Tuesday, September 22, 2009
When life changes in an instant: Reviewing "The Good Wife"
In the opening scenes of the new CBS series "The Good Wife" (which premieres at 10 tonight), Alicia Florrick (Juliana Marguiles) cuts a familiar figure. Clad in an uncomfortable-looking suit, she stands beside her politician husband Peter (Christopher Noth) as he apologizes to the American public for his role in a sex scandal. Alicia stands next to him, looking stunned but supportive. A closer look tells a slightly different story. Alicia is terrified, angry and lost. As the conference ends, she and Peter walk out of the room. In the adjoining hallway, free from the prying eyes of the media, Alicia hauls off and smacks Peter. It's a cathartic moment for anyone who has watched time and time again as the wives of embattled politicians stand beside their men in seeming support, as they admit to crime and/or infidelity.
But "The Good Wife" shows us what happens to Alicia after delivering that slap. It shows us that she needs to move on with her life and start taking care of her family. With her husband in jail, Alicia must rejoin the workforce and pick up the law career she abandoned to start a family.
The show offers a nice window into the lives of an archetype we think we all know: the scandalized political wife. As Florrick, Marguiles (along with the show's writers) turn a cliche into a human being. We see her struggle at work, where seemingly half her firm is conspiring against her. Her only allies are an old friend (the always welcome Josh Charles of "Sports Night") and the firm's smart, no-nonsense investigator (Archie Panjabi).
With its combination of legal drama (the pilot follows Alicia as she tries to clear a scorned woman of murder) and political intrigue, "The Good Wife" is one of the best new shows of the fall. Marguiles, coming off the short-lived "Canterbury's Law," seems to have found a TV character to equal the beloved Carol on "ER." Alicia is smart, strong and relatable, and Marguiles is radiant in the part. Panjabi is also excellent as the woman who reluctantly becomes her sidekick. The byplay between them is the show's highpoint.
Though other shows, including ABC's "Flash Forward," are getting a lot more hype, "The Good Wife" is definitely worth your time, if only to see what happens to those poor wives once the lights dim and cameras go away.