The good wife on The Good Wife is Alicia Florrick, married to a politician who, in the premiere episode, is exposed for having cheated on her with a prostitute. Wife and husband are portrayed by Julianna Margulies and Chris Noth, so the marital strife is played at a high level of quality—these aren’t whiny newlyweds but mature adults brought low by scandal. His wrongdoing: He was caught “sucking the toes of a hooker.” While this is something you can easily imagine Noth’s Mr. Big doing on Sex and the City, the context of The Good Wife places such mild kinkiness in the most heinous light, since what this character does is damage a marriage-plus-two-kids.
The Good Wife has the timely advantage of arriving in the wake of sex scandals including those of John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, and Mark Sanford. The series is not above putting a picture of Hillary Clinton behind one character (the terrific Christine Baranski, as Alicia’s ambivalent law-firm “mentor”). Nor is CBS beyond using Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man’’ in its commercials.
Creators Michelle and Robert King explore both why a wife appears at the side of a guy like this in public, and how she proceeds with her life. Very quickly—less than 10 minutes into the pilot, in fact—Alicia is doing what she used to do, resuming a career as a lawyer that she left behind 13 years earlier to raise a family. She returns to her old firm, an opportunity extended by an old friend, played by Sports Night’s Josh Charles. Alicia is immediately confronted with ageism (the twentysomethings in the office either ignore her or talk to her as though she’s senile) and thrown into the middle of what looks like a loser of a pro bono case.
Throughout, Margulies displays the combination of bright-eyed intelligence and husky-throated emotionalism that made her a star on ER. Noth’s character is sent to jail in the first episode, but there are strong hints that he won’t be there long, so the good wife will have to keep deciding how “good” she wants to remain in dealing with this cad.
My guess is, once we’re past the first few weeks of Alicia coping with anger and anguish over her wayward husband and her hazing at the defense attorney’s office, The Good Wife will settle into a case-of-the-week lawyer show. I’d also bet it’ll have a rotating bunch of colorful judges with whom Alicia can debate. And you know what? Given the caliber of the acting and writing, that suits me—and, I’ll wager, millions of viewers—just fine. B+