On the surface, “The Good Fight” is a very, very easy show to review — or at least, to recommend to potential viewers. Did you like “The Good Wife,” CBS’s Emmy-winning drama created by Robert and Michelle King? Great. Watch “The Good Fight.” You’ll like it.
Okay, it’s technically not the same show. But it’s a spin-off in the best sense of the term, the platonic ideal of “let’s keep a good thing going.” The tone and rhythm which made the original legal drama so engaging remains intact. But instead of tracking the struggles of one woman attempting to escape scandal and find her own path, “The Good Fight” brings many of the characters who surrounded Alicia Florrick during her seven seasons of practicing law in Chicago together for a more ensemble-y, arguably more engaging procedural.
Christine Baranski ostensibly stars, carrying the baton from “The Good Wife” like the legend she is. But she’s only one leg of the tripod that supports “The Good Fight,” following the episode’s inciting incident: A Bernie Madoff-esque Ponzi scheme that threatens to ruin the lives of both Baranski’s Diane Lockhart and newly minted lawyer Maya (Rose Leslie). There’s also Cush Jumbo, a wonderful find from Britain who appeared in “Good Wife” Season 7, and returns with a really fabulous haircut and a wonderfully no-bullshit attitude.
And fuck yes: It’s delightful to watch a show jam-packed with these strong women.
The use of profanity there is a tribute to the Kings’ clear delight in escaping broadcast standards and practices (any longtime “Good Wife” viewer will remember many moments where the show bucked against CBS’s rules). Which brings us to “The Good Fight’s” not-so-conventional distribution strategy, and the complications that arise.
In writing this review, there is something of an ethical quandary to be discussed. One of the things that’s most exciting about covering television is that it is a populist medium, one where we know that via broadcast antenna, cable bill, or streaming subscription, it’s possible to watch it.
But for a show that is running on a relatively new streaming service, one it’s unlikely the majority of IndieWire readers use (CBS All Access allegedly has one million subscribers), digging into this show means acknowledging that with a recommendation comes the suggestion that anyone reading this article should spend $5.99 a month to watch it. That’s $72 a year. That’s a fair number of sandwiches you’d be sacrificing to pay for CBS All Access.
The scenario is both comparable and not comparable to Netflix in 2013, as it launched its first high-profile original series with “House of Cards.” (Officially, the Norweigan-set comedy “Lilyhammer” will always be the first Netflix original series, but “House of Cards” is basically the streaming service’s flagship show.)
Comparable, as we viewers were asked to trust that a new streaming service would provide us with content on par with the best series on traditional platforms. Not comparable, because Netflix launched Instant Streaming in 2007, giving us years to embrace and understand how watching online worked, thanks to a catalog of shows we either already knew and loved, or came to embrace thanks to after-the-fact binge-ing.
In 2017, CBS All Access isn’t a novelty the way Netflix was — while it has its own catalog of content beyond “The Good Fight,” it’s an underdog, launching its big flagship show with the hope that it can get new subscribers on board. (The first episode will air on CBS this Sunday, but it’s hard not to consider that a blatant advertisement for CBS All Access, as opposed to a genuine service for viewers.) And if you don’t own a Roku or know how to get new apps on your smart TV or in general have a grasp on how to get set up with a new streaming service, “The Good Fight” will slip through your fingers.
I’m pointing this out because anecdotally, I’ve heard stories from casual TV fans who aren’t tech-savvy, who just want to watch shows they might like without buying new gear and/or figuring out how to use new digital services. And I also feel badly for those making shows like “The Good Fight,” which deserve to get as much attention as series on other platforms, but may go unseen just because of a paywall.
“The Good Fight” is not the only show fighting this battle (by comparison, look at whatever show a non-Netflix streaming service is promoting heavily). But as CBS All Access’s first original, and as a spin-off of an Emmy-winning favorite, it would have the best chance of conquering that challenge.
Final verdict, though: It’s not a game-changer on the level it needs to be, for me to feel comfortable saying that it’s worth the sacrifice of sandwiches for anyone who didn’t love “The Good Wife.” That said, anyone who did love “The Good Wife” won’t regret figuring out how to make this new show a part of their lives. After all, a good show is a good show. And “The Good Fight” shows no signs of being anything else.
“The Good Fight” will premiere on CBS and CBS All Access on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. ET, before moving exclusively to CBS All Access .