One TV exec told me about the time their switchboard was jammed with angry calls after the station had the nerve to interrupt a soap opera for...a tornado warning. But in recent weeks, I’ve discovered “The Good Wife,” and I’m hooked. It’s technically not a soap opera, but a good old-fashioned TV serial that’s continued from one week to the next—sometimes with a cliffhanger ending, sometimes not. It doesn’t hurt that the male and female leads, Chris Noth and Julianna Margulies, are not too hard on the eyes of either gender. And the couple’s two teenage kids are totally believable: winsome and charming one moment, and exasperating the next. The scripts are first-rate, as are the repertory of other actors—a huge Chicago law firm and its clients.
A young lawyer named Cary, nice-looking blonde kid, has exactly the kind of smirky expression on his face you yearn to slap off, even if you’ve just met him. But just when Cary’s sleaziness and smug self-confidence gets on your last nerve, he turns around and does a real act of unselfish kindness for someone who probably didn’t deserve it.
The law firm also employs a petite young woman named Kalinda who may be the world’s best private investigator (did I mention she’s cute as a button?) and, in a pinch, has ninja warrior skills besides. She also wears distinctive high boots, generally suede, apparently as a reminder that she can kick your whatever with style and possibly even make you like it.
One viewer who posts on a series blog calls them “the Boots of Justice” and proclaims a desire to have a pair, or several. (Yes, I’m reading night-time soap opera blogs, but only in the interest of journalistic research.)
There’s a suave and dapper 40-ish public relations guru named Eli that I’d trust no farther than I can throw him, and a crusty old lawyer named David who’s seen it all, done most of it, and has total recall as to where the bodies are buried. Not surprisingly, the two men become mortal enemies, which they express in the formal office atmosphere with all the subtlety of three-year-olds on a playground.
At present I’m rooting for David just out of spite, but he also has a likeable side because he is at least, as my grandfather would have said, “Exactly the same old ornery cuss every time you see him.” Which is how, in Shanghi, Ala., we gave somebody the left-handed compliment of not being two-faced—which is not to be sneezed at.
But, I digress.
The serial’s story-line is, as the saying goes, “Ripped straight from the headlines!” Noth’s character, Peter Florrick, is an Illinois attorney general who’s removed from office and jailed after a sex-and-corruption scandal. Margulies is his long-suffering wife, Alicia of the title, who quit her legal career 13 years earlier to raise their children and is suddenly back on the job market trying to make ends meet. A capsule story description: Peter gets out of jail a bit early and life returns to somewhat normal. He even wins re-election to state office, but after a while Alicia decides her long-suffering has been long enough and kicks Peter out—into a nice apartment which, to her credit, she has rented and furnished overnight without his knowledge so as not to have to take any of his guff about it. Did I mention that she does this during the celebration of his election victory?
If I were a TV reviewer, I would say that “The Good Wife” is high drama that never feels forced, with characters that we either feel like we know personally or that we can see ourselves in—and wince. In my defense, I’m not officially a soap opera fanatic because, unlike fanatics in the olden days, I don’t gear my whole life around racing home at the exact time each day that my “story” comes on. Thanks to the brave new world of DVRs and Roku, I can watch my stories any time I please. This is especially handy since I discovered the series five years late and am playing catch-up. I’m halfway through Season Three, and weekends are a handy time to kick back and watch four or five episodes in a row. Or, seven or eight. Whatever.
It’s good stuff, calorie free, and as only good drama can do, it provides a window straight into the daily lives of people who seem real.
What’s not to love?
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, books, photos, and radio features are available on his website, http://carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 and is archived afterward on his website.