Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Television

Let’s Talk About the Catskills Episodes in ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Catskills

In a show filled with Jewish references and Jewish jokes, the three-episode arc that brought The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to the Catskills was possibly the highlight of the series so far.

We’re going to break down every moment. But first, some history: Beginning in the 1920s, and lasting through the 1970s, the Catskills were once a major vacation destination for American Jews. Jewish families from New York fled the sweltering city for the relative cool provided by a mountain climate — and the social scene was hopping, too. As one writer explains, the Catskills were “the lifeline of millions of members of the local Jewish community, the embodiment of the American Dream, and the place that no successful businessman or famous entertainer, whether Jewish or not, could allow himself to skip.”

The resorts where they stayed, nicknamed the Borscht Belt after Ashkenazi Jews’ affinity for the beet soup, became a staple of New York Jewish culture. It only makes sense that this iconic locale got its due in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Catskills

“The Catskills was the getaway,” Amy Sherman-Palladino, the show’s creator, explained. “It’s just really interesting that there were 500 hotels and hundreds of thousands of people congregating in these hotels for two months. They were the cruise ships of their day.”

Let’s dive into what made the Catskills episodes of season two (Episode 4, 5, and 6) work so well:

THE SCENERY

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Catskills

The show filmed the Catskills episodes in Deposit, New York, which is in — you guessed it — the Catskills! They filmed at Scott’s Family Resort, on Oquaga Lake, for two weeks.

Production designer Bill Groom explained they spent “extensive time” scouting for this location, because so much has changed in the Catskills since the time period that Maisel is set in. As am New York writes, “Groom says he chose the resort for its virtually untouched layout, which included individual family cottages and a private lake, a specific ask from Sherman-Palladino.”

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Catskills

There was so much that was visually *delicious* (for lack of a better word) about these episodes, and I think a lot of that comes down to the production design. From the cabin where Midge and her family stays, to the scenes at the lake, to really just every single backdrop — they were beautiful!

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Catskills

THE OUTFITS

The costumes in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are amazing, but the ones in the Catskills are particularly divine. Before we even get to the Catskills, we witness how Midge and Rose are packing like they’re leaving New York forever:

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Catskills

And then, once we arrive, Midge’s outfits keep getting better and better:

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Notably, her outfit when she’s on the boat with Benjamin was one of favorites of Maisel‘s costume designer Donna Zakowska. Zakowska explained to Vulture, “The costume really mixes the period and is true to the period, but also captures the humor of it and absurdity. When [Benjamin] is sitting across from the boat looking at her he’s like, Oh my God.”

The scene:

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

And it’s not just Midge’s — every person in every scene is perfectly outfitted for summer at the resort. Take the scene when she’s gossiping with friends:

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The colors!! The historically accurate (I assume) necklines!

Plus, we can’t talk about the Catskills costumes without mentioning Abe’s workout romper.

Abe's romper

Designed specifically for Tony Shalhoub (the actor who plays Abe), Zakowska modeled the romper on exercise clothing of the time.

The costume actually helped Shalhoub understand his character better. As he told Vulture:  “I’m not just the guy in the suit in the classroom. I’m not just the guy sitting in my den reading in my cardigan sweater. I’m also the guy who exercises in a onesie at sunup on the dock.”

THE ACTIVITIES

Led by an enthusiastic activities director — also called a “tummler,” which is Yiddish for someone who “stirs up tumult and excitement” — named Buzz Goldberg (Brandon Uranowitz), the activities are spot-on for the Catskills of the 1950s.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
As one recapper pointed out, Buzz is most likely modeled on “Catskills legend” Lou Goldstein. As his New York Times obituary reads, “Lou Goldstein was the consummate tummler, one of a zany species of entertainer who kept them laughing, or tried to, long ago in the borscht belt hotels of the Catskills…. But Mr. Goldstein was more than a tummler. He was also probably the most famous impresario of Simon Says.”

And there’s a homage to Goldstein’s famous Simon Says games, obviously:The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Goldstein’s “forte became the Simon Says routines. (He spelled it Simon Sez.) Contestants stayed in the game as long as they did only what Simon told them to do, of course, and Mr. Goldstein, with a rapid-fire delivery, was masterly at tricking them into doing what Simon had actually kept mum about.”

The Catskills episodes also showcase a wide variety of activities: stargazing, bird watching, ping-pong, boating, biking, and more. It’s an authentic representation of what Jews actually did on their summer vacations.

THE ANNOUNCEMENTS

This is minor, but I think very critical to the world-building of the Catskills scenes. In the background, you can hear various announcements at Steiner resort.

My favorite? “Attention, Mrs. Greenstein, Mr. Greenstein will wait five more minutes, but that’s it.”

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

It just absurd and ridiculous and makes perfect sense that a Jewish man named Mr. Greenstein is fed up waiting for his wife.

THE SHIRLEY

Okay, this isn’t a general Catskills thing, but I need to end my love for the Catskill episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to write about my favorite person in these episodes: Shirley Maisel, Joel’s mom and Midge’s mother-in-law.

Shirley is your typical overbearing Jewish bubbe, and while you could critique her character as a stereotype, the actress who plays Shirley, Caroline Aaron, brings a joy and personality to the character.

Shirley plays Mah-Jongg, talks about laxatives at breakfast, and has discussions in the hair salon over where she’d like to be buried when she dies (Israel, or Florida).

“Who would bring Cossacks into a room full of Jews?” she asks, outraged at the resort’s final show of the season that includes people from around the world.

And in the best exchange, Joel tells her to take her coat off. Shirley refuses.

Shirley

She’s complaining about being too hot, but if she takes it off, she’ll be too cold. The classic dilemma faced by Jewish women everywhere.

After a discussion about Joel meeting someone new, he compliments his mother, telling her she looks nice in the coat.

Shirley

Her response? “But do I look rich?”

Shirley, keep doing you.

 

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

Jewish Baby Name Finder

Gender

First Letter

Submit
Skip to Banner / Top Skip to Content