Saturday, March 20, 2010

That's Good.

As a general rule, I hate CBS' typical crime procedurals (think CSI: and Cold Case). While I like a good detective case as much as the next person, procedurals today are all very predictable and not too entertaining. (Save, of course, The Closer, but I almost don't classify that character-based show as a procedural.)

Imagine my pleasant surprise, then, when CBS introduced The Good Wife last fall. I watched the pilot episode, assured that I would be entertained at the least, if not enthralled or enraptured.

Turns out, I was all of the above. Julianna Marguiles of ER fame leads a phenomenal cast in this truly oustanding drama series that defies the parameters of "procedural" and "serial," preferring instead to be a "procereal," an amalgamation of the two.

For those who don't know, Good is about Alicia Florrick, a State's Attorney's wife scorned after her husband, Peter, played by Sex and the City's Mr. Big, Chris Noth, is caught with a prostitute, and also thrown into prison for corruption. Since he was the primary breadwinner while she was raising their two kids, 15-year old Zach and 14-year old Grace, Alicia must go back to work as a lawyer, starting as a junior associate. At her law firm, Stern, Lockhart, and Gardner, there's only one position for a junior associate, so she must compete with Matt Czuchry's Cary Agos, an ambitious first-year lawyer, for the spot. Populating the firm are legal assistant Kalinda Sharma and partners Will Gardner and Diane Lockhart.

Beyond the superb writing that blends elements of the Florrick's home lives with the case of the week effortlessly, the cast of Good is incredibly dynamic, and each brings something truly special to the table. Christine Baranski, who could have played Diane as cold and unfeeling, instead chose to inject a little warmth, as evidenced by her soon-to-be Emmy-winning work in a recent episode courting a ballistics expert as much to the right as she is to the left. Josh Charles, perhaps best known for his role in Dead Poets' Society, uses that same boyish charm combined with a quick wit to play Will as a character both mischevious and good-hearted. Archie Panjabi imbues Kalinda with such inner strength and mystery that it is impossible not to fall in love with her. Czuchry, of both I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Gilmore Girls, is pure genius in his role, gamely competing and growing to like Alicia while still being the slightest bit underhanded. And his scene on shrooms was, to put it succinctly, sublime.

But it is Marguiles as a wounded woman hellbent on making things right for her family that truly shines. I was never a fan of ER, and so I was unfamiliar with Marguiles before this, but if she was half as good in that role as she is in this one, her Emmy is wholeheartedly deserved. Alicia isn't sure what she wants out of life, necessitating a sense of both bewilderment and purpose in what is in front of her, a skill which most actresses wouldn't be able to pull off. Marguiles does it with aplomb.

Entertainment Weekly recently declared The Good Wife the best show currently on television. At first, I was hesitant to agree, what with Damages and Glee in the middle of phenomenal seasons right now--and that's not even thinking about the indescribably good Mad Men!--but now I'm warming up to their line of thinking. Punch for punch, Good is just that: it's just plain good.

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