September 30, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “The Good Wife”


THE GOOD WIFE:  Sunday 9PM/9:30PM (depending on football) on CBS

THE GOOD WIFE lost a step in an uneven fourth season that included botched characters (Kalinda’s husband, the friend/foe played by Maura Tierney) and a gubernatorial campaign that never caught dramatic fire.  But the finale set things up very nicely for Season 5, and the presumptive evidence of tonight’s season premiere is that the show is back on track.

The legal plot of the episode, written by series creators Robert and Michelle King and directed by Robert King, made use of the most familiar ticking clock of them all:  the death row inmate whose execution is just hours away.  Even though there was little doubt about what the final resolution would be, this kind of forced crackling pace is bread and butter for the Kings, who rang some very inventive changes on the tale, as Alicia (Julianna Margulies), Will (Josh Charles) and Diane (Christine Baranski) won postponement after postponement through their clever maneuvers–with just a bit of an anticlimax in the final victory because it was the result of the story’s most unlikely twist.  The series is a picnic for its guest star judges, and tonight’s plum went to the always-delightful Jeffrey Tambor.  (The biggest laughs of the episode, though, were from a running gag about an experimental program at the firm that put a Skype-ing iPhone on a stick and wheels, so a telecommuting attorney could “walk” into offices and conference rooms via remote control–although more often it slammed into walls and doorways.  The bit shouldn’t have stayed funny, but the Kings played it in unexpected, off-center ways and kept landing the joke.)

The more intriguing narrative, of course, followed up on the ending of last season’s finale, as Alicia decided to leave Lockhart Gardner and throw in her lot with Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry), a collection of 4th year associates, and–after a deal with Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) fell through–junior investigator Robyn (Jess Weixler, who seems due for a promotion to series regular if the move goes forward).  The Lockhart Gardner partners, especially the dangerous David Lee (new regular Zach Grenier), are right on their heels, checking records of the firm cell phones the rebels have been using for calls as they try to steal clients, while Alicia balances her divided loyalties.  Despite Alicia’s slightly cold feet, it seems like the new firm is going to happen–there was a nice moment when Alicia looked at Will and Diane celebrating a win and we knew she was seeing herself and Cary in their places–and that’s going to shake things up not just for Alicia but for The Good Wife, which can make good use of the tumult.

The other major development at the end of Season 4 was Peter’s (Chris Noth) election as Governor of Illinois, and that’s already providing fodder for the show, as he asked campaign manager Eli Gold (Alan Cumming) to become his chief of staff.  However realistic or not that may be, it’s a good idea to get Eli out of Lockhart Gardner, where his character never seemed to belong.  It’s also likely that we haven’t seen the last of the hot Ethics Commissioner played by Melissa George, newly “promoted” to the Transit Authority to get her away from Peter’s optics.  And on a similar subject, it’ll be interesting to see what the show does with its story of Alicia and Peter’s religious daughter Grace (Makenzie Vega) suddenly becoming an internet hottie.

The Good Wife is the best drama left on network TV (Parenthood is in second place, and as with the prizes in Glengarry Glen Ross, there is no third).  Its ratings make it a perpetual bubble show, with last season’s finale struggling to a 1.6 in 18-49s (although it does draw an educated, prosperous viewership that make the numbers a bit more attractive).  It’s part of an endangered species, which made last year’s disappointing–although quite often entertaining–season a particular blow.  If tonight’s hour indeed presages a return to form, that will be a relief and a pleasure for viewers who want to believe “quality” and “broadcast” aren’t contradictory terms.


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."