Category Archives: The Good Wife

The Good Wife – “VIP Treatment”

“VIP Treatment”

October 26th, 2010

That’s more like it.

Thus far, I’ve been disappointed in the quality of The Good Wife’s second season, if not disappointed in the season as a whole. There has yet to be an episode which really lived up to the potential of the first season when it comes to its legal procedural elements: the show’s serialized elements have remained present, but the series was at its most effective when the legal story was novel or particularly well organized (I’d argue “Heart” was the season highlight).

For me, “VIP Treatment” is the best episode of the season and certainly a standout in the series as a whole primarily because it is driven by a legal case as opposed to ongoing character interaction. Like last week’s episode, it features some work regarding Peter’s campaign, the love triangle, and Kalinda and Blake’s feud of sorts, but it’s all done in service to the standalone story. It’s an episode which makes its standalone storyline feel like something much more substanthe episode worked really welltial, and which embraces the show’s uniquely well-drawn workplace environment to tell a small story with potentially huge ramifications.

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The Good Wife – “Cleaning House”

“Cleaning House”

October 19th, 2010

The Good Wife was the best new network series of last season, without a doubt: the show was smart, sophisticated, and comfortable in its balance of both procedural and serialized elements.

This season, The Good Wife is a considerably worse show, objectively speaking: the weekly plots are over-written, the serial arc has swapped character drama for fairly rote political maneuvering, and tensions which might have remained subtexts last year become baseball bat attacks this time around.

Normally, I’d chalk this up to a network note about wanting to draw in younger viewers with a more exciting product; while I do think that this is likely part of it, I’m reticent to speak too critically because I’m finding this new version of the show a whole lot of fun. This is not to say that I don’t wish that the scripts could be a bit sharper, or that the show would avoid playing so heavily to the relationships between Will and Alicia as well as Cary and Alicia, but “Cleaning House” demonstrates that there are times when manipulative plotting can be delightful enough to quell most, if not all, of my critical concerns.

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Season Premiere: The Good Wife – “Taking Control”

“Taking Control”

September 28th, 2010

I will admit to loving a good ironic title, and I’d argue that “Taking Control” somewhat misrepresents the state of The Good Wife heading into its second season.

I’ve seen a lot of divergent thoughts on the premiere: some seems to think the show is still in fine form, while others felt that it was “off” in some way. I’ll admit to being slightly in the second camp, albeit with a better sense of how, and more importantly why, the show feels this way. While I do think there are a few creative missteps here, I think the general function of the premiere was a good way to enter into the season (if not necessarily conducive to a particularly strong premiere).

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: CBS’ The Good Wife

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: CBS’ The Good Wife

July 5th, 2010

[This is part of a series of posts analyzing individual show's chances at the Emmy Awards ahead of the nominations, which will be announced on July 8th. You can find all of my posts regarding the 2010 Emmy Awards here.]

There is a great deal of buzz surrounding CBS’ The Good Wife this Emmy season, and what’s remarkable is that I’m willing to join the chorus. When the show picked up a surprised nomination in the “Ensemble Cast” category at the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, I was sort of perplexed, believing that the series was more or less a star vehicle for Julianna Margulies and that it didn’t deserve taking the place of Lost, or Sons of Anarchy, or Breaking Bad. However, as The Good Wife’s first season progressed, I was able to see the show is more than Margulies’ triumphant return to television, and its blend of procedural and serialized elements have created a series that deserves to be part of this conversation.

The series benefits from being both familiar and unfamiliar to voters. On the one hand, the show has a comfortable legal procedural/workplace drama structure which hearkens back to Emmys past (when Law & Order was dominant, or when The Practice and Boston Legal each saw considerable success). However, on the other hand, the show very clearly expands beyond that structure with a complex serialized storyline surrounding Alicia’s relationship with her husband and the scandal which surrounds his life, which interrupts and complicates the ongoing procedural elements. The show has its cake and eats it too, which will allow voters to feel comfortable voting for the show either for its well-executed simplicity or for the risk in adding serialized elements to the series (while the show takes far fewer risks than Lost or Breaking Bad, they seem riskier considering The Good Wife is ostensibly a CBS procedural).

Margulies is unquestionably the frontrunner in the Lead Actress in a Drama Series race: her wins at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards were not flukes, and her Emmys pedigree is just as strong (and while she has a win for ER, it was in the Supporting category, so she’s searching for her first win in five nominations this year). It’s a deserved place for the actress, whose work on the show has been extremely strong and who truly does anchor the cast. The question, however, is how much the show (which I’d consider a strong contender for a nomination in the Drama field) expands into further caregories: while I’d say that the series’ pilot is a contender in both Direction and Writing (as most high-profile, successful drama pilots are), I’m more interested to see what happens to the rest of the SAG-nominated cast.

