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The Good Wife

The wife of any leader is nearly always more dramatically-interesting territory than that of her husband. Julianna Margulies shines in this excellent legal drama.

With a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors’ Guild Award for Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife is really a no-brainer. Good luck to any TV Critic that doesn’t give this one the thumbs up.

Thankfully they needn’t be at pains to do so. This US legal drama is one of the best new shows of the season.

The wife of any leader is nearly always more dramatically-interesting territory than that of her husband. Trapped between being ‘somebody’ and ‘nobody’ all at the same time is a curious limbo. Hillary Clinton won international praise for her dignity during Bill Clinton’s indiscretions. When Bill Hayden was Foreign Minister his wife Dallas was detained for alleged shoplifting during a period of depression. Even Lady Macbeth was far more fascinating than her eventual King.

And so it is with The Good Wife starring Margulies as Alicia Florrick.

We open with a Press Conference given by State Attorney Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), who resigns in a scandal of corruption and sexual affairs. At his side in the glare of flashing cameras, is his numb wife, the dowdily-dressed Alicia (note: promo photo doesn’t match actual scene). For her, the scene must be like watching her life fall apart in slow motion. She dutifully tags along behind her alpha-male husband, seemingly on auto-pilot. Later, reeling from the shock, she stops and slaps him across the face.

I’m figuring at this point every woman in America stood up and cheered. It must be one of the most succinct establishments of sympathy for a main character in television history.

Fast forward several months later and our heroine is reinventing her life, no longer merely a woman scorned.

Having returned to her career as a Defence Attorney, Alicia has had an overhaul. She power-dresses in designer corporate. Her hair is now flowing like a model in a shampoo ad. She exudes confidence in her job at a law firm where Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) is a Senior Partner and Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) is an in-house private investigator.

Barnaski, frequently known for comedy roles including the boozy pal of Cybill Shepherd in Cybill and one of Meryl Streep’s singing chums in Mamma Mia, lands a straight role, as the dominant, ice-cool boss-lady to Alicia. Kalinda becomes a spirited accomplice to Alicia as cases unfold, the first of which involves a retrial of a woman accused of murdering her husband.

Alicia’s personal experience assists her in seeing beneath the surface of cases that are supposedly cut and dry. But bonding with her clients is also a risk.

Meanwhile at home she has two teenage children, frequently under the guardianship of her mother-in-law. Maintaining an affluent lifestyle to which her children have become accustomed, whilst constantly being reminded of a most public embarrassment, is more than enough challenge for this working mother.

Her imprisoned husband Peter is determined to have his name cleared and for life to ‘return to normal.’ But an empowered Alicia may not be so readily forgiving. Peter warns her of Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver), a State Attorney whom he believes was implicit in his undoing.

Alicia Florrick is a showcase role, elevated by the casting of Margulies (ER). Sometimes looking dangerously like actress Famke Jansenn (Nip / Tuck), she shines here as a strong-willed woman. Some of her best moments can often be found in her stillness. That said, I’m not sure I can forgive her for beating out Glenn Close in Damages -twice!

Under producers Ridley and Tony Scott, The Good Wife is a deeply satisfying legal drama and character portrait. Case closed.

The Good Wife premieres 8:30pm Sunday February 7th on TEN.

11 Responses

  1. it really is wonderful. I absolutely love the show. Juliana really is riveting in the role and the series does get better as the series progressess and more questions arise about the characters. This really is the best new show on television

  2. I didn’t watch “The Good Wife” – Ten is so hopeless at promoting programmes and then removing them without warning (Supernatural, Torchwood, Family Law, children’s movies, US So You Think You Can Dance, Law and Order’s and so much more…) that I refuse to watch anything new on Ten, and don’t get attached to anything I do watch as the odds are it will be mucked around. They have dug a big ugly hole and lost too many viewers already.

  3. It truly is an amazing and mature show. I was sceptical of the plot at first, but all the accolades are well deserved. Hopefully Ten will do right by it and not bounce it all over the schedule.

  4. I agree…sounds dull. But having watched the first episode I was strangely intrigued. I would encourage everyone to check it out. If you don’t, I don’t want to read about you whinging about no new shows coming to FTA.

    @lucius: can you name other shows that fit this theme for you to claim that it is a “boring, overdone and tedious concept” ? I’m struggling to think of any.

  5. @FJ Now that’s just silly, but I do agree, ONEHD should go, and go now. Alas, it will be ONESD to get the boot as a third channel – not preferential, but either way, it’s a good thing to get more FTA.

    As for The Good Wife – I’ll give it a go given the review.

  6. The Good Wife has given CBS its best results in that timeslot in years, and it has had critical praise and been recognized with a Golden Globe and SAG Award for star Julianna Margulies. That’s not bad considering it’s only half way through it’s first season and CBS has already renewed it for a second.
    I’ve seen a few episodes and I think this show is riveting. The legal story each week is always enthralling and the underlying mystery surrounding the husband’s illegal activities is getting more and more interesting as the weeks go on. I love the show, and think it will be a hit for Ten, especially with women 25-54.

  7. The Good Wife has had the good fortune of being placed on the Tuesday CBS lineup at 10pm and has therefore benefited hugely from the NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles lead in.

    Season Averages:

    8pm: NCIS – 21 million viewers
    9pm: NCIS: Los Angeles – 16.54 million viewers
    10pm: The Good Wife – 13.5 million viewers

  8. Really? I was so underwhelmed, maybe I should give it a rewatch. I just found the whole “I can be a mother, cheated-on wife and successful career woman” routine so unpalatable. Especially when Christine Baranski is cast as a not-so-subtle barren woman with a dog and nothing but jealousy for the have-it-all family woman. And you can’t spend the whole episode acting like a battered wife before taking your separated-husband’s legal advice.

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