There are a lot of legal shows on television so I’m not going to try and convince you to watch another one for the sake of…watching another legal procedural. I’m also not going to try and talk this show up by taking pot shots at the other shows. I’ve enjoyed many different legal dramas over the years. I’m still working through my crack/cocaine addiction to anything with L&O in the title.
Having written that, the good wife does offer a new and refreshing starting point: a highly public scandal as the impetus for a middle-aged, affluent wife and mother re-entering the workforce. It could have been a good gimmick, to spurn on viewing from a clear demographic still smarting from recent sex scandals such as a South Carolina governor who runs off to Buenos Aires to be with his mistress and a former presidental candidate’s love child. All of this in the shadow of the biggest sex scandal, one right out of the Oval Office (which gets referenced in the pilot).
What I admire about this show is that it doesn’t use the circumstances of its protagonist to just get you to start watching. It doesn’t shy away from the hurt, embarrassment, rage, shock, etc etc of a wife and mother finding out that the life she thought she had never really existed. It faces it head on, making it just as much a story about the scandal as it is about survival. What would you do in her shoes? How would you cope? Would you be able to take it “one day at a time?”
Two episodes in, I can tell you a few things that will keep me watching:
- The writing: Amazingly fresh, true-to-life, and consistent. You know writing is good when you fell like you’ve had the conversation or heard that conversation ina hallway somewhere.
- Believable characters: I admire that her son and daughter are both smart and still stunned, her mother-in-law bristles in every scene, her younger co-worker can’t help but offend with every other word, and her husband is still trying to make her feel guilty about not forgiving him yet.
- The cast: Stellar. Anytime someone can get Christine Baranski to bandy intelligent arguments with some plucky upstart, you’ve got watchable TV. Josh Charles is always on the mark, Archie Panjabi is a find, and Chris Noth…well, Mr Big playing the caught philanderer is GOLD!
- Julianna Margulies. She is so incredibly interesting you want her in every scene just to see every nuance of her facial expressions. I hear Emmy, if the show can keep up the quality.
The Scotts, Tony and Ridley, who have filled theaters around the globe, have made other ventures into television. This one feels well-crafted and has, so far, hit the right mix of “case of the week” and the inside-the-family interest story. The additional story arc of whether her husband was framed for abusing his office is interesting but I’m hoping it doesn’t overwhelm the real heart of this show: a mother, wife, woman trying to piece her life back together after having it heartlessly torn asunder. And seeing her do that is well worth checking out on its own.
the good wife is on Tuesday nights on CBS.