In just two seasons, Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has established itself as one of the best examples of world building on television. From lavish Catskills resorts to grimy comedy clubs, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and company bring an attention to detail that makes the lush Stars Hollow of “Gilmore Girls” look like a dry run by comparison. That detail was on full display Saturday night at the Paley Center for Media in New York, as the show’s cast and crew were on hand for the opening of the new “Making Maisel Marvelous” exhibit, which runs through Sept. 6 – conveniently the entirety of the Emmy voting season.
The interactive space features costumes and sets from the Emmy-winning show, including the B. Altman makeup counter where Rachel Brosnahan’s Midge Maisel works, and the stage from the rheumatoid arthritis telethon where the comic made her TV debut. While Emmy voters were charmed by the up-close access to talent on opening night, the real star of the night was the show’s designs.
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“It’s the costumes, it’s the hair, it’s everything. You step onto a set and you’re in the 1950s. You feel like you’re in it,” Michael Zegen, who plays Joel Maisel, told IndieWire. “It’s incredible, the amount of money that Amazon has spent on this show.”
While the show’s first season focused on Sherman-Palladino’s whimsical take on 1950s Manhattan, a highlight of season two was the Weissman family’s excursion to the fictional Steiner Resort in the Catskills. With some of the sets on display, everyone was eager to dish on the tomato juice-drenched shoot.
“We did a lot of research on the Catskills. We saw every documentary, our art department brought up every possible picture. And I think today’s generation has forgotten that before there was air conditioning, before there was cheap air travel, every Jew that lived in New York City and the New Jersey area went up to the Catskills…We have programs of the original Catskills resorts, they had an activity every six minutes. We did not make up any of the things we talked about,” said executive producer Dan Palladino, before Amy corrected him.
“The tomato juice, we made up,” she said. “It just seemed like the worst drink to drink on a hot day.”
The beverage didn’t seem to bother Tony Shalhoub, who plays Midge’s father, Abe Weissman. “I drank more tomato juice in those couple of weeks than I think I had consumed in my entire life,” he said. “And I like tomato juice!…It actually kind of rekindled my love of tomato juice.”
From the Catskills to Manhattan to Paris, the exhibition serves as a tribute to the team’s all-encompassing vision, combining meticulous research with a playful Old Hollywood gaze. “I was supposed to be a dancer, and my mother is still tragically upset that it didn’t turn out the way she planned. She spent a lot of money on toe shoes and she saw no return on investment. [So we tried to capture] a lot of that feeling of MGM musicals, that Technicolor and the beauty and the movement. And while we don’t consider ourselves a screwball comedy, it has that same energy, that rat-a-tat-tat,” said Sherman-Palladino. (Though a strong case could be made that the criminally-overlooked “Bunheads” made her ballet career worthwhile.)
After sweeping the Emmys in its first season, the Amazon series faces a bit of an uphill battle this year. While the show’s sophomore effort was widely regarded as an improvement over its stellar debut, it no longer has the luxury of a “Veep” hiatus. HBO’s perennial awards favorite is taking a victory lap, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus is looking to go seven-for-seven in the Best Actress in a Comedy Series category. Competition will be fierce for reigning champion Rachel Brosnahan (and the other nominees are no slouches either!) If “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” can pull off some victories, it might establish itself as a “Veep”-like frontrunner for years to come.
But for now, everyone seems to be enjoying the time machine ride. The cast and crew all raved about filming season three in Miami, and teased more surprises to come. The show seems to scale up every season, and Sherman-Palladino keeps pushing forward. As the show’s setting transitions from the seemingly-innocent 1950s to the tumultuous ’60s, the story can go absolutely anywhere.
“We know emotionally and storywise where we want to end. We know how far we want to take [Midge’s] journey before we feel like her journey is done…we do know what our da-da-da-da-da-da moment is,” the creator said, empathizing her point with some indescribably charming dance moves. She may not have made it in ballet, but her musical mindset informs the ever-changing nature of one of TV’s best comedies. Maybe those toe shoes weren’t such a bad investment after all.
Final-round Emmy voting is open from Thursday, Aug. 15 through Thursday, Aug. 29 at 10 p.m. PT. Winners for the 71st Primetime Emmys Creative Arts Awards will be announced the weekend of Sept. 14 and 15, with the Primetime Emmys ceremony broadcast live on Fox on Sunday, Sept. 22.