The return of Mrs. Maisel and discontented ‘Devotion’ - TV news

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 A SCENE from ‘Devotion’ (photo credit: Netflix/Sara Petraglia)
A SCENE from ‘Devotion’
(photo credit: Netflix/Sara Petraglia)

Fans of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which airs on Amazon Prime Video, were dismayed to hear the announcement this week that the show’s next season, its fifth, will be its last. They can be consoled by the fact that its fourth just started running on Friday, with two episodes to be released every Friday.

Season four picks up just after the end of the third season, with Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) left behind on a tarmac, as Shy Baldwin, the comedian for whom she had been the opening act, flies to Europe without her, after she did a set where she nearly outed him as gay. Following a predictable but entertaining freak-out, she returns to Manhattan, where she and her manager, Susie (Alex Borstein), sleep on the floor of a club that belongs to Joel (Michael Zegen), her ex.

She has a surprising vision of her future: She buys back the Upper West Side apartment where she and Joel lived when they were married and she plans to rebuild her life there, with her parents and kids. In a pretty spectacular sequence, she tells her family about this on the Wonder Wheel ride at Coney Island, where they yell at each other from different cars. But, this being The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, things get a little complicated when Miriam tries to fulfill her dreams.

This multi-award-winning series from Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), who collaborates with her husband, Daniel Palladino on it, never falters. The breakneck dialogue, combined with quieter moments that reveal truths about the characters’ relationships, is pretty much the smartest, funniest show on television. The production design is unrivaled and it showcases a period, the early 60s, that hasn’t been seen much since Mad Men went off the air and the costumes, interiors and those cars just add to the entertainment value.

I feel that in the wake of the debate over gentile actors playing Jewish characters, it is worth emphasizing that this is a brilliantly cast show and that a huge part of the reason we keep tuning in is Brosnahan’s performance (which has earned her an Emmy and two Golden Globes), as well as the rest of the ensemble, which includes Jews (Borstein, Zegen and others), as well as non-Jews (among them Tony Shalhoub as Midge’s father, Abe), playing mostly Jewish characters.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (credit: COURTESY AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (credit: COURTESY AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)

The word Jewface denotes a bizarre concept, that casting a smart, funny and sexy actress like Brosnahan is somehow an insult to the People of the Book. Blackface comedy poked fun at and demeaned Blacks, but does any rational person think we are not meant to identify with and care for Miriam? Is it truly hard to believe that Brosnahan was the best actress for the role? The fact that her ancestors held wakes, rather than sitting shiva has no effect – none – on her performance. Sadly, there is so much real antisemitism in the world and anyone who goes looking for it in the Maisels’ dining room or at Mrs. Maisel’s comedy performances is misguided at best. 

It is probably a smart decision to go on for just one more season, since it’s always better to leave people wanting more than to outstay your welcome. But the fourth season, based on the first few episodes released to the press, is so strong that it’s hard to imagine saying goodbye to these people so soon.

THE SERIES Devotion, on Netflix, also about a young married couple, presents a huge contrast to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and made me think: Oh, to be beautiful, successful, well off, European and miserable. People must love series like this, because Netflix keeps releasing more of them. This one comes with a subtitle, which is: A story of love and desire.

Set in Milan, Devotion tells the story of Margherita (Lucrezia Guidone), a real-estate broker, and her husband, Carlo (Michele Riondino), a novelist who teaches creative writing at the university. They radiate good taste and neither of them has a hair out of place through the whole series, no matter how sad or upset they get – a bit different from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Margherita’s tailored outfits are particularly nice. They are still so into each other after several years of marriage that when she is showing a spectacular apartment in the first episode, he pretends to have an appointment to see it and they have steamy sex right there.

Even the supposedly downscale rental where they live has a kitchen that is bigger than most Israeli apartments. So what could possibly go wrong? Well, Carlo becomes attracted to Sofia (Carolina Sala), an ethereally lovely student who is having trouble writing about a painful memory, while his wife develops a crush on her hunky physical therapist. Margherita becomes convinced Carlo is cheating on her and starts stalking Sofia.

It all plays out in an atmosphere of red wine in lovely glasses and cups of coffee that you can practically smell through the screen when it is drunk in pleasant cafes. Things happen, plans change and characters find fulfillment. Devotion is a good commercial for tourism to Milan, where the university and publishing company offices look particularly inviting.

GIDI DAR’S Legend of Destruction, the visually stunning movie that tells the story of the fall of the Second Temple through a series of paintings, filmed with dialogue, is available on Hot VOD and Next TV. This movie, which won four Ophir Awards, features the voices of some of the best actors in Israel, including Shuli Rand (who collaborated with Dar on the script), Amos Tamam (who played Amir on Srugim), Ze’ev Revach, Moni Moshonov and Yael Abecassis. It will still be good on the small screen, but you might want to dim the lights and turn off your phone to add to the intensity.

UNDER THE VOLCANO, a look at the recording studio created by legendary music producer George Martin (best known for working with the Beatles) in Montserrat in the Caribbean, will be shown on Hot 8 on Sunday, February 27, at 10 p.m., and will be available on Hot VOD and Next TV. Earth, Wind & Fire, Elton John, Paul McCartney, the Police and Jimmy Buffett are among those who recorded there and it’s enjoyable to watch people having so much fun.

IF YOU’VE been enjoying Julia Garner – and her accents – on the Netflix series, Inventing Anna and Ozark, you might want to see her no less impressive performance in The Assistant, where she speaks in her own voice. It is available on Cellcom TV and the Yes movie store. It’s the story of a young woman who works for a Harvey Weinstein-like producer and has to facilitate his liaisons. Minari, the Oscar-winning story of a family of Korean immigrants in Arkansas in the 1980s, and The Father, a drama about a man with Alzheimer’s, for which Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar, can also be seen on Cellcom TV and the Yes movie store.

Starting Sunday, February 27, Cellcom and Yes movie store will add Wes Anderson’s latest film, The French Dispatch, which tells the story of a Gallic supplement of a New Yorker-type magazine. The film, which is a delight for hardcore Anderson fans and will probably annoy everyone else, stars Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton, core members of Wes Anderson’s repertory, as well as Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet and Lea Seydoux.