I might be on a limb when it comes to The Good Wife, but personally speaking I had no idea that the show had shot four seasons (the fifth is airing now), much less had garnered some critical acclaim to boot. Is it because it is up against several other, more critically and popularly praised shows in a Sunday night timeslot? Has the show locked into a demographic that is devoted to the show and will watch it come hell or high water? It does air on CBS, and God knows they are onto something for other, lesser quality shows that truckloads of people watch, so who knows? But I decided to check it out and see for myself.
The Good Wife was created by Robert King, who wrote such screenplays as Vertical Limit and Speechless, and was attacking his first show-running project with his wife Michelle. The eponymous wife is portrayed by Julianna Margulies, no slouch to television viewers after spending more than a decade as a key player in the NBC show ER. Margulies plays Alicia Florrick, a woman married to Peter, a Chicago District Attorney (Chris Noth, Sex and the City) who was jailed for corruption, leaving Alicia to resume work to support her two children. She subsequently works at a law firm headed up by two people: the younger, attractive, slightly brash Will (Josh Charles, Sports Night) and the older, more diplomatic Diane (Christine Baranski, The Bounty Hunter). The fourth season finds us with Peter long since released from jail and mounting a gubernatorial campaign with Eli (Alan Cumming, X2). Will and Diane were forced to declare bankruptcy and are working their way out of their financial situation with the help of a creditor (played by Nathan Lane, The Producers). Alicia is dealing with being the wife of the campaign, while dodging rumors of Peter's infidelity and her own feelings for Will. Not necessarily helping matters is the addition of Cary (Matt Chuchry, Gilmore Girls), who worked in Peter's office and is now working for the private firm, and has aspirations for a higher role for both of them. Oh, and she still has to be a lawyer and mom!
The first thing I take away from The Good Wife is how surprising the casting has been, and how generally capable to compelling everyone is through the year. On the lesser known front, Archie Panjabi may be familiar to some folks from Bend It Like Beckham, but as the firm's investigator Kalinda, she proves to balance her efficiency in her role and a somewhat chaotic personal life nicely. She has long since become a regular cast member and her work has earned her an Emmy, and justifiably so. On a guest star level, Michael J. Fox reprises his role as Louis Canning, an adversary to Alicia who takes over a larger role of consequence for the film in the fourth season. One could say Fox' brilliance in the show is emblematic of what the show has been able to accomplish, and leads me to the second thing I was impressed by when watching The Good Wife.
And this is while the ensemble is full of faces both young and old, there is something about The Good Wife that seems to link it back to L.A. Law, the 1980s Steven Bochco law drama that was also full of pretty faces, compelling stories and solid performances, with an occasional dusting of tawdry acts thrown in for good measure. But more importantly, The Good Wife also uses the strategy of a law firm acting like a law firm, meaning that there is a certain degree of client attention that needs to be paid and thus, actors who appeared in prior seasons get to inhabit their roles yet again. For instance, Dylan Baker (Two Days In New York) plays Colin Sweeney, a man who contributes business to the firm in the eight figures, but also has a personality that is grimy to say the least. He comes back in the third season with his fiancée, played by Morena Baccarin of Homeland. Her character is hilarious and a complete change of pace from Jess Brody, and the couple is a joy to see once again, just as it is a dread to see Fox come back and haunt the Lockhart/Gardner firm for another turn.
There are occasional moments through the season that as one coming into the show new, were not confusing more than they were slightly extracurricular to the show. For instance, the firm handles the business of a drug dealer (played by Mike Colter, Salt) that was frustrating to experience because of the general lack of moving any stories forward. The show also tends to not necessarily get on the soapbox, but tiptoe on it occasionally to make an episode or moment annoying, such as a moment in "What's In the Box?" that seems to be a quixotic musing on the 2000 elections, which last I checked was more than a decade ago.
Those complaints are minor when looking at the big picture and those who tell it, thankfully. Margulies and Panjabi do great by their reputation on the show, and Charles and Margulies definitely have a palpable chemistry that makes a simmering romance between the two something that cannot be discounted. The Good Wife is not without some moments of fault, but on the whole their status as "Best Show Under the Popular Radar" show bear some examination, this show is worth the acclaim.
All twenty-two episodes in Season Six appear in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and are spread over six discs for easy viewing (4 episodes per disc on the first four, with the last six split over Discs Five and Six). Not having seen the show before this point (save for some moments when my wife would stream it online for ‘binge viewing' purposes) I was not sure what to expect, but the show handles the image well, with natural and accurate colors and flesh tones despite a lack of image detail in the foreground and background. Black levels look good without crushing and the image is generally clean through the season. It looks nice.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for all episodes, with the overall results being a nice surprise. The show does not take much advantage of the expanded soundstage with events during the season, but the show includes a variety of music mostly at the end of (but in some cases during) an episode. The dialogue sounds fine with nary a concern, there are occasional directional effects and a moment or two of subwoofer engagement, all of which come off as effective. However, through the course of the show there are not enough moments that would persuade you that the show is an immersive experience, do not expect much from a dialogue-driven legal show.
One would hope that a show that appears to be recognized by a couple people would have some more cast participation in their DVD supplemental material, but such is life these days I guess. There are deleted scenes on 18 of the season's 22 episodes and while the total number of scenes is ample (33 running approximately 40:55 in length) the content is forgettable. The deleted scenes are included on all six discs, with the remainder of the material on Disc Six. Things there start with "Seat of Power" (13:16) which looks at the directors for the show and mainly examines Brooke Kennedy, one of the show's executive producers who also has directed on occasion for it. The hiring process for a director is recounted and Kennedy talks about how she works and how impressed she is by the cast picking up on a suggestion or note. Next is "Standards and Practices" (11:57), focusing more on the sex scenes in the show and how they are reconciled for network television, and the comparisons to how cable shows may approach the topic.
Next up is "The Ties That Bind" (21:01) which not only recaps where the show has been but also where it is headed in Season Four and beyond, with interviews from the Kings and Margulies, who shares her thoughts on the characters and stories in the season. It does have an occasional spoiler or two, so viewer bewares. Finally, "Style Evolution" (16:08) looks at the wardrobe of the show through the seasons and how the wardrobe designer has adapted to them, what his intent has been and what he role for the show is.
As someone who knew little about the mythology of The Good Wife before coming into the show's fourth season, I found myself easing into the bath quite nicely, and it helps to have such top-shelf work by a bevy of actors and actresses both regular and guest starring. Technically, the show is about what I expected to be, but the extras could definitely use some work. Throw a gag reel in there for God's sake. But definitely add the show to your television viewing if you have not done so.