Admittedly I have only seen the first hour of The Good Fight, which is a set-up episode for ex-Good Wife’s Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) to embark on a new legal career.
But to be blunt, this doesn’t feel at all like a show that belongs on SBS.
Sure there are African-American characters, there are same-sex characters. But these are all over US network television these days, including on shows we watch on commercial TV here.
The Good Fight is broad and privileged, at least at the outset and it really belongs on TEN. But let’s move on…
Alicia Florrick gets one mention and Will Gardner rates a fleeting photo as we proceed from The Good Wife‘s universe to The Good Fight‘s. Instead we hook around the ample talents of Christine Baranski and Cush Jumbo returning as Quinn, joined by Rose Leslie as Diane’s goddaughter-turned-lawyer Maia Rindell.
Tellingly, things get off to an unsettling start as Diane watches her TV in horror as Trump is inaugurated as President. But it marks a personal turning point too, she is retiring from the law firm she headed and sets her sights on a holiday to Europe.
“I’m resigning,” she tells stunned partners. “I’m ready to live my life. Take a deep breath.”
But not before welcoming her goddaughter Maia, who has just passed her law exam, to the firm. Maia’s parents, including the wonderful Bernadette Peters, are at risk of using their influence with Diane, but Maia is having none of it, preferring to make her own mark.
Her first case involves police brutality against a young black male, with Diane seeking to minimise a payout to his lawyers, represented by Lucca (Cush Jumbo). As they tussle over points of law, Maia is morally troubled.
“Are we on the right side on this one?” asks Maia.
“We are on the necessary side,” the seasoned Diane responds.
At one point it even emerges that the police under suspicion had their body cams switched off. I will just leave that one for your consideration, given recent US events.
But the show’s biggest catalyst comes when Maia’s father, a billionaire investor is arrested by the FBI for a ‘ponzi’ scheme -meaning Diane’s retirement egg goes belly up. Suddenly she is without a secure future, and her firm having already accepted her resignation has made other plans.
“This is my firm,” she insists.
“No it was your firm,” David Lee (Zach Grenier) replies.
Meanwhile Maia is being targeted by angry investors who have also lost money, finding little support other than her same-sex partner Amy (Heléne Yorke).
Rejected by colleagues across town, Diane hears, “You’re poison. No firm will hire you,” until a surprise offer from Lucca’s own firm by attorney Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) becomes a lifeline for both women. But it means joining an all-black law firm where the cases contrast wildly to the top end of town she defended in her former series.
Baranski is always dependable on screen, whether as the tough drama lawyer or the society lush on previous comedies. Anyone who has seen her work knows what they are getting, but perhaps watching Diane eat humble pie is reason enough to invest further. UK-born Cush Jumbo, who was a later addition to The Good Wife, proved her mettle as a hungry US lawyer who could hold her own. The duo are joined by Rose Leslie as the optimistic young gun on a steep learning curve, and with something to prove.
Delroy Lindo looks set to take the patriarchal role here, in what begins as a female-led set-up.
Robert and Michelle King delivered solid scripts across The Good Wife seasons, underpinned by a strong ensemble. All of that looks ripe for repeat here. But as network television The Good Fight adheres to trusty tropes found across the legal genre in its storytelling, performing and direction. Doubtless there is a quality about them, and anybody who drops by can be assured of a pretty satisfying hour’s entertainment.
Just don’t expect anything especially avant-garde. Not a minute of screen time feels like indie storytelling or breaking new ground. At any minute Alicia Florrick could walk back into frame, and I wouldn’t be complaining. But I might have to check my EPG.
The Good Fight begins 8:30pm Wednesday on SBS.