Monday, September 7, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - The Good Wife

THE GOOD WIFE (script review: The Good Wife)
Status: Premiering Tuesday, September 22nd @ 10pm on CBS

I had to rewatch The Good Wife to really get a handle on how, well, good it is. This is an intense drama, people. And the screener I have is 47 minutes long, so some things will be gone for the "for air" version.

Julianna Margulies. Remember her? Nurse Carol? She tried the whole "lawyer show" thing a couple seasons ago with Canterbury's Law. It didn't work out. Want to know what makes Alicia Follick different from Elizabeth Canterbury, and why The Good Wife will (or, really ought to) work, besides being on CBS instead of FOX?

You actually like Alicia. From the very first moment she is on screen, which is, of course, the very first moment of the pilot. You feel for her and you root for her. She is a strong, lovable broadcast TV heroine where Elizabeth Canterbury was deeply flawed, abrasive, and better suited for cable (if anything). The challenges Alicia faces in her personal life (her husband, the States Attorney of Illinois, was caught sleeping with a prostitute and, perhaps, abusing the powers of his office...) and professional life (a competition between her and a young upstart for a sole junior associate position, for starters, but there's more as her case in the pilot plays out) are significant and, of course, Alicia has her doubts and you love her all the more for them. There is a beautiful moment about 15 minutes in where Alicia is talking to Jennifer, the woman at the center of the murder trial in the pilot, about what she's going to do with herself now that she's been released from jail for the remainder of the retrial. It's a seminal moment where you learn everything you need to know about Alicia.

But Julianna isn't the only standout among this cast. There are two other cast members I'd like to point out for their performances here, and two others I'm definitely looking forward to getting to know more.

Chris Noth plays Peter Follick, Alicia's now-incarcerated husband and, somehow, you don't hate him for doing what he's done. You can't love him, either, though... and that's because Alicia hasn't decided how she feels yet (she doesn't care about the abuse of power charges he's appealing, she cares about him cheating on her and there being video on YouTube and their kids being exposed, etc). Her POV is all-encompassing in this pilot.

Archie Panjabi plays Kalinda, an in-house investigator working with Alicia on Jennifer's case. She is... hilarious. Some much needed levity (though not comic relief) in this heavy drama.

Also adding some levity: ringtones programmed into Alicia's cell by her daughter (including the Twilight Zone theme for her mother in law).

Two characters I'm interested in getting to know are played by Josh Charles and Christine Baranski (who hopefully will be allowed to return to Big Bang Theory as Leonard's mother!) They play partners at the law firm Alicia joins, Josh's character Will is a longtime friend of Alicia's, while Christine's character Diane plays mentor who develops an ax to grind when Alicia, without informing her, takes a different strategy with Jennifer's case (it is a pro bono case going to retrail and Diane has to go back to billable hours).

It's not often that a screener of a script I loved wows me. It happens far more often when I wasn't as high on the script, but changes were made and the story translated well to the screen. I'm beyond pleased that The Good Wife works even better on screen than the script I read (and loved) did.

I'm less pleased with CBS's outdoor marketing of the show, which don't even hint at the fact that it's a legal show (the tagline: "His scandal. Her story.") Here's hoping viewers find this gem against midweek Leno (he won't be getting the biggest names on Tuesdays, I'm sure!) and the, um, whatever show ABC is airing that I won't be reviewing (much like CBS's Three Rivers) due to significant cast changes. Oh, right. The Forgotten. Quite. So the competition might not be that strong and the NCIS: Los Angeles lead-in should be good. Still, it can't hurt to be pulling for good ratings!

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