What We’re Watching, Vol. 1
At The Attic on Eighth, we are obviously a multimedia bunch, with our regular reading discussions and film lists. It seems the topic we rarely bring up is television, an odd feat considering some of our very first interactions as friends were excitedly messaging scene for scene reactions to some of our favorite shows, rooting for our OTPs to get together, or simply obsessing over costume and interior design, or even discussing the possible side hobbies of a particular snarky dragon (RIP, Raquel’s Merlin binge watch live tweets, 2014-2015). As some of our favorite shows end, return for new seasons, or become new obsessions, we’ll be sharing our thoughts in this new series. We love television, and as the internet has come to prove, nothing keeps us together like binge-watching together, even if we’re not in the same room.
This month, Olivia, Lauren, and Raquel catch up on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and give Shrill a fighting chance:
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Winner of 8 Emmy Awards. In 1958 New York, Midge Maisel's life is on track- husband, kids, and elegant Yom Kippur dinners in their Upper West Side apartment. But when her life takes a surprise turn, she has to quickly decide what else she's good at - and going from housewife to stand-up comic is a wild choice to everyone but her. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls).
Olivia: Mrs. Maisel is quite possibly hands down my favorite show. It’s the only one I ever sit down to rewatch, and I honestly love everything about it. It takes place almost exactly at the time my grandparents moved to New York and just about everything about it gives me feels. My grandmother opted for a divorce in the same time period, choosing to go from a sophisticated housewife who threw and loved attending parties to a working single mother, and it just makes me so happy to finally see something like that on screen. Everything about it speaks to me, from the family dynamic (I will possibly never get over Midge’s (approx) “Hush, they’ll hear you!!” “Who?? Who will hear us??” “THEM!!” exchange with her mother and just how my mother it was) to the cultural references to the fashion and mood.
Raquel: Since the end of Mad Men I’ve been dying for a 60s confection to bring that fashion back into my life on the regular. The first season was definitely my favorite but I’ve only been slowly making my way through the second! To be honest I really love Midge’s dynamic with Lenny Bruce and hearing she’d have a romantic storyline that wasn’t him left me slightly uninterested, but I am really loving her mother and father’s Paris/university art classes plot and of course, the general wit throughout.
Olivia: I really, really awkwardly/terribly was rooting for Midge and Whatshisname the ex-husband to not get divorced but for him to really see Midge for who she is and support her after the end of the first season, and like, I really don’t get it and I’m kind of mad at myself for it. But there we go. Though I have to say I also definitely shipped her with the tall guy in the second season.
Her parents though are my favorite. I would watch an entire show about her parents, and I would so love to see more of them in Paris. What goals.
Lauren: God, this show!!! I have never watched anything like it before in my life! I never watched Gilmore Girls all the way through (I know, I know), but now I feel like I need to just to get more of the hilarious dialogue that Amy Sherman-Palladino is so incredible at writing.
First of all, Midge is incredible. I like that she is vulnerable but a badass at the same time. I don’t actually particularly like stand-up comedy, but I actually look so forward to those bits in the show because you can really see her becoming herself in those moments. The clothes, the sets, the wit and charm - all of it is unlike any other show I’ve watched before.
I also was weirdly rooting for Midge’s husband to see how fantastic she is and go back to her, but as the show progressed and they had a few... encounters with one another (in her childhood bedroom! I love it!) I realized that there’s more to Midge - and the show - than just her marriage. I love that she is a well-rounded, developed female character and although this might be slightly controversial, I love that she has kids and we don’t have to hear about them or see them all that much.
Midge isn’t defined by her children. She loves them, maybe she neglects them a little bit and leaves them in the hands of others too much, but again considering the time period, this was probably a wild thing for a woman to do. And she just does it! I admire her for breaking through those stereotypes. I also am super interested with the Jewish traditions practiced throughout the show; I am a raised (now lapsed) Catholic and just find it all so fascinating, this religion with which I have zero experience and find incredibly interesting, especially in historic settings.
