Smart TV: Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan, Mrs. Maisel

After years of fighting the urge to subscribe to another streaming service, I finally signed up for Amazon Prime in December. Two early binges of Amazon content revealed that Prime’s exclusives trump Hulu and rival Netflix. With a trove of films and series like A League Of Their Own and The Lord Of The Rings in development, it will be hard to unsubscribe.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

The reboot of Tom Clancy’s signature character was not what I had thought it would be, but I enjoyed it anyways. Yes, it falls short of The Hunt For Red October, Clear and Present Danger, and Patriot Games. It is a significant improvement from each of the last two films.

John Krasinski nails the unlikely hero trait that Ford and Baldwin brought to the Ryanverse. His easygoing nature is a natural fit for the CIA financial analyst.

The biggest change in the show comes from Ryan’s mentor, Jim Greer. He is no longer the wise admiral who is enmeshed in geopolitical chess. Played by Wendell Pierce, he is a flippant mid-level CIA manager. Pierce (as always) is phenomenal in the role. Greer also has the added wrinkle of having converted to Islam, which is a bold and intriguing creative choice.

Wendell Pierce and John Krasinski in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan
Wendell Pierce and John Krasinski in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

The writing for Jack Ryan is nothing special, but solid enough to keep me entertained. Initially the story appears to be network-level dry, but becomes more nuanced as the series progresses. The action is intense, certainly more than you would see on a network television series. There is some gray area with Pierce’s character, but more importantly the terror plot and terrorists are sophisticated challenges for Ryan.

The series may not be the benchmark for political thrillers that the films were, but it is a good show on its own merit.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Season One of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was perfect television. Midge’s demise, family life, and stand-up foray were about as well-written as the first season of a comedy can be.

Season Two… not so much.

As straightforward as Midge Maisel’s character was in the first season, the second run was a mess. Midge goes to Paris and the Catskills. She also ruins a friend’s wedding, tours, and makes a television debut. There was also a finale that left more questions than answers (and not in a good way).

Rachel Bronahan in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Emmy winner Rachel Bronahan in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino did not have ten episodes of material for Season Two. The shear amount of moving parts was too much for a show about stand-up comedy.

The show developed two traits that frequently became annoying. Not only does the show biz naivety of Midge and Susie become over-the-top brash, but Midge has a habit of unleashing her stream-of-consciousness ramblings to rooms of complete strangers outside of the stand-up setting (does she need to air out everything in a Parisian club and a wedding hall?).

As brilliant as Rachel Brosnahan is as the chatterbox, Sherman-Palladino used too much of a good thing this time around without creating a good supporting situation around her.

I am still on board with Mrs. Maisel for at least one more season, but the show needs to find better secondary stories. They also need to balance Brosnahan’s time in the stand-up limelight. She is brilliant, but even the chattiest comics have to know that they can’t crack jokes about shotgun marriages at the wedding.

Next in the Amazon Prime binge queue: Patriot, King Lear, A Very English Scandal, Homecoming


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