fast-walking Midge lives with her parents, Abe and Rose Weissman (Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle).
The cast also includes Joel’s parents, Moishe (Kevin Pollak) and Shirley Maisel (Caroline Aaron), who don’t have the refinement of the Maisels.
And then there’s Alex Borstein as Susie Myerson, Midge’s dedicated and desperate agent who will beg, steal and lie to get her client ahead.
Abe Weissman likes and needs everything to be in order to an alarming and annoying degree, while Rose likes and needs a little more attention.
The first three episodes focus on Rose’s decision to head to Paris, the kind of plot line that you might not expect to see for a few more seasons when ideas are running short.
Needless to say, I didn’t love the Paris episodes.
But, you gotta love the nostalgic 1959 summer trip to the Catskills, replete with dance challenges, swimsuit contests, fashionable clothes, hair salon gossip, a “Simon says” contest, a humorless resort comedian, a welcome song and a soundtrack that includes “Let’s Get Away From It All” and “Moonlight Serenade.”
And, of course, there is the speedy and snappy dialogue that we’ve become used to from Sherman-Palladino.
Zachary Levi (NBC’s “Chuck”) also shows up as a tall doctor who can trade deadpan humor with Midge even if she doesn’t initially appear all that interested in him.
Best of all, by the end of the fifth episode Midge gets to deliver a decent amount of outrageous stand-up comedy that reminds you what has been missing until then.
Off of the five of this season’s 10 episodes that Amazon made available for review, the second season might not be as marvelous as the first season of discovery.
However, by episode five the chance you will be hooked again is about equal to the chance that you could overeat at a Catskills resort in 1959.