Thursday, November 5, 2009

Is 'The Good Wife' Turning Into Just Another Legal Procedural?

I like Julianna Margulies. And I’m fond of the premise of The Good Wife: A woman -- a wife and mother -- is trying to pick of the pieces of her shattered life after her corrupt politician/husband humiliated her by having affairs with hookers and is now in jail because he was found guilty of abusing his office.

The first few episodes of The Good Wife deftly balanced Margulies’ Alicia Florrick’s attempts to attend to the needs of her children and shield them from the tawdry nature of the allegations against her husband Peter (Chris Noth), with her own personal resurrection as she returned to the professional world as a lawyer after having been out of practice for more than a decade. Alicia was ostracized from her so-called friends and her social circle as a result of the scandal and continues to struggle with her mother-in-law, who moved in with Alicia and her two teenaged children in their new apartment, away from their leafy suburb. The mother-in-law, who frequently defends her son, took it upon herself to bring the two Florrick kids to visit their father in jail for the first time against Alicia’s wishes.

All of that was good material, I thought, as the first few episodes aired and garnered top 20 ratings.

But as more installments have aired, there’s been less and less about Alicia and her family members’ lives, about the impact of Peter’s imprisonment and more emphasis on the legal cases, for which Alicia usually comes up with the miraculous key to winning the case. Don’t get me wrong, her husband Peter’s imprisonment/sex scandal is mentioned in each episode, but it’s becoming a means to an end because Peter was a prosecutor and can assist his defense lawyer wife by providing valuable information.

This is exactly what I didn’t want to see. I was hoping this show would heavily focus on a dramatization of how political wives try to carry on – for themselves, for their children -- after their husbands behave atrociously and were publically chastised for doing so, like so many real life pols (*cough* Edwards, Spitzer, Sanford *cough*). I wasn’t looking for an updated version of The Practice, with a light sprinkling of the life-as-the-betrayed-wife-of-a-lying-cheating-pol tossed in like spice, as added seasoning.

While the latest Good Wife episode “Conjugal” featured, as you might expect from its title, a conjugal visit between Peter and Alicia, the contact between them was verbal and chiefly about a murder case. Alicia wanted information from Peter to be shared privately, away from the guards’ surveillance, and the only way to obtain privacy was via a conjugal visit. Peter did attempt to hold his wife’s hand while she slept on the bed and he on the floor, but she quickly released it.

Maybe things will change and become more focused on the personal once Peter is released from prison and tries to stage a political comeback – and I’m hopeful they will – but I’m disappointed that The Good Wife appears as though it’s in danger of turning into a garden variety legal procedural.

Image credit: CBS.

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