Every time there is a political scandal, we recognize the setting. The male politician, who’s been caught cheating, makes an appearance in front of the cameras together with his wife, holding her hand. The devoted woman shows that this is a man who can still be trusted. We certainly remember it from the Clinton era, when the U.S. president had been caught lying and the First Lady had to remain loyal. A whole world wondered what was she thinking. So were Robert and Michelle King, two writers who had been married since 1987. They decided to create a TV show that used one of those awkward television events as a starting point.
At the start of the show, we were introduced to Alicia Florrick (Julianne Margulies), the wife of Illinois state’s attorney Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) who had just resigned and been sent to prison after a scandal involving corruption and prostitutes. Embarrassed by the whole affair, Alicia nevertheless went back to work, finding a job as a junior litigator at Stern, Lockhart & Gardner in Chicago, thanks to her old friend from law school, Will Gardner (Josh Charles). It wasn’t easy in the beginning, raising two teenage children (Graham Phillips, Makenzie Vega), handling the work load at her new job and trying to decide what to do about her marriage to Peter.
Over the following years, Peter was released, Alicia became more comfortable in her role as an ace lawyer… and found it impossible to avoid office politics, as well as her feelings for Will.
Impossible not to admire and like
I didn’t catch this show from the start because there wasn’t much about it that attracted me initially. But it did get good reviews, even after several years, and I do like legal shows, so I guess The Good Wife was always going to be one of those I’d catch up with. One valuable aspect is undeniably its feminism as represented by Margulies as Alicia, a woman it was impossible not to admire and like as she went through personal crises and challenging court cases; that focus remained relevant throughout. This was one hell of a role for the talented actress, and she always carried the show. Margulies was strongly supported by a top-notch cast, including Baranski as another feminist icon, the strong-willed, liberal Diane; Alan Cumming as the shrewd and shameless political operative who always stood by Peter’s side throughout campaigns over the years; and Archie Panjabi as the beautiful, tough investigator at the law firm.
Then there was Charles as Will Gardner, always sharp and lovable. His eventual demise came as a true shock; combined with the riveting intrigues that tore the law firm apart during the fifth season, that event and how movingly it was handled made The Good Wife must-see TV at the time. The showrunners deftly mixed comedy and drama (as most brilliant legal shows know how to do) and was always cleverly attuned to the political and, even, technical issues of the day; several interesting court cases involved the NSA, spying and the role of Silicon Valley behemoths in our lives.
Political profiles appeared as themselves, and Peter’s run for president was timed for the actual 2016 primaries against Hillary Clinton. The show always knew how to spark interest, even though its final two seasons declined. Tension was always kept high thanks to David Buckley’s energetic music.
The Good Wife 2009-2016:U.S. Made for TV. 156 episodes. Color. Created by Robert King, Michelle King. Cast: Julianna Margulies (Alicia Florrick), Christine Baranski (Diane Lockhart), Josh Charles (Will Gardner, 09-14), Matt Czuchry, Graham Phillips, Makenzie Vega, Chris Noth, Alan Cumming (10-16), Archie Panjabi (09-15), Zach Grenier (10-16), Matthew Goode (14-15), Cush Jumbo (15-16), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (15-16).
Trivia: Ashley Judd and Helen Hunt were allegedly considered for the part of Alicia. Followed by a spin-off series, The Good Fight (2017- ).
Emmys: Outstanding Actress (Margulies) 10-11, 13-14; Supporting Actress (Panjabi) 09-10; Guest Actress (Martha Plimpton) 11-12, (Carrie Preston) 12-13. Golden Globe: Best Actress (Margulies) 10.
Last word: “The law seemed to make language a battlefield where it’s how people argue and how people debate subjects that becomes the nature of the drama… We are interested in the debate – I’m from a very big family and we would debate every subject nonstop. Michelle and I have a lot we agree on and a lot we disagree on so it’s a good way to explore that.” (Robert King, NPR)