movie film review | chris tookey

Good Wife (TV)

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  Good Wife (TV) Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
8.83 /10
Julianna Margulies , Josh Charles , Christine Baranski
Full Cast >

Directed by: Charles MacDougall, Rosemary Rodriguez, Michael Zinberg, Brooke Kennedy and many others
Written by: Michelle and Robert King, Adam R. Perlman, Ted Humphrey, Leonard Dick and many others. Created by Michelle and Robert King

Released: 2009
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Length: 0

Alicia Florrick (Juliana Marguilies, pictured right), a lawyer who has given up her career to support her politician husband, Peter Florrick (Chris Noth, pictured left), finds herself bringing up two children alone, with her husband disgraced and in jail after a corruption and sex scandal. She does not divorce him, but goes back to work as a junior lawyer at Lockhart Gardner, a Chicago firm run by her former law-school classmate, Will Gardner (Josh Charles), and an older woman, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), who doesn’t seem all that welcoming.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The Good Wife, which ran for seven seasons from 2009 to 2016, was inspired by two scandals that overtook North Carolina senator John Edwards and New York governor Eliot Spitzer. It was the outstanding law series of its era, remarkable for the speed and intelligence with which it seized on legal, social and political issues and explored them with great wit, humour and dramatic force. It was praised for its portrayal of a “strong woman” in the leading role, but the series was notable for the honesty with which it showed the flaws and insecurities of Alicia, immaculately played by Julianna Margulies. (Hard though it is to believe, she was third choice for the role, and took it after Ashley Judd and Helen Hunt turned it down.) I loved the way the series allowed her to develop from a hesitant newbie with clear ideals to a much more cynical, effective lawyer with a more elastic conscience. It also approached the work-life balance issue far more honestly than any other drama I have seen.

The series is sceptical about the morality of those in power, but grown-up enough to realise that all power involves compromises. It shows a very real world, with numerous opportunities to do the wrong thing in pursuit of influence, wealth, women and men. Many seemingly good characters are tempted to do wrong, and do it. Often, they receive a come-uppance, but frequently they do not. And that’s the way life is. Not many dramas, on film or television, have this degree of sophistication.

The structure of the series allowed there to be at least one law case per episode, but there was a good deal of space for personal relationships and office politics. The later series were at their best when they followed this template; in a few episodes, the writing degenerated into soap opera mixed with romantic sitcom, and on one occasion into a downright weird sequence of fantasies, dreamed by a subsidiary character. At this point, I started to worry that too many illegal substances were being consumed, at too high a level.

But I didn’t give up, and I was rewarded with many more episodes that upheld the original high standards.

The show was unmistakably a drama, but retained a snarky sense of humour throughout. Though set in Chicago, it was initially filmed in Canada but soon moved to New York City. It was noticeable that many of the smaller roles were filled by Broadway actors, who brought a comedic edge to some already witty dialogue. One of my favourite characters was the smarmy divorce lawyer at Lockhart-Gardner, David Lee (Zach Grenier), who would stop at nothing to halt Alicia’s rise in the firm. Alan Cumming, a gay Scotsman called upon to play a heterosexual Jew, became a charismatic character in the last few series, and America Ferrara made a touching love interest.

The Good Wife was splendidly produced by brothers Ridley and Tony Scott and David W. Zucker for Scott Free Productions. It won numerous prestigious awards, including five Emmys and the 2014 Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Drama. A spin-off show, The Good Fight, built around Christine Baranski and Cush Jumbo, started broadcasting a year later, and is still running. It is very impressive, and returns to the winning template of the first two series, which emphasised the law rather than the personal relationships of the protagonists.

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