Did I spend many weekend mornings of my formative teenage/high school years watching Gilmore Girls reruns on ABC Family? Yes. Will I actually spontaneously combust if I see another show from the aughts or late nineties get revived into a lesser than spinoff? Maybe. Am I really happy that the brain power behind Gilmore Girls has created a new show, one that is wonderful and whose lead is funny (and sorry, but way less insufferable than Rory Gilmore)? Yes, very much so.
I think about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and SMILF alongside each other for a few reasons. The first and most obvious of them is that I binged them back to back. The second one, also kind of obvious, is that both of their titles are technically identifiers of the titular characters but have very different connotations.
SMILF's title has proved to be an active topic of conversation with one of the most exercised points being that it doesn't do the show justice. But the counter stance to that, and the one that has come from the show's creator Frankie Shaw, is that the title is a reclaiming of the phrase. Uh yeah, I agree with that one.
I also think it adds to the show's charm; to the fact that some of the things that plague her with worry might seem trivial on an objective level. In SMILF's first episode, Bridgette is bent on addressing her insecurities towards her post-baby body. She looks great. She's probably not any less attractive than she was before she was a mom. But interactions like the one she has in episode one -- after a pickup basketball game with a group of guys her age in her neighborhood -- show how quickly a guy loses interest when he realizes that she has a child. So, of course, Bridgette's insecurities aren't unwarranted.
Still, SMILF doesn't fall into the trap of having its main character experience profound character growth at a pace that is only possible in the world of an eight-episode Showtime series. Bridgette is the same person the season finale as she is in its premiere.
Bridgette inhabits an entirely different world than Midge (Rachel Brosnahan). * Insert a joke about Manhattan real estate * The New York of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is one where downtown Manhattan is still an enclave for starving and striving artists. And where there are diners in which people drink coffee with no abandon after dark and on an empty stomach.
I'm hesitant to call the experience of watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as escapist; instead, I'll refer to it as escapist leaning. There's something about the show that doesn't necessarily invoke nostalgia for the New York of the 1950s but more so of life before everyone you know can deduce your whereabouts via your smartphone. Midge's journey from married housewife to burgeoning stand up comedian feels swift but is not without its obstacles.
The characters of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel speak at a speed that is characteristic of most Amy Sherman Palladino shows. Midge's parents, specifically her dad who is played by Tony Shalhoub, are a pleasure to watch. That's another thing these two shows have in common; aside from being welcome and refreshing additions to scenes, the supporting characters' personalities are fully fleshed out. SMILF does it in a fashion more comparable to a show like This is Us and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel does it in a way that -- well we all know what I'm going to say -- isn't un-similar to Gilmore Girls.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel carves out a hyper-specific identity for Midge. SMILF sort of does the same. The important distinction between the two is the role that choice plays in the lives of these two women. Who is in the position to make decisions for them? Where does their independence start and end? While SMILF can specifically and more accurately speak for the experiences of working-class single mothers, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel feels like an ode to women like Midge from that era. They both show how we can flourish when we discover an untapped talent and that there's a way to still be happy if your life doesn't turn out the way you had once imagined it to.