In Supporting Actor, Chris Noth has to be considered a threat – he’s part of the season’s prominent serialized arc (and makes a big impact in the pilot), has some notoriety from his time as Mr. Big, and is quite great on the show. However, Josh Charles (who is Emmy-nomination free despite the genius of Sports Night) is equally as good on the show, and has to merit some consideration as well. Similarly, Christine Baranski has a real chance in the Supporting Actress field (having won for Cybill in 1995 and having grabbed a guest actress in a comedy nomination just last year), but arguable Archie Panjabi’s Kalinda has been the breakout character from the series, and so she probably deserves greater consideration even if her lack of name recognition will keep her from breaking through (although, we said the same about Aaron Paul last year, and he made it into the field). Throw in some guest acting contenders (Alan Cumming for his extended guest arc, Mary Beth Peil recurring as Peter’s mother, Martha Plimpton as a rival attorney, Dylan Baker as a sadistic client), and the series could land in a big way.

The Drama field is pretty crowded this year, but The Good Wife is in a good position to take advantage of this as a freshman series: its newness will serve it well against some established, but less noteworthy contenders, and this is likely to grab it a number of key nominations that will provide some considerable momentum (which the show might need, as its ratings dropped quite a bit after its early renewal). A nomination for Outstanding Drama Series would be CBS’ first since CSI and Joan of Arcadia in 2004, and if it garners over 6 nominations it will be CBS’ most-nominated drama series since Chicago Hope’s years of dominance in the 1990s, and I think CBS will have a lot to be happy about on Thursday morning.

Contender in:

  • Outstanding Drama Series
  • Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Julianna Margulies)
  • Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Chris Noth)
  • Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Christine Baranski)
  • Writing for a Drama Series
  • Directing for a Drama Series
  • Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Alan Cumming)
  • Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Mary Beth Piel)

Dark Horse in:

  • Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Josh Charles)
  • Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Archie Panjabi)
  • Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Martha Plimpton)
  • Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Dylan Baker)

Should, but Won’t, Contend In:

  • Honestly, I think it’ll contend in some capacity in every place it really deserves to: Matt Czuchry did well with his part, but his character’s real potential will be next season (considering where the season left his character), and no one else really played a pivotal enough role to be considered. However, the one omission above is Titus Welliver, who I think could have contended in Guest Actor but who didn’t submit himself for consideration (for this or for Lost), which is a pity.

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Season Finale: The Good Wife – “Running”

“Running”

May 25th, 2010

A lot has been written about how The Good Wife is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, presenting itself as a combination of legal procedural and workplace drama on a weekly basis while at its heart remaining a serialized character study. The series’ pilot was one of those skillful bits of television where they presumably lay out all their cards and yet really tell you nothing at all. The clear “structures” of the season were put into place (the competition with Carey, the complications surrounding Peter’s trial, Alicia’s romantic tension with Will, etc.), but it couldn’t tell us that those structures would evolve, and that from their “resolutions” would emerge structures which offer greater complexity.

Ending where the series began, “Running” very purposefully asks us how much has changed since Alicia Florrick stood on stage with her husband one year ago, a cyclical conclusion which for some shows would seem a bit cute (and, admittedly, the ending eventually veers into that territory). However, when you actually consider that question beyond the rote cliffhanger that the episode provides, you realize how much more complex this environment seems, how much it feels like we’ve lived in Alicia Florrick’s shoes and understand the ways in which she’s trapped between different definitions of the series’ title.

And while its ending may be predictable when taken out of that context, I would very much argue that the series’ position heading into its second season is more impressive than even the strong pilot predicted.

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The Good Wife – “Boom”

“Boom”

April 28th, 2010

The Good Wife is a lot like Fringe.

This likely seems like an odd statement, but both are shows which despite fairly substantial serialized elements largely present themselves as procedurals. Both shows are also at their best, when telling procedural stories, when those stories feel in some way distinct: like Fringe, the characters are usually interesting enough that a more mundane trial can largely be carried by the show, but The Good Wife (and Fringe) are both capable of twisty, complex narratives that embody the shows’ particular universes as different as they might be.

“Boom” eventually succeeds due to some interesting serialized elements and some nice work around the edges, but the central case feels like something pulled out of an episode of Law & Order. This isn’t a slight on Law & Order so much as a sign of The Good Wife’s limitations: this show isn’t as capable of “solving” a case in the way that show is, and the case eventually becomes a burden which interrupts, rather than complicates, the show’s other drama.

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The Good Wife – “Doubt”

“Doubt”

April 6th, 2010

It is possible that I’m running out of ways to discuss the quiet confidence of The Good Wife, which has become one of network television’s most consistently entertaining drama series, but let me run this one by you.

“Doubt” is in many ways a concept episode: it takes us into the jury room to witness the post-trial deliberations of 12 men and women, then weaves its way back through the case in a vaguely chronological order that has us guessing at certain bits and pieces of information before they truly arrive.

However, maybe it’s just me, but it didn’t feel like a concept episode. This is not a show defined by its bells and whistles, neither within its premise (which focuses solely on character) or in its general approach to legal proceedings (where each case is handled separately). The show doesn’t do anything to call attention to an “extra-special episode,” but rather drops us into the jury room just as they dropped us into the clerks creating an impromptu court room a few episodes ago.

By balancing the novelty of this shift in format with an episode that relies just as much on serialized character development as it does on the narrative structure, “Doubt” continues a fairly lengthy streak of episodes that demonstrate the sheer potential in this series and its cast.

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