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Marissa Lingen

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Titles are important, but sometimes you should ignore them. [Dec. 9th, 2011|10:02 pm]
Marissa Lingen

When moiread said she was enjoying The Good Wife, I raised an eyebrow. The Good Wife? Really? What is it, a Louisa May Alcott miniseries? (No. That is Good Wives.) It was not a title to inspire confidence. And then later when I said I was enjoying it, I got the same eyebrow from alecaustin: it's called The Good Wife? And you like it?

I do. And I figured it was worth saying here, because others of you may be liking this thing, but I'm not really hearing about it.

Here is what The Good Wife does better than any other show I've ever seen except maybe The Wire: rather than having Good Guys and Bad Guys, it has good and bad actions flowing from--and follow me here, this is going to get difficult to comprehend--the characters themselves. I know! How radical! But seriously, Will and Kalinda and Cary and Diane and Peter and Alicia herself--and Eli, oh, Eli--pretty much all of them. They don't do bad things because they Are Bad People, and they don't do good things because they Are Good People. They do good and bad things because they are very particular people, and those are not only their very particular mistakes but also--and I feel this is actually more often missing--their very particular moments of conscience and nobility. But on a meta level, I love watching the show keeping the balance: is X a sympathetic character or an unsympathetic one? The answer to that is almost never easy or straightforward, because just when you hate or love someone, they will do something perfectly in character and opposing in direction of sympathy from where they were before. And I love this. I also love that the writers want me to acknowledge that I am cheering for Eli (or whoever else) because I like Eli, not because he is an upstanding person. I love that they understand the difference. I love that bad behavior is allowed to remain bad behavior when it is performed by people we like--that "this is good because we're the good guys" is never, ever what they're doing.

On a more basic level, this is a legal procedural set in Chicago and interwoven with Chicago politics. And the writers, they get what reputation Chicago politics has. Sometimes things are very dirty indeed. And sometimes things are dirty in service of a good cause, and sometimes they're just plain dirty, and sometimes things come back to bite people. Consequences! You know how we love shows about consequences around here.

And yes, the titular character does in fact start the series with her husband going through a sex scandal, but the title starts with irony and goes into complexity within a few minutes, then never leaves. Is Alicia a good wife? Is she a good person? The show refuses to answer. She is herself, she is a person, she has goals, and sometimes those goals shift with time and additional information.

I've seen two seasons of this, and I can't wait for season three. It prompts me to sigh, "Oh, show," so frequently that timprov (who wandered in halfway through S1 and got hooked) is probably sick of it. I love this show. It is so much fun. It is frothy fun and chewy fun, sometimes both at once. Unless you hate legal procedurals, you should probably give it a try.

[User Picture]From: sartorias
2011-12-10 04:18 am (UTC)
I loved it until the end of the first season, then I lost interest within an ep or two. Maybe I should just try the second.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-12-10 04:20 am (UTC)
The second has Eli. Eli!!! So there's that.

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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2011-12-10 04:22 am (UTC)
Hmmm . . . will see if it's up on Netflix.
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[User Picture]From: hobbitbabe
2011-12-10 04:28 am (UTC)
I love love love this show. I watched the first episode without hearing anything about it from anyone, and kept watching. Nowadays I have a "Season-pass" on iTunes, which means that people with televisions watch Sunday nights and I watch Mondays.

Other things I like, that it has in common with The Wire and other favourites of mine:
- People come back. You think they are cameo appearances and one-offs, and they aren't.
- People whom I didn't like at first, the more I see of them the more I appreciate them being themselves, and sometimes changing.
- Strong women.
- Hot women.
- Who are the same people.
- Believable teenage kids who aren't smartasses.
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[User Picture]From: roane
2011-12-10 04:34 am (UTC)
I'm glad to see this, because I've avoided the show like the plague just because the title irked me so badly. Maybe I'll check it out now. But damn, that's a really unfortunate title.
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[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2011-12-10 04:04 pm (UTC)
By now, the title is clearly more complicated than it seemed at first.
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From: gwynnega
2011-12-10 05:15 am (UTC)
I adore The Good Wife. Eli is my favorite!!
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2011-12-10 06:05 am (UTC)
I got hooked on this while I was in Costa Rica. And I'm still liking the show, even if their law firm seems to take on a ludicrous variety of high-profile, high-stakes, cases. On paper, this does not sound like a show I would like, but in practice... well, as you put it, this show makes its case well.

I think my favorite relationship is the one between Alicia and Kalinda. Oh yes, and Michael J. Fox.

This week's episode was a little silly, but I loved the kicker, "At my firm people always go home on time to spend it with their families."

What makes Alicia's firm so great, anyway, they've definitely thrown in enough ethical quandries to no longer make her cases solely the 'good' ones.

Also: Eli. And cheese. That was pretty funny.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-12-10 01:43 pm (UTC)
I've only seen through the end of S2, but I will look forward to Eli and cheese when the S3 DVDs come out.
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[User Picture]From: moiread
2011-12-10 08:24 am (UTC)
See! See! I tell everybody how good it is, but they hear the name and the basic premise and then they dismiss it. And that is such a shame, because it is seriously one of the best damn things on television.

Also, Eli, oh, he is my favourite. And as you say, I love his flaws. Sometimes I love him best when he's getting it so very wrong. I love them all that way. The writing is SO GOOD.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-12-10 01:43 pm (UTC)
Tim can verify that I have been known to howl, "Eli, nooooo!" fairly happily.
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[User Picture]From: lollardfish
2011-12-10 01:48 pm (UTC)
We like it a lot and watch it weekly.


1. I do not believe the Kalinda character. She is the most TV character of them all.

2. For defense attorneys, they defend far too many innocent people and win far too often. On the other hand, recent plot points are moving toward working on that issue.

3. I'm glad they moved past making sure EVERY case was about some kind of case dealing with marital dynamics. It was a good thread initially, and I'm impressed they shifted slightly before it became overly forced.
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[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2011-12-10 04:02 pm (UTC)
Agree totally. It's my favorite thing on TV right now. Wait til you catch up to now, with much more of the very excellent, truly love-to-hate him morally complex Louis Canning (Michael J Fox).

Edited at 2011-12-10 04:03 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-12-10 04:05 pm (UTC)
There was a bit in S2 where I felt like the writers had just written a love song to Michael J. Fox as a talented disabled actor and put it right there on the screen. I was delighted.
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