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.