Show: "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"—Season 2 debuts on Amazon Prime December 5.
Style: Season one took place in 1958, and the much-anticipated second season will cover 1959. The style is late-1950s Upper West Side Manhattan.
Why we love it: This mid-century period piece about a brash, independent former housewife who starts a new career as a comedian is as visually appealing as it is entertaining.
The first season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" came out on Amazon last November, the brainchild of Amy Sherman-Palladino of "Gilmore Girls" fame. Nominated for 14 Emmys and winner of eight, including awards for stars Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein, and writer and director Sherman-Palladino, season one got a lot of attention.
One of the show's many Emmy nominations included one for Best Production Design (Period/Fantasy), thanks to the work of production designer Bill Groom, the person behind the show's look (Groom previously won four Emmys for his work on "Boardwalk Empire"). The first season had eight episodes packed with jokes and drama, but also some amazing sets. Season one was set in 1958, and the period details in spaces like Midge's apartment, the one her parents occupy in the same building, and the studio where her manager Susie lives make the late '50s come to life.
We spoke with Groom about his work on the show and what's in store for season two.
Apartment Therapy: Is it a fun show to work on?
Bill Groom: Yes—partly that's the nature of the show. And we have a great team, in every department.
AT: What will be different in the sets this season, if there are any changes from season one?
BG: We're moving forward in the story, seeing more of some of the same spaces, and new spaces as well. It's pretty much a year at a time in the story. The first season was 1958, season two is 1959. We'll have the same color palette, but as we move into the '60s, I'll have to start thinking about all that, how we introduce some of that.
AT: Three of the spaces we see a lot of in season one are where Midge, her parents, and Susie live. Was there anything you wanted each space to convey about who lived there?
BG: Basically we are always dealing with character. We make those choices one choice at a time, using what is consistent with the characters.
AT: Do any of the actors have a favorite piece that you can think of?
BG: I don't think anyone has tried to buy anything, or has said they have their eye on something. I've done way too much of that over the years. My biggest task now is how to get rid of all of it. There were pieces from "Boardwalk Empire" I liked, and when we were selling off all the inventory at the end, there were so many sales: Crew, industry. They happened over several weeks. I ended up with a garage full of stuff I have yet to use. I just can't do that anymore.
On "Boardwalk Empire," when we finished, we had a warehouse of 55,000 square feet and it was set up we could stack four sofas high. It was a huge task to get rid of that. After all the sales, we just started giving stuff to charities. I don't know how much we've acquired so far, but we'll see.
AT: Why does the show need to have access to that many possible items for the sets?
BG: It's helpful to us to have a warehouse. Rather than the decorator going to a rental house, we might know we have the perfect sofa in storage. We can reupholster it for re-use. We have our own stock of draperies, pillows, lamps, tea cups, you name it. And it's good to have that that we can access late at night, if we have to.
AT: How difficult is it to track down set pieces for a period-specific show like this, as opposed to a contemporary show?
BG: It can be anything from a yard sale to a high-end antique store. We have an idea of what it needs to be, or you have a feel for what you want. Sometimes you'll find one piece and it will tell you what you need from there. That will help you know what the next pieces you need are.
[The items on set] have always been very layered. Not everything in season two was purchased in 1959, some things are from prior decades.
AT: Can you clue us into any potential season two on-set "Easter eggs" you think viewers might miss? Were you able to include any kind of inside joke for yourself or for the cast?
BG: No. The amount of work we do, it's tremendous, and it's done in a very short period of time. There's no time to get very precious. Sometimes you just use your instincts, you have to listen to your first impressions of things. Sometimes that's more interesting—the thing you put the least thought into might be more interesting than the thing you think about too much.
Many years ago, I worked with a decorator who'd grown up in the antique business. At that point, I was thinking I might like to own an antique store someday. I said that to him, but that I didn't know what kind of stuff I'd handle. And he said, "Just pick the things you like, and it will have a point of view." I think that's pretty true.
[With our show] we are buying pieces for a character, and for a story, and then you see a piece, and it just seems perfect for them. And you don't need to know why. You just go with it. And it comes together.