The state of streaming television in 2019 is one of flux. Netflix has lost the dominance it once had. Studios are launching their own networks in a bid to keep their content in-house. And corporate behemoths like Amazon have built networks from the ground up to encourage people to spend money on their respective platforms. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, now in its second season, is the result of the company wanting some prestige television to itself. And that is exactly what they got, because the show is spectacular.
The purpose of this post is to highlight nearly all the vehicles seen in the first two seasons. It will also serve as my extended review of the series. If you intend to watch the show at some point you may want to avoid reading this article as it may spoil some of the plot. Pictures will be numbered to facilitate discussion.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is named after Miriam Maisel, and the show follows herself, her husband, their parents, and pretty much everyone else they interact with in the bustling metropolis of 1958 New York City.
A substantial number of characters get their own sub plots throughout the show, but ultimately the focus is on how Miriam adapts to life after her marriage bursts into flames in pretty much the worst way possible.
It’s when she’s scraping the bottom of the barrel that Miriam discovers her innate talent: stand-up comedy.
The road to becoming a stand up comic is not a clear one, even today. Sixty years ago, the idea of a foul-mouthed female talking about sex and other taboo subjects was unfathomable. It was an uphill battle to say the least.
Amy Sherman-Palladino, the primary writer and directer of the show, is acutely aware of the challenges Miriam faced in 1958, and not just as a woman.
Comics could get arrested simply for saying something that audiences found distasteful.
This comes up relatively quickly in the show, and it serves as an excellent introduction to the state of comedy in New York City as it existed at the time.
Another smart choice was incorporating real life people and places into the series. In a lesser show, this would have come off as a cheap gimmick.
But having Miriam bump into people like Lenny Bruce and Jane Jacobs helps reminds viewers of the brewing counter-culture movement that she may or may not be a part of when (or if) the show reaches the mid-to-late 1960’s.
If The Gaslight Cafe, boundary-pushing comedians, and defiant urban planners are meant to illustrate the world in which Miriam has stumbled into, then the lives of her parents, estranged husband, his parents, and their wider social circle serve as a stark reminder of the life that Miriam possessed before the events of the first episode.
This is where Maisel really shines. Miriam never hated married life; she was completely content with her situation until circumstances outside her control sent things crashing down.
The people she identifies with are solidly middle to upper class Manhattanites who almost never venture to the outer boroughs.
This is because her father is a tenured professor of mathematics at Columbia University and her “former” in laws are similarly wealthy and firmly integrated into the bourgeoisie society of 1958 Manhattan.
Miriam’s perpetual shock at how the other half lives serves a larger purpose: it’s a window into the social circle she’ll inhabit if her career resonates with audiences beyond Greenwich Village.
Her counter culture and comedy “Sherpa” is Susie Myerson, an employee at The Gaslight Cafe who eventually becomes Miriam’s manager.
Susie is a bit of a mess.
She is perpetually harried and fully aware that her station in life isn’t much better than a resident at Green Haven Correctional Facility.
Alex Borstein, who plays Susie, has a way with swear words and exasperation.
And the entire cast is great too. There is absolutely no way the show would work without Rachel Brosnahan, who plays Miriam, and she does an incredible job at really making you believe that the woman on screen is a budding stand up comedian.
Tony Shalhoub steals nearly every scene as Miriam’s incredibly meticulous yet oddly aloof father, Abe Weissman.
Michael Zegen expertly portrays the listlessness of Joel Maisel. And Kevin Pollack is great as his father, Moishe Maisel. Even the smaller roles are filled with quality actors.
Maisel also boasts an incredibly high production budget.
The show is shot on location in NYC and elsewhere, but even the places that serve as a stand in for now defunct resorts are top notch.
All of the vehicles are era appropriate, and shots that feature streets in the background even have vintage cars on them.
Even shows like Stranger Things can’t be bothered with those type of details, as I’ve routinely noticed modern vehicles in the background of quite a few shots.
And the production company deserves credit for getting buses and work vehicles in the show too.
The same goes for the fabulous outfits.
Amy Sherman-Palladino again deserves credit for her expertise in writing and directing the show.
I highly doubt Maisel would work if Miriam’s stand up wasn’t genuinely funny. This is what sunk Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a show ostensibly about comedy that wasn’t funny, but instead serious in a way that only Aaron Sorkin shows can be.
And the comedic elements outside of the comedy clubs works well too.
Maisel also feels energetic due to the directing.
