There aren't that many advantages to having BT as your phone, internet and TV supplier, but one of them is the On Demand service. There are a quite large number of TV programmes, series and films that you can watch whenever you want. Recent offerings on the TV front have been all six series of Lost, the first two series of Cougar Town, seven series of Desperate Housewives and the third series of Big Love. Besides full series of sitcoms, there's a lot of documentary/reality type programmes such as Jersey Shore, Made in Chelsea and so on, and plenty of nature specials. It's a real mixed bag!
Anyway, when I'm stuck for something to watch, it's good to have plenty to choose from and I tend to work my way through series that I enjoyed when they were first on, or that I had intended to watch but never got round to. Recently I watched series 1 of the Good Wife, which was available for about three or four months.
The series follows Alicia Florrick, whose life has just been ripped apart. Her husband, Peter Florrick, has just resigned from his position as State Attorney after being caught with a series of call girls over several months. He is also accused and then convicted of abusing his political position, for which he is arrested. In order to keep her family afloat, Alicia has to move out of the suburbs and into an apartment with her two children. She also has to go back to working in law after a fifteen year break to look after her children.
The ramifications from the sex and corruption scandal continue to affect Alicia's career and her family, as Peter's call girls move into the public eye, and she is forced to work with and against those who know him. Also, a mysterious person has been leaving packages containing more evidence against Peter on Alicia's doorstep, which her children have intercepted. Zach and Grace start to do a little investigation of their own.
Each episode tends to focus on a mixture of a case Alicia is working on, a development of her husband's appeal and her efforts to maintain a good relationship with her children. This is a good mix; it avoids being too formulaic by purely focussing on the courtroom drama each week, but having a new case each time keeps it interesting. Within each episode the pacing is good; there are always twists in the case, and the guest characters are always engaging, whether they're there to be loved or hated. There can be a bit of repetition within the case - as a general rule it will seem insurmountable at first, but some clever detective work from Kalinda, the investigator, and some female intuition from Alicia will break new ground. It's rare that a case is lost. However there are some really interesting departures from this formula, including episode 13, Bad, episode 22, Hybristophilia, and the season finale, Running, which each presented ethical dilemmas and uncertainties which really got me thinking. It was nice to see the show acknowledge that although Alicia is definitely the character we sympathise with and root for, what she does for a living is not a particularly moral calling. Another aspect to Alicia's professional life is her constant competition with Cary, her colleague. The two have been recruited on temporary contracts; there is only one permanent position with the company and the best performer will take it. As an older woman with responsibilities, Alicia really has to pull out all the stops to compete with Cary, who is young free and single.
Meanwhile there's an overarching story that's more long running and allows for character development. Alicia's relationship with Peter is well drawn, I thought. There are no attempts to simplify the difficulties of the situation they are in, and whilst Alicia wants to support her husband through his time in prison, she isn't ready for a full reconciliation. As she struggles to negotiate the lines, she has the added pressure of her children, who still worship their dad, and the media, which are refusing to let go of this political scandal.
I think the blend between the professional and personal is perfect. It keeps the show from languishing as case of the week legal show, which could get very repetitive, and also prevents it from approaching family drama territory. The resulting product is incredibly watchable, and feels quite fresh and interesting.
The show is distinctly female oriented, with Alicia clearly the main character and Peter, her husband, very much in a supporting role - he doesn't even appear in every episode and he certainly doesn't call any of her shots. Alicia is surrounded by very strong female characters - for instance, Diane, a partner at the law firm and Kalinda, an investigator, are both great characters with their own storylines who are represented in non-stereotypical ways. I'm not saying this is a feminine show; there are plenty of male characters including Cary, Alicia's competitive colleague and Will, the other firm partner, but it's great to see a show in which the women are more than wives, secretaries or meaningless stereotypes.
Julianna Margulies as Alicia is a strong leading character. You may remember her from ER, where she won an Emmy as Nurse Carol Hathaway, and earned the envy of half the female population when her character ended up in a long, happy marriage with George Clooney. Her performance is strong and believable, and it's refreshing to see an older woman (Margulies was 42 when series one was filmed) given the opportunity to lead such a slick, high budget show. She's convincing and extremely likeable. From the very opening scenes, as she stands next to her husband during his resignation announcement to the press, she is regularly put in humiliating positions by her husband, the press, her colleagues and acquaintances of her husband in the legal sector, so it's easy to feel sorry for her.
The other actors in the show are equally impressive. Chris Noth as Peter Florrick can be a bit wooden at times, but you're kind of predisposed to hate him because of his cheating, lying past. Christine Baranski as Diane is superb, and she definitely gets some good storylines that add to those episodes. She plays the role of a successful businesswoman struggling in a male dominated industry well, and scenes where she battles her personal life or shows vulnerability don't detract from her professional standing. Another stand out is Archie Panjabi, who plays the sharp, caustic and brilliant Kalinda to perfection.
I would recommend this show to anyone who enjoys dramas such as Desperate Housewives, House or Grey's Anatomy; it has an occasional dry sort of humour, and benefits from slick production and solid, believable scripting. I wouldn't say that men won't enjoy it as I do know quite a few older couples who watch it together, but it does seem like it's aimed more at women. There are definitely some adult themes, as you might have guessed. The cases Alicia works on often involve sex, gruesome murders or adultery, and we also get a fairly frank insight into Alicia's personal life. If you prefer a more family friendly show, this might not be for you.
I'll happily give The Good Wife four stars. Although it can get a touch repetitive from week to week, and it isn't as laugh out loud funny as other similar dramas, I do find it compelling. The storylines in each episode are tightly written, but it's my interest in Alicia's personal life that keeps me watching.
You can buy the whole of series one on six discs of The Good Wife on Amazon right now for £9.99. As I don't have the DVD I can't vouch for the special features, but the episodes are a great watch.