On TV: The Good Wife
Julianna Margulies was the only ER cast member to win an Emmy, which makes it all the more surprising that her career after leaving the show in 2000 is so sparse. Now, following the quick demise of her 2008 show Canterbury's Law, Margulies stars in another lawyer-centric drama, The Good Wife, a recovery tale of a shamed politician's wife who returns to work as a defense attorney to save face and support her kids. While this show boasts none of the urgency or originality of ER's legendary first episode, there's enough in tonight's premiere to suggest that the onetime Carol Hathaway could become a fixture in living rooms yet again.
The Good Wife opens with a shot of Alicia Florrick (Margulies) and her husband Peter (Chris Noth) as they hold hands and proceed silently down a corridor. They arrive at a flashbulb-rampaged press conference where Peter approaches the microphone and announces he is stepping down as the state's attorney for Cook County, while Alicia stands at his side, ghostly and inanimate. He claims he's not corrupt or an adulterer, but Alicia's dead eyes indicate otherwise.
Flashing forward, Alicia enters her new office under the direction of a superior, played by a predictably serious Christine Baranski. As we watch Alicia take the reins on a doomed-seeming case, it's clear that her decision to reenter the workplace is necessary, a proper step in rejoining the living and professionally distancing herself from her husband, who sits in jail. Upon working the case of a wrongfully accused wife who who may have killed her ex-husband and framed it to look like a car-jacking, Alicia finds a way to relate woes, telling her to settle down, take a shower, wear nice clothes and makeup, and show no one. "For now, it's the superficial things that matter most," she says, imparting the premiere's first Don Draper-like cryptogram.
An appraisal of The Good Wife hinges upon what one thinks of Julianna Margulies, who emanates a relaxed, magnetic presence and remains the only character with whom the audience relates. Her supporting cast, namely Noth, play the rather expected drama at just the right pitch, lending sincerity where the staid courtroom dialogue leaves us bored. This isn't novel television, but it gives us a multidimensional protagonist who fords the arenas of family, professionalism, and personal crisis with aplomb. The Good Wife is a show with room to grow, and judging by the success of its interwoven plots, its progress will manifest in the form of Margulies' subtle, unpretentious finesse.