February 19, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Good Fight”


THE GOOD FIGHT:  Episodes Release Each Sunday On CBS All Access – Binge-Worthy

If THE GOOD FIGHT were actually a CBS drama, the spin-off of The Good Wife would instantly become the network’s best show–and one of the most promising anywhere on broadcast TV.  But while a slightly edited version of the opening episode aired tonight on-air, the remaining 9 hours will be available strictly on CBS’s All Access streaming service, by far the most ambitious piece of original programming produced by any network-affiliated digital platform.  (In a nod to the broadcast model, though, episodes will be launched on a weekly basis, rather than all at once, although Episode 2 is already online.)

Here’s something we can say with equal authority:  if Good Fight aired on CBS, it would have marginal ratings at best.  That was true throughout the perpetual-bubble run of Good Wife, and Fight doesn’t have Julianna Margulies’s star value to boost it.  But as we’ve all come to know, the streaming universe is an entirely different proposition.  Good Wife‘s audience was small but unusually affluent, and that can be a valuable resource for a service that needs viewers to pay by the month.  (The Good Wife viewership was also on the older side, which may be less helpful.)  Since streaming services take their cue from Netflix and release little data, we may never know just how successful Good Fight is, at least until All Access announces whether it’s renewed for a second season.

Creatively, though, bringing Good Fight to streaming accomplishes some things that were always problematic for Good Wife.  10 episodes instead of 22 means that Good Fight won’t need filler hours, and can advance its plots far more nimbly; in addition, although it was evident only in a quick on-air bleep tonight, the characters will now be able to make full use of profanity.  These are things Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King doubtless wished for during the 7 years they toiled on broadcast TV, but of course the size of episode orders and four-letter words don’t themselves make a show worth watching.

The Kings, working now with writer/director Phil Alden Robinson (best known for Field of Dreams and Sneakers on the big screen), are taking care of the rest.  The new show centers on Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), finding her as she’s preparing to retire from the law and take her millions in savings away from Trump’s America to a chateau in Provence.  Unfortunately for her, all of her money was invested with Chicago’s version of Bernie Madoff, a swindler named Henry Rindell (guest star Paul Guilfoyle), and she finds herself instantly bankrupt.  When she tries to return to the latest version of Lockhart & Gardner, old buddy David Lee (Zach Grenier, as oily as ever) makes sure the doors are barred, and the fact that she recommended her investment advisor to many of her old clients turns her into partnership poison (almost) everywhere else.

Pilots–especially spin-offs–require some contrivances to put the pieces into place, and The Good Fight starts with two of them.  Just before Diane found out that life as she knew it was over, she had acquired a new protege in Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie, from Game of Thrones), who just happens to be Henry Rindell’s blameless daughter, tarred by his brush nevertheless.  And the two of them happen to be fighting a case against Lucca Quinn’s (Cush Jumbo) new firm, which specializes in civil rights claims on behalf of African-Americans and is headed by Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) and Barbara Kolstad (Erica Tazel).  It doesn’t take an algorithm to figure out where Diane and Maia will be rebooting their careers, and the Kings and Robinson plot the moves swiftly, expertly paced by another Good Wife veteran, director Brooke Kennedy.

Baranski was always a shining light of The Good Wife, and is abundantly capable of carrying a series herself, while Jumbo will hopefully have a fuller character here than she did on the original show, where Lucca was mostly in Alicia Florrick’s shadow.  Leslie was a strong presence in the massive ensemble of Game of Thrones, and she’s been given plenty of meaty backstory here.  In addition, Good Wife had a bench of recurring guest stars like nothing else on TV, and aside from Grenier, Gary Cole and Jerry Adler are among those who show up in the opening hour, while newcomers apart from Guilfoyle include Bernadette Peters as Maia’s mother and Helene Yorke as her girlfriend.  More are to come, including Sarah Steele and Carrie Preston from the Good Wife ranks, and Justin Bartha as a new cast regular.

Most importantly, the writing on Good Fight is in keeping with its predecessor’s often dazzling standard, a playing field where every character gets to be smart and articulate.  It’s a little sad that after tonight, broadcast TV will return to its increasingly mediocre norm, but exciting that even a grand dowager like CBS is taking a leap into the future.  (The next iteration of  Star Trek will also go the All Access route later this year.) The Good Fight retains a great deal of what was best about the recent past and adds some shiny new features.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."