The Good Wife

September 23, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

“The Good Wife,” says the New York Times’s TV critic, “may turn out to be the best new drama.” If so, it had better figure out what’s foreground and what’s background.

The opening episode for the most part was straight Perry Mason. The DA has a slam-dunk murder case. The defendant’s lawyer finds that the case is even more hopeless than it seemed, but then she goes to work. Embarrassed in the early part of the trial by DA and judge, she comes back not only to make a fool of the DA’s team, not only to establish enough reasonable doubt for acquittal, but during cross-examination to reveal who the real murderer was. Yep, the defense lawyer solved the crime while the Law and Order set were pursuing the wrong person.

My objection (and I hope it’s sustained) is that the interesting stuff, and what apparently got the show on the air, has nothing to do with crimes and trials. Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margolies) is, as the title says, the good wife, not the good lawyer (though of course she’s a good lawyer too). She’s the good wife (the title drips with conflict if not irony) because she remains married to her husband, even though he is in prison following a politically charged sex scandal. You watch the show to see how Alicia copes with her snappish boss, also a woman (Christine Baransky channeling Sigourney Weaver in “Working Girl”), with her husband, her kids, the nasties in the DA’s office, and the rest. You don’t watch it to find out who shot JR.

No doubt, all these people will present Alicia with a host of problems, problems that she’ll survive and surmount, all the while solving crimes, winning cases, and wearing really nice clothes.

No comments: