I’d hate to take on “The Good Wife.”
The series, which airs on CBS Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. New York time, features a formidable cast that includes two of the most compelling characters on television.
Julianna Margulies returns as Alicia Florrick, a defense attorney so attractive -- sharp, slender, and beautiful -- I’d consider committing a felony just to hang out with her.
Alan Cumming, who plays political operative Eli Gold, is so slick and snaky it’s a miracle he doesn’t slide right out of his pinstripe suits.
Both characters, and the actors playing them, help put this show in a class by itself.
Alicia, to be sure, has first-hand knowledge of the criminal element in the person of her husband, Peter (Chris Noth), the disgraced state’s attorney whose sex and corruption scandal landed him in the jug. This season he’s free and back on the campaign trail as yet another politico’s sex scandal threatens to remind voters of Peter’s past indiscretions (with a little help from his opponent).
While Peter wanted to steer clear of the low road, Eli knew trouble was coming. This week it arrives big time in the form of a television ad featuring a cheesy blonde purring about how Peter wants tough sentences -- “the stiffer the better.”
We’re reminded that in the dirty tricks department, Richard Nixon has many rivals.
The series floats between the worlds of politics and the law, with lawyers coming off better, largely thanks to Alicia. She takes on tough cases, though not always on behalf of sympathetic clients. In the opener she coached a self-defending murder suspect deploying a “unicorn” defense -- the government had set him up, he crazily argued -- and got him easy time, despite believing he was guilty.
This week, she finds herself defending a sympathetic murder suspect in a military court overseen by a female judge with all the charm of a Claymore mine. “If I order you to be unbiased, will you be?” the judge asks a member of the court-martial panel, who readily assents that her wish is most definitely his command.
The case has several twists and turns and at the end you want to give Alicia a big hug -- and maybe a big tip. As does her mentor in the firm, Will Gardner (Josh Charles), who carries a serious torch for her and vice-versa. Will seems a bit mousy and cold, but he sure beats Peter.
Lou Dobbs visits the firm, playing his bombastic self and likely reminding many viewers they’re glad he’s a bit scarce these days. Law partner Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) is no fan either, though she rejects Lou’s idea that she can’t provide good legal advice, reminding him that she also represents murderers.
He likes her reasoning, and perhaps her middle-aged good looks, and they forge an alliance that may prove interesting. Meantime, office investigator Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi), fills the screen with her dark fatal eyes and ever-suspicious nature.
There is serious trouble afoot in this seriously terrific show. Peter seems determined to recapture his good wife’s heart, or at least some of the adjoining real estate, and last week launched a romantic surprise attack in a steamy bathroom scene.
Alicia seems in danger of slipping back into his clutches. Here’s hoping she dumps the creep. Being too good a wife may be her only flaw.
Rating: *** 1/2
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Dave Shiflett is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions are his own.)
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