The Good Wife

I’d never considered watching The Good Wife because, well, the title put me off. I figured it was some housewife melodrama for which I wasn’t the target audience. Then life dished up some lemons and in my effort to escape them I scanned my Foxtel guide for anything at all—honestly, I’d have probably pressed the button to watch paint dry.

The thing is that, despite its title, The Good Wife is excellent. So excellent, in fact, that I got comprehensively sucked in and ditched my lemon-dishing life for days to watch Season 1 , 2, and 3’s episodes uninterrupted and consecutively— I think I’ve just had the TV version epiphany that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

The Good Wife is (dangerously for me and my sleep patterns) in its third season. As a side note, I’ve come to realise that, while annoying, free-to-air TV’s drip-feeding episodes over many months is good for restraint-less people like me—‘just one more ep’ seems to have become my motto and my oft-repeated mantra.

The show boasts Ridley Scott as one of the producers, plus an uber-experienced cast known for starring in such hit shows and films as Cybill, Dead Poets Society, and Bend It Like Beckham. You know, people whose names’ involvement lends shows a pass-go-and-collect-$200 stamp of approval. (As a second side note, I never forget a face but am hopeless at placing them. Suffice to say that googling so many stars saw me enter a veritable Wikipedia rabbit hole.)

But as a writer I’m less interested in the cast than what they have to work with. The Good Wife’s hallmark is its quality storylines and the writing through which they’re executed. The complex plot is clever and contains more twists than is humanly possible to predict. But it’s not so complex that it’s tricky to follow and the show, thankfully, spares us too much off the ‘in the last episode’ recaps that other shows do and that drive me utterly bonkers.

I’m also impressed at the off-kilter-but-ingenious positioning of the protagonist. While there are a bunch of powerful and compelling characters in The Good Wife, including states attorneys and law firm partners, the central character is actually (as the title suggests) a wife. Specifically a good, homemaking wife, mother, and law graduate whose husband, the state’s attorney, was found to have philandered … lots of times.

With her husband in jail and fighting court cases, Alicia is forced to find work. She returns to the legal profession, after a 15-year break to raise children, to be a second-year associate in a law firm run by college love interest Will. Their timing has always been off but their unresolved sexual tension is aflame.

Further fueling the complexity and, subsequently, the tension is that Will is now Alicia’s boss, the work is demanding, and Alicia’s in competition with another associate for her job. She is also trying to juggle her responsibilities as a mother not wanting to further disrupt her children’s lives and to negotiate the murky territory of being a cheated-on wife. That and the fact that Alicia’s husband plans to re-run for election and she’s under pressure to be seen to be standing by his side.

I’ve got to say too that the cases Alicia and her co-characters are working on are well wrought and interestingly positioned. Each episode’s issues are interwoven with the case. Having watched so many episodes back to back, I can say with pleased confirmation that no two episode openings are the same. And they’re all incredibly good. That’s the long-bemoaned-by-us benefit of writing in the US—there’s money for script development and script redevelopment and refinement so by the time the cast is acting them out, the narrative, the dramatic tension, and the comedic timing are finely honed.

I have three more episodes of Season 3 to watch before I’m up to date. Then it’s time for sleep.