The stand-up comedian is the true workhorse of comedy, taking on a lonely stage with just a single mic. It’s just them versus the audience and it’s a sink or swim game of comedy. It’s hard work and you truly have to be committed to the craft of stand up comedy to make it work. I believe it’s more work then being in the NFL.
Many shows have given us a look into the life of a stand-up comedian, like Pete Holmes and his HBO show “Crashing,” or when Louie CK had his show “Louie” on FX. For a second, it seemed like this was starting to be a trend, stand up comedians that play a fictional version of themselves working in the stand-up comedy industry.
Then Amazon put out their own stand-up comedy show, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which takes place in the late 1950s. It takes on the perspective of what life for a stand-up comedian was like back in the day of tame humor. Now I really truly loved the first season of this show. I thought it was well written and I loved the style/tone of the 1950’s that they stuck to. It really gave the characters a slight edge and had amazing energy. I love a good rise-to-fame story in the world of entertainment and after Season 1 I was ready to see Mrs. Maisel make it big in Season 2.
But then Season 2 became the victim of what I like to call “story stretch syndrome.”
It’s something that often happens when you have a hit show that has huge ratings in its first season. “Mrs. Maisel” is a show that has a through-line story, which means that every episode plays a role in driving the main story forward. It’s like when you start watching a new show on episode four and you have to go back and watch episodes one through three because you have no clue what’s going on. So your Season 1 will have a strong story that really develops the character and takes them to a new level. In the case of Mrs. Maisel, at the end of Season 1 she had gone from a housewife to becoming a well-know comedian. She was on the verge of being a star.
Even William Morris wanted to sign her in the show, so her character had really hit a high point. Writers will do this in the first season because you don’t know if you will ever get a second season, so you point everything out there. Then the show becomes a hit and now you’re not just thinking about a season two, your thinking about how do we get to a season six or seven.
Remember, more seasons means more work and more cash. So that was the issue in season two of “Mrs. Maisel,” her rise to comedian glory had to be held back and toned down because the show didn’t want to prematurely have her character plateau. I really thought in Season 2 that we were going to really see her career take off, but it was filled with side stories and a weird summer vacation subplot. It was clear that the writers were creating all sorts of new obstacles to slow down the character’s development. They ended it with a glimmer that Mrs. Maisel had made it on TV. I understand story stretching, but it really kills the energy of a show.
Another example of this would be “The Walking Dead.” It used to be that each episode was about the group as a whole surviving the zombie apocalypse, but then the show became a huge cult hit. So in order to stretch out the shows so they could make more seasons, they just made each episode about one single character. In reality, they were taking sixty minutes to show what literally is only twenty minutes of the story.
So yes, Season 2 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was a bit of a comedy snore, but I have high hopes for Season 3 and I will definitely be ready to watch.
So I guess the moral of the story is don’t string your audience along. Give them everything and keep the drive going, don’t worry about future seasons. You can always reinvent your character and take them to new heights. Don’t get comfortable, ever, or else you’ll get boring. Think of it like this, what do you want with a TV show quantity or quality? Quality shows are where legends are and shared with future generations. Quantity is a show I have on when I’m cleaning my apartment.