September 25, 2009

TV: The Good Wife (CBS, Tue 10)

The ads for this one suggest that it's going to be all about a political sex scandal, as told from the wife's point of view. That's the event that kicks off the story, certainly, with Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) standing quietly in the background as Peter (Chris Noth, nicely cast in a role that brings his latent smarm to the forefront) confesses to a scandal involving several prostitutes.

But then we jump forward six months, Peter's now in prison, and Alicia's getting on with her life by going back to work as an attorney. No one takes her seriously -- she only had a couple of years of courtroom experience before retiring to raise kids and support Peter's political career -- but she's determined to make it work, and she may even have a mentor in one of the firm's senior partners, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski, toning down the stuffy bitchiness a bit from her usual TV work).

Her strongest ally at the firm, though, seems likely to be the young investigator, Kalinda (Archie Panjabi); it certainly isn't the other newly hired associate, Cory (Matt Czuchry), because it turns out they're competing for the firm's only associate position, and one of them will be fired in six months.

So The Good Wife really isn't so much the sex scandal story, though that's constantly in the background; what we've got here is a legal drama with a heavy overlay of commentary about how women do and don't support one another against the old boys' network. Both Kalinda and Alicia are more than willing to use their femininity to get what they want, in very different ways. When they need to get info from a security guard, Kalinda undoes a button or two; "better than any subpoena," she says. And Alicia knows just how to play the "aren't men pigs" card to get the information she needs from a secretary.

Margulies is very good here, and she's got a wonderfully expressive face, particularly in the opening scene with Noth. Panjabi is likable and tough, and Czuchry plays privileged arrogance as well as any young actor on TV. There's also a nice guest role in the first episode for David Paymer, who plays a judge who does not suffer fools gladly, making you wish he'd do more acting and less TV directing.

I am a fan of legal dramas, and this one's got a solid cast and a different point of view. Lots of potential here.

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