Amy Sherman-Palladino is a long way from Stars Hollow.
The warm, witty creator of Gilmore Girls, which she revived on Netflix last fall, is back with another fast-talking, female-centric show: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which premieres on Amazon Prime Nov. 29. (Pilot episode is available to stream free now.)
While Gilmore followed a modern-day mother-daughter duo (Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel) in a fictional Connecticut town, Maisel is set on New York’s Upper West Side in the late 1950s, where a privileged Jewish housewife, Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), lives with her lousy husband Joel (Michael Zegen), an aspiring comedy writer. But when he leaves her for another woman, Midge decides to take a crack at her own stand-up ambitions, with the help of Susie (Alex Borstein), a no-nonsense bartender at a comedy club.
Amazon shared these exclusive photos from the first season, and Sherman-Palladino spoke with USA TODAY about the show.
There have been many recent TV shows and movies set in the comedy world. Were there any tropes you were hoping to avoid?
I actually think it’s less a show about stand-up comedy. It’s really about this woman who was raised in a bubble and thought she was queen of that bubble. When that bubble bursts, (she finds) this voice that is thrilling and weird and different.
We don’t try (writing) stories to get her onstage, we (write) stories based on how we want her life to go. And her getting onstage is always going to be fueled by what’s just happened to her five minutes before or who broke her heart.
Is Midge inspired by any female comedians?
Joan Rivers is the first person who comes to mind, because she’s the iconic female comic, but she’s not based on any particular (comedian). My father was a comic, so I was raised with a bunch of Jews sitting in the backyard, smoking a joint and talking about the good old days. To me, the idea of being in Greenwich Village during that exciting, basket-house time just seemed very romantic and thrilling.
How would you describe the dynamic between Midge and Susie?
What I love about the Midge-Susie thing is it’s two women who in any other circumstances in life would not only not be friends, but would seriously have nothing to do with each other.
They fulfill a need in each other. Susie (is) a woman whose life is never going to be about human contact and warmth. But being able to utilize her smarts in a way she never thought she’d have an opportunity to is something that she’s going to hold onto for dear life. Midge doesn’t know how to navigate the world outside of her small bubble, and here’s someone who’s like, “You can absolutely do this, just get off your (butt) and let’s go.” It’s that Ethel and Lucy dynamic, of people who aren’t really friends but almost have more need for each other than sometimes friends do.
Stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) makes an appearance in the first episode. Will other real-life figures pop up throughout the show?
Lenny Bruce has taken on this mythic role in this particular piece. A lot of it is because he’s a man who was bucking trends and trying to speak truth at a time when you weren’t encouraged to. He was part of that new change, from the more “Take my wife … please” comics to comics who talked about politics and the bad things in the world. It was a shift in time and she’s entering comedy right at that shift, so it felt organic to bring him in.
(Writer/activist) Jane Jacobs makes an appearance. There will be others throughout the series, but a lot of those characters will be composites or people representing other people. We didn’t want it to be a lot of just impersonating famous people.
Although they’re set in very different time periods, do you see any common threads between this and Gilmore Girls?
It’s very snappy, because I have a very short attention span. In that sense, there’s an energy that is very similar to Gilmore Girls. It’s strong, interesting, different kinds of women, and women who depend on other women. That’s a big common thread. There’s a lot of humor, and it’s very colorful. We don’t have Stars Hollow, but we have 1958 New York, which is gorgeous. We have the beautiful cars and clothes and music. There’s a fun factor to this that if you enjoy Gilmore, I think you’ll enjoy this, too.
The Gilmore Girls cast and fans talk to TIME about what the show means to them, and why it resonates with fans so much. Time