The camera never stands still, and in certain scenes, it mimics the behavior of the characters.
For example, when Joel dances around all the chaos of a block in the Garment District, the camera is right behind him, ducking around people and clothing just like him, which gives the scene added weight.
The era of streaming television is no longer dominated by Netflix.
Unfortunately, that means customers need to subscribe to a multitude of platforms.
Amazon decided to throw money at a high concept show in a bid to become a credible source of quality television. They succeeded.
With my review of Maisel officially over I can now comment on the pictures directly above my writing. Zachary Levi joined the show about half way through season 2 and he’s been great.
I’ve never actually watched a full episode of Chuck, but from what I remember, Levi’s character always possessed a healthy amount of affable charm.
This is also true for slightly off center doctor he portrays in this show, although here its more of a quiet intensity that doesn’t make itself apparent upon our introduction to the character.
His introduction to Miriam is excellent. I won’t go into specifics, but their first interactions are delightfully awkward.
These shots of the Plymouth were accomplished with a chase car and a helicopter, but I’m also convinced drones were used as well, because the camera pans completely over and around the convertible when we first see it on the highway.
And it’s done in what looks like a single shot.
In general, the cinematography for the entire show is top notch.
I’m hoping we’ll see more of this Plymouth in season 3.
Zachary Levi is also the star of the upcoming Shazam! live action movie. It looks great and I hope it does well.
I initially thought The Legends of Lizzie was some sort of parody of Broadway, but it turns out that this play was real, and it ran for a total of two days and two performances in February 1959.
Makes sense. Why would anyone want to see a play based on that story?
Brownstones are timeless. And they also enable films and TV shows to easily transform a city street into whatever period they desire. Provided they have the right vehicles, of course.
If I end up wealthy I just might buy a brownstone.
Levi’s character lives in this neighborhood. He’s got a good taste in cars and houses.
Does anything about this picture look familiar to you? Back in October, William Stopford shared some pictures he had taken of a bunch of period cars parked along a street in Greenwich Village.
Turns out the pics were from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, season 2. Mystery solved! JohnC deserves a tip of the hat for being the first person to correctly guess which show was filming when Will snapped his pictures.
And for those of you who complained about the Model A being too old a car to appear on the streets, just know that its conspicuous existence is part of the plot, and so are the Ohio license plates.
I’d also like to add that older cars are much more common in NYC than you might think. I know that was probably less common fifty years ago, but today lots of car owners in New York purposely keep older vehicles on the road due to their likelihood of being banged up by people who can’t parallel park. This is probably more of an anecdote than anything else because it comes from my conversations with friends and family that own cars in the five boroughs.
Here’s a question for those of you familiar with how things looked circa 1959: would a gas station have looked like that back in the day? I thought it looked a bit too modern for the show.
The canopy looks era appropriate, right?
I’m guessing the show runners have had to deal with these types of issues since season 1.
After all, how many gas stations from fifty years ago are still standing? I imagine most of them have been knocked down in favor of the larger stations we’re now accustomed to.
And how many gas stations will be around in 2069?
Hollywood will probably have to straight up build some era appropriate stations or add some fake pumps to an electric charging station or something. Although in fifty years everything will probably be CGI anyway, which makes all this kvetching a moot issue.
Now this picture is interesting. I feel like I’ve been to this place before. It just looks familiar. I highly doubt the crew filmed any scenes around Albany, but if they did, it was for this shot.
Here’s a nice shot of the Model A in the rain.
I feel like a lot of period pieces only shoot in decent weather, so its always a treat to see something like this in a movie or TV show.
We’ve now arrived at perhaps the most vexing picture of the bunch. Is this really the Holland tunnel? I highly doubt the show runners were able to get the tunnel shut down for shots, but then again, this is real, right? Did they just flood the area with so many classic cars it naturally filled the entire area? I suppose it could be done at 2AM or something. It’s also possible this is just some Hollywood magic and they skillfully used CGI in lieu of actually getting cars into the Holland tunnel.
These final screenshots are from a flash back, which is why the cars look older.
I’m still making it a point to avoid spoilers as much as possible.
All I’ll say is this: Amy Sherman-Palladino does a hell of a job with delivering emotional gut punches.
And that wraps up pretty much all the cars from the first two seasons of this fabulous show. Here’s to hoping seasons 3 and 4 deliver just as much quality television and classic cars as the first two did.
On Location Classics: Vintage Cars On Camera In Greenwich Village by William Stopford