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Why “The Good Wife” is Smart Where Other Shows Are Stupid

Why "The Good Wife" is Smart Where Other Shows Are Stupid

From the start, The Good Wife has been one of the sharpest series on television, as it reveals heroine Alicia Florrick’s (Julianna Margulies) tangle of personal and political drama – does she forgive the politician husband who publicly humiliated her by going to prostitutes? – with her own legal career and attraction to her boss and old lover, Will (Josh Charles, in the photo above).

This season the writers have brought in the kind of twist that is both shocking and perfectly logical when you think about it: Alicia’s friend, investigator Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) had a one-night stand with Alicia’s husband, Peter (Chris Noth) years before. Of course she did. Peter’s a hound dog, and now we’re waiting to see how many more women he slept with, what the hell Kalinda has been thinking all this time, and how Alicia reacts when she finds out.

So far, terrific drama. But take a look at this clip from last night’s episode, in which Michael J. Fox, in a recurring role as an extremely canny lawyer – they probably shouldn’t have named him Louis Canning – offers Alicia a job with his new firm. It’s the small touch at the end that shows why the series’ writing is so rich, its characters so realistically complicated, as Canning makes a shrewd observation about Alicia’s own reaction to the unscrupulous actions lawyers routinely use.

The scene jumped out at me because for the last two weeks CBS’s The Good Wife has trailed in the ratings behind its competition, Body of Proof, the new ABC series with Dana Delaney as a medical examiner (although the gap was wider in the first week). Delaney is perfectly fine, and her character is no bubble-head. But the series is as predictable and pedestrian as most network shows. Like Castle, it has a lead actor – I watch that only for Nathan Fillion now – good enough to make you wish the series had scripts with some real intelligence instead of formulas.

Here’s hoping The Good Wife doesn’t get trounced by dumb competitors. As Alicia has found in court, that can happen, and on network television being smart isn’t often an asset.

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