Raquel: I think there were a couple of think pieces around the release in regards to the depiction of Judaism; it’s definitely not so realistic from what I’ve gathered, but I think the dramatics of it flow with the dramatics through the rest of the show, like there’s a lot of that, loud, eccentric New York air that harkens back both to Gilmore Girls for me as well as other beloved New York shows like Seinfeld and Will & Grace.
Olivia: Exactly, it very much reminds me of the old New York mannerisms I see in my own family.
A Hulu Original Comedy from Lorne Michaels and Elizabeth Banks, Shrill stars Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live) as Annie, a fat young woman who wants to change her life — but not her body. An aspiring journalist, Annie is trying to start her career while juggling bad boyfriends, a sick parent, and a perfectionist boss. Based on the eponymous bestselling memoir by Lindy West
Olivia: I was so excited for Shrill and wanted to love it so much, but I just…
Raquel: OKAY. I so wanted to relate to Annie throughout the entirety of Shrill! But it just wasn’t happening. Of course, I was excited to see a show tackling the major, unspoken issues of being a fat person in the world, but in that way, Shrill fell flat for me. So much of Annie’s struggle felt too precious, too personal to her in ways that rang more like a spoiled child unhappy when not getting her way, and not a grown woman making her way in the world. For example, in arguing with her mother over diet multiple times throughout the season, Annie doesn’t follow logical discourse, or even try to tell her mother she accepts herself and her weight, but instead turns the argument around, claiming her mother as a bully and running to the solace of her father, the parent who coddles her.
Similarly, when arguing with her boss, instead of respecting his authority as an editor, she latches onto the belief that he is fat-shaming her, and posts work he doesn’t approve of to their publication. I feel like in the real world, an entry level associate taking authoritative business action without consultation would get fired? But not Annie! And of course, when her boss takes action she is once again the victim of his bullying, and resorts, yet again, to lashing out. As the season progressed, I rooted more and more for Annie’s roommate and work friends, who kindly supported but were unafraid to call out her behavior, and to be honest, I would watch the crap out of a show about any of them instead.
But my biggest problem with Shrill is that the very best of it is contained within the span of its two minute trailer. Episode 4, “Pool” was shown in teasers as a major plot device but in the end was presented so late in the season that I was already exasperated by the time it came around. And I DID love “Pool,” but perhaps even more telling is that unlike the rest of the season, this episode was written by the genius queer black writer Samantha Irby. I don’t know what it says that a show based on a white woman’s life and promoted as the product of two other white women dangles the work of a WOC to lure viewers in (actually I probably do), but I mainly beg that the success of that episode inspires the producers to hire Irby and other fat woman writers of color to write more episodes next season in hopes of making the show more relatable to all women, and not just the Annie’s of the world.
Lauren: I’m sad you didn't like it, I’ve heard such good things!
Raquel: I had very similar vibes with Girls where I enjoyed everything but the main character and find it kind of ironic that in both cases the actresses playing the main character were also writers on the show?
Olivia: Yeah like I didn’t DISLIKE it, but I didn’t like it and really disliked the character.
BONUS, A couple of other things we’re streaming!
— Olivia has finally jumped aboard the Schitt’s Creek train and Raquel is ecstatic that her Alexis and David Rose references are finally making sense.
— Raquel spent a recent sleepless night bingeing the entirety of new Netflix Original Bonding, a quirky comedy (similar New York vibes if you’re missing Russian Doll!) about grad student turned dominatrix Tiff and her best friend/bodyguard Pete.
— The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is back and we are all prepping our flying broomsticks and morning wardrobe dance playlists.
— Lauren binged Fleabag over the course of two days and Phoebe Waller Bridge is by far the most talented writer/showrunner out there right now (if you want something darker, she’s the brains behind Killing Eve, the absolute best show ever).