The technicolor time machine that is Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is back in service for season three, whisking viewers away to 1959 New York when the streets were (mostly) clean, people dressed up to go grocery shopping, and the subway still resembled a working mode of transportation.
Though the hit TV show could easily take on a quaintness of yesteryear, Maisel's creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and husband/executive producer Dan Palladino were painstakingly purposeful in how they portrayed a narrative so rooted in a specific time and place that could still resonate with today's audiences.
"We told everybody from the time we were talking to people about doing the pilot that we wanted this to be a colorful show; we didn't want it to feel like a time capsule," Dan Palladino tells Women's Health. "So we said to our DP [director of photography] that we didn't want this to have any kind of sepia tone....We wanted it to feel modern, because the people in 1959 thought they were the most modern things in the world."
"And New York was, actually, in the '50s," adds Amy Sherman-Palladino. "If you look at old pictures—between the signage and the posters and the clothes and the cars and the appliances—color was big. It was color and vibrancy and energy, because it was all about building a new America." (If the Maisel-verse ever needs a political or, more likely, Emmys campaign slogan, might I suggest #MakeAmericaMarvelousAgain?)
The lackluster hues of TV dinners aside, the 1950s were "all very much new and bright and different," according to Sherman-Palladino. "Because of that," she continues, "when our production designer went into doing his research and when Donna [Zakowska], the costume designer, goes into doing her research, they are drawn to colors that mean something. They're using color palettes of the time."
And those palettes didn't tiptoe around pigments—it was all hot pinks (Midge's signature color) and stark blacks—nary a pastel in sight. "Our marching orders to M. David Mullen, our genius cinematographer, was 'Let's not tamp that down,'" Sherman-Palladino continues. The Maisel motto might as well have been "the brighter, the bolder, the better"—all fusing together to create that effortlessly effervescent energy the show is now known for.
Beyond the nuts and bolts of not simply re-creating, but rather reimagining, a bygone era, Sherman-Palladino and Palladino still had a story to tell. After two award-winning seasons, it now seems almost inevitable that the middle of the century proved a uniquely perfect place for Midge Maisel, an Upper West Side housewife/mother, to reinvent herself as a downtown stand-up comedian. Of course, it was. How could it have been anywhen else?
"The '50s gave us everything we needed," affirms Sherman-Palladino. "It was a time when women weren't doing the sort of things that Midge had decided to do. The change that she puts herself through, and the change that sort of reverberates out onto everybody else...[happening] during the refreshment of the '50s actually works beautifully for us."
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