I grew up with hours and hours of TV every day, and am a certifiable addict, especially of shows that feature strong women and great plots. I’m at a leadership retreat all this week, having lots of interesting conversations that I can’t write about. So this will be the first of my posts about things I like, rather than about things I’m doing. And since I’m at a retreat center that has no TV, tonight I won’t be able to do one of my favorite things: Watch "The Good Wife".
"The Good Wife" is in its second season on CBS, and I was hooked from the beginning. If you’ve not seen it, here’s the story: It focuses on Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), the wife of the Illinois States Attorney (Chris Noth) at the moment that he is convicted on corruption charges in which the payoff took the form of an escort. Having cut short her own legal career to support his years ago, Alicia decides to go back to work as a lowly associate in her former boyfriend’s law firm when hubby goes to prison, since someone still has to feed the kids. Each episode tracks the ups and downs of the marriage, which does not end, as well as the case that Alicia is working on that week. They’ve taken on environmental poisoning and wrongful convictions, while thoughtfully exploring the nature of a political marriage in ways that put the woman at the center and allow her to be fully human.
The secondary characters include Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi, who are both wonderful. Panjabi, who played the elder sister in "Bend It Like Beckham" (Gurinder Chadha’s breakthrough 2002 film about gender and ethnic identity), has really hit her stride here as the firm’s sly, brainy, bisexual investigator. She’s got a secret, and I’m just about holding my breath to find out what it is.
Panjabi is only one of a seriously diverse cast in the second season that includes Anika Noni Rose ("Dreamgirls") as Florrick’s rival for the state’s attorney seat, and America Ferrera as her undocumented nanny, who also happens to be a brilliant graduate student and financial manager. Ferrera’s character is about to get deported as the Florrick campaign flaunts the nanny scandal, which brings up the terrible injustice of young people who have grown up in the U.S. being sent to a country that is not home. I expect to hear the DREAM Act mentioned at any moment, but never in a way that is preachy or inconsistent with the vehicle, the one-hour drama. They did use the i-word, and I’m going to write a letter telling the producers why that’s a bad idea, but otherwise, "The Good Wife" is just good stuff. Good writing, good thinking, good acting, good plotting. I’ll miss it, but you can watch it on my behalf tonight at 10:00 eastern.