'The Good Wife: The First Season'
(Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, et al / 6-DVD / NR / 2010 / Paramount)
Overview: 'The Good Wife' is a female-driven drama about a politician's wife who pursues her own career as a defense attorney after her husband is sent to jail on charges of political corruption. Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) will not only have to deal with her career but also with keeping her family together by providing a stable home for her two children.
DVD Verdict: Wow! Talk about "ripped from the headlines"! This dramatic tale of a wronged politician's wife brings instantly to mind famous couples such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, John and Elizabeth Edwards, Darlene and John Ensign, Jenny and Mark Sanford, and David and Wendy Vitter.
But the circumstances that most closely resemble those used in 'The Good Wife' are those of Silda and Eliot Spitzer. In 2008, Spitzer resigned as governor of New York after it was revealed that he had spent public funds on high-priced call girls. In his case, his resignation halted potential prosecution.
Not so for Peter Florrick (Chris Noth, best known as Mr. Big, Carrie's lover in "Sex and the City"). In 'The Good Wife,' the husband of the titular good wife, resigns as the state's attorney of Cook County, in the Chicago area of Illinois, after he's exposed for the same crime as Spitzer. But his successor gets Peter thrown in jail.
And so, with her husband now in prison, Peter's wife, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), goes back to work as an attorney, having given up her career thirteen years earlier to tend to Peter and their two children. The cameras may have moved on, but Alicia remains a lightning rod for people’s curiosity and is assumed to have some residue of entitlement from her days as the wife of a powerful man.
Though she is forty-something and out of touch with the legal world, Alicia manages to use one of her own connections to snag a position as a junior associate at the firm of a friend from law school, Will Gardner (Josh Charles, "Sports Night"). But the job has two major drawbacks. First, Will sees her as the one that got away, and Alicia is in no mood for that kind of complication. And, second, the job is not secure.
She is in competition with another new junior associate, Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry, "Gilmore Girls"), who is the very definition of a whiz kid. Worse, though Cary is extremely competitive, Alicia is naturally collegial and kind, and it goes totally against the grain for her to try and cut anyone out.
The second amazing woman in this series is the ever marvelous Christine Baranski ("Mamma Mia!") as Diane Lockhart, a co-partner with Alicia's boss Will. It does not surprise me that a comic actor as phenomenal as Baranski is also an outstanding dramatic actor. Most actors seem to agree that doing comedy is so difficult that drama seems comparatively easy. In this series, Baranski's character Diane has a complex relationship with Alicia and has plenty of juicy plot lines of her own.
As for Peter, there’s little he can do while in prison to repair the damage that he’s inflicted on his family — if that’s even possible. He is just one more thing that’s dragging Alicia down, piling insult on top of injury. He says to Alicia, “Thanks for playing the breadwinner for a while,” and it’s one of those throwaway lines that sting—his choice of words implies that she’s dabbling, and that he’ll resume the central role in their life sooner or later.
Luckily, the common thread of this trio in the series has allowed it to avoid falling into the aggravating pattern of so many dramatic TV series. Of melodramatic emphasis on the personal failings of the protagonist and her close family members in ways that often turn that protagonist from sympathetic to pathetic and annoying. I am greatly hoping this series continues to avoid that pitfall for many years to come. [KM] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Commentary: Robert King/ Charles McDougall
Commentary: Robert King, Michelle King, David Zucker and Brooke Kennedy
Commentary: Christine Baranski/ Josh Charles/ Robert King/ Michelle King
The Education of Alicia Florrick: Making Season One
Aftermath: Real -Life Events
Robert King, Michelle King, David Zucker and Brooke Kennedy