Thoroughly Modern Gentleman Jack!

IT’s 1832 in West Yorkshire, England — the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. Landowner Anne Lister is determined to save her faded ancestral home, Shibden Hall, near Halifax. To do this she must flaunt society’s expectations, coming out as benevolent employer,  international play girl and astute businesswoman!

In America, Levi Strauss was patenting the rivets on his blue denim jeans as Karl Marx ‘s primary school in Trier was closed down for employing liberal humanists as teachers! So it’s not so surprising that Sally Wainwright’s spectacular television drama, ‘Gentleman Jack’, has such a Modern feel to it!

In addition to reopening her Calderdale coal mines,  part of Lister’s plan is to ‘marry’ well.  However the single-minded, charismatic, Lister,  dressed head-to-toe in black and played with consummate panache by Suranne Jones, charms her way into high society and has no intention of marrying a man!

‘Gentleman Jack’ examines Lister’s relationships with her family, servants, tenants and industrial rivals, and would-be wife. The real-life Anne Lister’s story was recorded in her diaries, and the most intimate details of her life are revealed for the series.Header_2490173_1.1-1023x1024

Lover and fellow landowner, Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) tormented with the battle to reconcile her sexuality, in a hostile world, suffers depression and anxiety.  The brilliant ‘Insight’ team in Halifax must be shocked at how we treated each other in those days!

Anne Lister and her sweetheart are victims of homophobia. There are intense emotional scenes in all episodes.  The tough lives lived by Ann Lister’s tenants and the fight to stay true to herself are recreated with empathy and inspired dramatic writing by virtuoso Sally Wainwright, who also directs on this homespun mistresspiece!

To add to the glamour, authenticity, and magic of the BBC series Wainwright worked with international theatre, TV, film, opera, dance costume designer Tom Pye. He was thrilled to have exquisitely detailed descriptions of clothing on hand from Anne Lister’s own diaries. Credit for this perfect source material goes to translator and series consultant Anne Choma.  She is the historian and decrypter, I first met at a a literary festival in Huddersfield when she was beginning the mammoth project, 20 or more years ago!

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WAY TO WEAR THE HAT! Diary of Midge Maisel, aged 26 and a half!

NOMINATED for three Golden Globes in the “musical or comedy” categories: Rachel Brosnahan for Best Performance by an Actress, Alex Borstein for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Television Series,  how come ‘Vanity Fair’ thinks the second series of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “has little story to tell this time around?

Sonia Saraiya, VF’s television critic must surely know it’s all about the hats!

Saraiya is worried that the importance of Susie Myerson’s gender identity is not addressed! Also bothered by the plotting! If it’s set in Upper East Side, Manhattan, at first, she asks, how has it the chutzpah to take us to Paris and the Catskills, in the second series?

As an aspiring woman comic in the 1950s Midge Maisel (Brosnahan, raised in Leeds) needs a booking agent like Myerson  (Borstein). Susie is the gruff booker of the Gaslight Club in Greenwich Village where Midge’s career begins.  Borstein, the voice of Lois Griffin in Family Guy, is a joy from the second she appears on screen.

As long as they keep it coming, the team behind both series can do anything they like in my book!

With all the features of a Mark Kermode validated Rom-Com, The Amazing Mrs Maisel is made by a team of geniuses embracing the explosive freedom given by cinema technology and other inspired colleagues.

Letting us in on their secrets is Emmy nominated costume designer Donna Zakowska. She explains how she creates her magic: “In terms of the extras and other people, {I’m} trying to make it look as real as possible and then heightening Midge a bit.”

Explaining how she researched the looks: “Some of the colors from the ‘50s, a lot of the palette things—I looked at French Vogue from the period — are really very interesting color combinations. I worked a lot with combining, taking more heightened Vogue from the period and then bringing it down to a little bit more accessible level for the character.” Maisie hat

Midge, wearing a perfectly angled hat, persuades the parish priest to allow her friend’s wedding to take place away from a windowless punishment room! Who could resist that look?

Even without Amy Sherman-Palladino’s direction of the the peppy young housewife-turned-comedian Miriam “Midge” Maisel, I would still be madly in love with the show’s theatrical photography and rocket speed dialogue.

If this isn’t enough there’s mouth-watering, mid-century  neapolitan ice-cream, intricately detailed interiors; total turn on for film buffs, scopophiliacs, perfectionists and voyeurs everywhere!

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The Revlon counter at B.Altman’s department store in mid-20th century midtown Manhattan. 

Set designer Bill Groom is delighted to make magic for viewers, using every trick in the book through today’s technology.

“Amazon is new in the development of media, and they’re very open to ideas and solutions and new ways of doing things which makes what I do fun. This streaming world has exploded and has turned this into the second golden age of television, which I think is giving the creative people behind the scenes a lot of freedom, which in many ways makes the work more interesting.”