I’ve seen a ton of lawyer shows over the years. Pretty much any variation that’s been tried, I’ve likely seen at least an episode. I generally like lawyer shows. I thought I’d seen pretty much everything in the genre until The Good Wife came to me from CBS Home Video. I was surprised that the series had somehow escaped my notice the last television season. I couldn’t really find anyone who had seen even an episode of the freshman drama. It was time to give it a try. Turns out that there are still a few new tricks out there in the field, and The Good Wife has done a pretty good job of grabbing my attention, as it should yours.
The series is not really a lawyer procedural, at least not on the surface. The first images of the pilot lead us to believe we aren’t getting a legal drama at all, but a political one. Chicago’s State’s Attorney Peter Florrick (Noth) is walking to a podium with a large anxious crowd of press with microphones and cameras flashing. He’s clutching the hand of his wife Alicia (Margulies) as he approaches the buzzing audience. The event turns into a scene we’ve seen quite frequently of late. A politician must apologize for a sex scandal with his bewildered wife standing beside him trying to hide all of those feelings of anger and betrayal that you know she must be feeling. Florrick is resigning his office, admitting to indiscretions but denying reports of corruption that have apparently been looming over his administration. At first you are sure, in spite of the show’s title, that this is Peter Florrick’s story. It’s not. From this point on the focus will be almost entirely upon Alicia.
Alicia has been thrust into a new life. Her husband has been disgraced and has been convicted of corruption. He’s now serving 10 years in prison. She’s been forced to abandon her luxury home and has moved herself and her two children into a much smaller apartment. She’s no longer moving in the elite social circles. She also has to get a job. With Peter’s mother (Peil) helping to watch the kids, Alicia seeks a job at the firm of an old college sweetheart, Will Gardner (Charles). Gardner still has feelings for her, and she is hired as a junior associate. But there’s a catch. There have been two junior associates hired. In six months only one of them will still have a job. So she’s in competition with the much younger and more ambitious Cary Agoes (Czuchry). Life is very complicated. The stay-at-home mother now is working long hours. She’s also inundated with images of her husband’s fall from grace, including YouTube videos of the sting that brought him down and his call-girl lover doing the daytime talk circuit. She is recognized wherever she goes. The firm is counting on her to cash in on her husband’s connections. Meanwhile, she’s quite good at her job and finds herself the key to many of the firm’s cases.
The cases do provide the stability for the show, but unlike many legal procedurals there is a rather complicated mythology to the show. The mythology plays out a little bit with every episode. One such arc involves the children Zach (Phillips) and Grace (Vega). The current State’s Attorney Glen Childs (Welliver) is looking for payback. He wants Alicia to back off of his office with her own cases. So he sends videos and photos of even more scandal involving Peter, in the hopes to intimidate her to stop. Unfortunately, it’s the kids who find the packets. When Zach examines the lurid photographs, he believes his father was framed, and the two begin a secret mission to prove it. The mission will involve the 12-year-old boy calling hookers and looking into some rather seedy parts of the city.
The second major mythology arc is Peter fighting for a new trial. The progress means release with electronic monitoring, and Alicia isn’t really sure if she wants him home. But, she lives up to the series title and does her best to support her fallen husband while attempting to set boundaries between them. To make it worse, he plans to run to reclaim his old job if he’s cleared of the corruption. Alicia must deal with a growing legal and political team invading her space and her life. She’s also beginning to have renewed feelings for Gardner.
Of course, there are the cases each week. They often involve a client who is either not guilty of something or is being taken advantage of in some legal way. Alicia is helped by Kalinda Sharma (Panjabi) who is the firm’s private investigator. The two bond, and Kalinda also helps give Alicia a leg up on her competition with Cary, who will stop at nothing to win. Gardner’s partner in the firm is Diane Lockhart (Baranski) who is a super liberal, but finds her own side to be as shady as she has perceived the other side to be. While there is an obvious liberal slant here — what else — I have to admit there is more balance than these shows typically allow.
I like the fact that this series is not so single-minded. I’ve never been a huge fan of Chris Noth going back to his Law & Order days, but I have to admit he plays the slimy politician quite well here. His story starts out slowly and builds as we get closer to the end of the season. The writers have done a superb job of balancing these show arcs with compelling legal drama. In the end you have something quite fresh and original here. It doesn’t hurt that there are some familiar situations that are obviously inspired by both the political and even Tiger Woods scandals. The season ends with a cliffhanger. As Peter is about to launch his campaign, Alicia is in a will-she-or-won’t-she moment, torn between Gardner and Peter. We’ll have to check back in the next season to see what she does. I’m not sure I’m on the edge of my seat here, but I’ll be back.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The show has a very dark feel with its color scheme. It was recorded on the Genesis HD camera system, which does not like the color white. You won’t see much white anywhere in the show. The colors in both the environments and the sets are very dark and moody. You get a sense that it’s always winter, because lighting is usually very cold. Black levels are only fair. This might be a better show in high definition.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 serves dialog. That’s all there is, folks.
There is an Audio Commentary on many select episodes.
There are deleted scenes on most episodes. They can be found on the disc with the episode itself.
The episodes are spread over 6 discs. The following extras can be found on the following discs:
Aftermath – The Real-Life Events: (17:42) Cast and crew explore some of the headline events that have shaped the series. They give us a good look at how those events inspired the series and where they hoped to take that story.
The Education Of Alicia Florrick: (1:15:06) This is a very inclusive making-of feature that can be split into 5 parts: Location Work, The Ensemble, Clothing, The Pilot, and Breaking New Ground.
The Good Wife is the latest series from Ridley and Tony Scott who brought us Numb3rs for the last 6 years. It’s a much better show with far more compelling characters and situations. Julianna Margulies is quite good in the role. She has an expressive acting style that can deliver more by doing less. I’ve always been far more attracted to that kind of acting style. The cast chemistry develops quickly, particularly between Alicia and Kalinda. I like the mystery there in that character. There’s still plenty of law to keep the procedural junkies happy. I like that the series doesn’t go for the flowery speeches and surprise courtroom antics. There’s a higher sense of reality here, which is much more difficult to pull off. “Poetry is easy. It’s the parent-teacher conferences that are hard.”