September 26, 2009

new show review: the good wife

I've been excited about this show for a while because it seemed like something different from the run of the mill legal show. And I've always wondered what happens to those wives after the devastating moments on camera standing by their guilty husbands. What are they thinking in that moment? What happens next? The Good Wife is telling that story in the pilot.

The episode opens with Alicia Florrick (Juliana Marguiles) standing by her man Peter Florrick (Chris Noth/Mr. Big) as he makes a statement to the press apologizing for illegal activities while serving as State Attorney. The scene is very strong focusing on Alicia, all of the images floating through her head and all she can do is focus on a tiny loose string sitting on her husband's suit sleeve.

Cut to six months later Alicia starting her new job at a law firm after a 15 year hiatus. Here, we meet the coworkers...and I'm smiling wider at every face I see. Josh Charles, one of my very favorites from Sports Night, a show I still mourn every day, playing Will a partner at the firm and old friend/classmate of Alicia. Right away, we know Alicia has someone in her corner, and Josh plays the character with ease charm as usual.

The brilliant Christine Baranski plays Diane, another firm head honcho, who transparently disapproves of Alicia's years as a mother and wife (of a State Attorney who no one likes) and owns a dog named Justice. And Gilmore Girls vet Matt Czuchry playing Cary, the other new associate, who is about half her age and does a bad job of hiding the competitive spirit behind his nice guy persona. We find out that there's actually only one associate position open, and the two will be competing.

Alicia is forced to jump in right away on a pro bono case that is being retried after a hung jury case tried by Diane. Here we meet Kalinda, the firms in-house investigator. It took me a while to place her, but with some help from IMDB, I realized she is Archie Panjabi, who played the sister in Bend It Like Beckham. She was a hoot in that movie (did I just type hoot?). She's British, playing an American here and could use a little practice with the accent, but I like her in this role. The two get off to a rocky start when we learn Alicia's husband fired Katrina in the past, and she's resentful of having to catch Alicia up on the case, which involves a young woman accused of killing her husband and making it look like a botched car jacking.

Along the way, we meet Alicia's family. Honest and frank, but not quite bratty, teenage daughter Grace (Mackenzie Vega) who's dealing with rumors (and truths) about her dad at school. Younger son Zack (not sure of the actor's name yet). Mother-in-law Jackie is played by none other than Mary Beth Peil, better known as Gram from Dawson's Creek. So good to see her on the small scene again. Although she's a judgemental nightmare, at least she's stepping up to help Alicia.

Alicia visits Peter in prison to get some signatures on paper work. We learn that his charges include running an "abusive office" and soliciting a prostitute. Peter is maintaining his innocence on the first, but there's video proof of the second that's all over the Internet. He loses me when he says "Thanks for playing the bread winner for a while."

The trial is interesting, but nothing ground breaking. After Peter tells Alicia that he heard rumblings about hidden evidence during the first trial, she and Kalinda dig up the evidence and find a more viable suspect, helping to get the young woman off the hook. Really, this was a way to show the challenges Alicia will be facing along the way, including prejudices from judges who didn't like her husband, the new State Attorney who's also not a fan, and fellow attorneys in the firm, who don't expect too much of her.

With friends and well-written characters on her side - I always say the secret to a procedural is excellent side characters! - Alicia could turn out to be a fun heroine to watch. One episode in, and I already feel myself caring about her. She's been through hell, she's not denying it, but she's not falling victim to it either. I could use some stronger writing on the cases, but otherwise, I'm really looking forward to seeing how the season goes.


LMFH said...

I really liked this show, too!

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