Friday, February 19, 2010

TV Review: The Good Wife

Today my review of TV legal drama The Good Wife was published in the print issue of NZLawyer magazine (issue 130, 19 February 2010).

Just to mix things up a little with the book reviews and discussion etc, I am reprinting my television review here for your information (since unless you are a Kiwi lawyer, judge or politician, you're unlikely to have access to the print version of NZLawyer magazine - and the reviews aren't placed online).

The Good Wife, which is pretty much a legal/courtroom drama (although it is premised on the hook of a political scandal), began screening in New Zealand three weeks ago. I understand it has been reasonably well-received in the US, where star Julianne Margulies has received some award recognition for her performance in the series.

Shades of grey, in and out of the courtroom
Craig Sisterson
takes a closer look at The Good Wife

Although we are still basking (some of the time) in summer, and crossing our fingers that the blue skies and sunshine continue for as long as possible, for keen TV watchers, the seasons have already changed. The past fortnight has seen the return of plenty of old favourites, but also the launch of some never-seen-before shows.

One new series quickly gaining some much-deserved attention is The Good Wife, starring Juliana Margulies of ER fame. The first episode kicked off with the all-too-realistic scene of a disgraced politician at a lectern, bathed in camera flashes, deflecting questions from the blood-hungry press, his wife standing mutely by his side; an innocent bystander in an escalating sex scandal. This ‘grabbed from the headlines’ hook, and the behind-the-scenes look into the private lives of loved ones coping with all the fallout from such a betrayal, adds some extra layers to what is otherwise, in effect, another US courtroom drama.

Margulies plays Alicia Florrick, the wife of Peter (the always-watchable Chris Noth – “Mr Big” for Sex and the City fans) – a high-flying state’s attorney whose career comes crashing down when his penchant for extramarital dalliances is exposed. When Peter is imprisoned on corruption charges (using state money to pay for hookers), Alicia needs to find a job to support her family, so she returns to her former career. Thanks to an old law school colleague (Sports Night’s Josh Charles), the 40-year-old mother of two scores a role as an entry-level associate at a high-powered Chicago law firm. As she tries to find her feet, Alicia is under pressure from all directions: her surname brings whispers, as well as a mixture of pity and prejudice; her kids get teased at school; her husband thinks clearing his name will solve all their problems; her moved-in mother-in-law provides help and hindrance; and then she finds out her job is only temporary – she’s in a competition with a young, well-connected colleague for the solitary permanent place at the firm.

So, is The Good Wife any good? In short, yes. Two episodes in, it has already showed some pleasing depth, layers, and shades of grey to complement the recognisable leads and the intriguing hook. As interesting as the ‘unseen aftermath of a public scandal’ conceit could be, the series needs to have more than that to be sustainable and successful long-term. And it does. Much of the acting is top-notch (including the scene-stealing Christine Baranski as Alicia’s mentor), and the court cases that form the spine of the weekly storylines are both interesting and well written. In the debut, Alicia defends a woman accused of covering up her husband’s murder by making it look like a carjacking; the next week, she represents a stripper and former prostitute (uncomfortable territory given her husband’s actions) filing a civil suit over an alleged rape. The Good Wife highlights plenty of question marks and moral ambiguity both within the courtroom and in the rest of the characters’ lives, and this should ensure it continues to be a very good watch for a long time to come.

The Good Wife screens on Tuesday nights at 9:30 pm on TV3.

1 comment:

  1. I love the Good Wife show OR drama. I will try to collect the NZLawyer magazine (issue 130, 19 February 2010) . I watch the show in
    Dish TV