I hate reruns. But one of the joys of summer is discovering a television series that was formerly dismissed because it didn't sound promising.
Such is the case with The Good Wife.
If it had premiered on HBO, I might have given it a chance. But it's on CBS, the home of crime procedurals for an aging audience. It debuted last fall right during a time when I was too busy to watch much TV. And the central theme — the spurred wife of a disgraced politician — seemed like a cheap ripped-from-the-headlines gimmick.
Over winter and spring, a few friends mentioned they had gotten hooked on it, and it won a few awards, but I was skeptical. However, one summer night a few weeks ago, we were flipping though channels and happened onto a scene with Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski in a Chicago law office. We started watching and, within a few minutes, I knew we were onto something special.
Marguiles plays "good wife" Alicia Florrick, who sticks with her philandering husband (Sex and the City's Chris Noth, who plays a smarmy politician so well) even after he is exposed for having cheated on her with a prostitute. But she isn't happy about it. Margulies' interaction with Noth and their two teenage children is fascinating — and rings true — as she fights to hold her family together.
But if that was all there is to the story, it would quickly grow boring. Thankfully, there is so much more.
After a 13-year break to raise her family, Alicia returns to her old law firm as a junior associate. And here's where things get interesting. Her boss is an old flame (Josh Charles) and they have a real chemistry. Baranski, who is great in the role as one of the firm's lead partners, alternates between mentor and tormentor. Her chief rival (Matt Czuchry) is a hotshot half her age. And the lead investigator (Archie Panjabi) is a sexually ambiguous South Asian American known for always wearing thigh-high boots — an intriguing character seldom seen on TV.
The format allows for a whodunit of the week — usually relying on a hot topic — but the office politics are a lot more interesting.
So is the subplot about Noth's political future, particularly when his consultant played by Alan Cumming is around. Cumming, who will be a regular next season, steals every scene he's in. For example, when he meets another of Noth's consultants, whom he obviously doesn't like, he starts unbuttoning his pants so she can an kiss his ass.
But it is Margulies, a favorite from ER days, who makes the show work. She constantly conveys an internal stuggle to do the right thing, even though she doesn't always succeed. We're with her all the way.
Margulies is a favorite to take home the Emmy as Best Actress in a TV drama tonight - and she certainly deserves it.
And the show could win too, although it faces stiff competition from Lost (and its bewildering season finale) and the dour Mad Men.
I certainly hope it does, because it would be nice to see a network rewarded for such a good show. A long time ago, CBS was known as the "Tiffany network" because it produced so many quality programs. The Good Wife certainly upholds that legacy.