The Good Fight

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.

18 Comments:

  1. Just finished watching the whole season. Still torn as to what I think of it. It’s basically the Good Wife without the Florricks and I found it distracting and cheap how many TWG bit players they brought back (ie judges). Julius Kane should not be in it – he is like a cartoon character.
    I could watch Dianne read a dictionary and still enjoy it – it’s wonderful to see such a talented actress really hitting her stride later in her career. I dislike the focus on Maia because I find her facial expressions very annoying.
    I liked the ‘black firm’ angle but some of the free speech and ‘relevant politics’ cases later in the series are just silly. I was hoping it would be more different to TGW but it’s obvious it’s the same people trying to make the same thing. If you long for TGW you will love this show, if you were hoping it would step up into next gear you will be disappointed.

  2. @Graham – smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/australian-commercial-television-networks-want-to-scrap-childrens-content-quota-20170720-gxfdsg.html

    “SBS got a kicking, too, for forcing up the price of international content, with Nine’s Hugh Marks revealing that the public broadcaster had outbid his network for The Handmaid’s Tale.”

    I imagine it was for Stan (not a great fit for Nine and FTA would require some severe edits for broadcast). All the same, a commercial opportunity and now subsidised with taxpayers $’s

  3. Well done SBS ! Everyone on TV Tonight loves to bash SBS for screening HBO dramas until they became Foxtel exclusive, now they all hate SBS for screening a one-off CBS spin off that has gotten positive reviews and is a prime time drama at 8:30 Wednesday. Show me another similar free to air drama on free to air !!!

    • Let’s not generalise. I’ve given the show a good review along with numerous others. SBS was very happy with a recent story about kicking goals in premium drama. Foxtel has exclusive rights to HBO dramas but The Young Pope aired as a co production.

  4. I saw the first three eps earlier in the year and it felt a little darker than The Good Wife in tone to me. Given how minimal the ratings were for its predecessor on TEN, I don’t think this would have worked at all and understand why TEN weren’t interested. I’m just happy it’s available in Australia.

  5. This is an excellent series, very much in the Good Wife vein. In some ways, I enjoyed it more because it was untethered from the politics that weighed down story-lines towards the end of Good Wife’s rein. The new members of the ensemble cast are all great actors. I hope Michael J Fox returns in the second season!

  6. Secret Squïrrel

    Alicia Flockhart? A bit of cross-pollination with another legal drama, perhaps. I’m sure you mean Alicia Florrick.

    Good to see Ygritte from GoT pick up another gig.

  7. I agree, it absolutely belongs on TEN- but as we’ve seen recently with Hugh Marks indicating Nine were outbid by SBS using taxpayers $’s for shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale. So, i’d take an educated guess here and say TEN probably wanted it but its moved out of their price range

    • Because it was produced for CBS All Access (online) I believe it didn’t fall under TEN’s output deal. So that meant it would need a separate bid. SBS, as previously explained, is using broadly appealing titles for revenue and promotion. They argued the issues and characters fitted with Charter. Based on 1 ep I am saying it feels like a TEN show, these issues and characters are across every US drama really, and storytelling very broad. Enjoyable yes. Distinctive? Not yet.

    • Slam – Not sure about the comments specifically around The Handmaid’s Tale… though happy to be proved wrong if you can reference them? I wouldn’t have thought ‘Handmaid’s’ would likely ever ended up on any Nine broadcast channel – it’s a brilliant drama but not an obvious fit for a more mainstream FTA channel.
      As for The Good Fight, agree it’s more debatable and at first sight SBS appears an unusual ‘home’ for what looks like a Ten (or Seven/Nine) type drama. However, if the aforementioned networks didn’t want it perhaps it has a place as part of the SBS ‘world drama’ slate. I think it would only become a remit ‘issue’ if it screened lots of similar type of American dramas.

  8. At the end of the day, it’s a CBS drama…they aren’t exactly known for Indie or Avant Garde.
    I was a huge fan of this Good Wife, so will definitely check this out. Christine Baranski is always worth the price of admission.

  9. I am wondering if it is on SBS because of constant bad language? I enjoy the show, not as good as The Good Wife in my opinion but still very good television.

  10. If it were to be shown on Seven, Nine or Ten it probably would be very late at night, if at all, as the reality show rubbish is on earlier. I would be happy to see more of this type of show on SBS.

  11. carolemorrissey

    Thanks David, I’m looking forward to this. It will be interesting to see Diane out of her comfort zone. And hearing her swear.

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