Sex, lies and courtroom drama

Dave Bartlett
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In the second episode of the CBS drama “The Good Wife,” a lawyer remarks at a business luncheon, “The only reason someone’s forced out of public office in America these days is sex.”

Julianna Margulies stars in “The Good Wife.” — Submitted photo

I started to think of recent political scandals south of the border that weren’t about an affair or sexual preference and I couldn’t think of one.

Then I tried to think of a similar Canadian scandal. While sex might have been a backdrop to one of those, most political scandals here seem to be about political decisions or actions, or the lack of them.

Maybe this is the true difference between our countries; we tend to care a whole lot less about what happens behind closed bedroom doors between consensual adults.

Such a sex scandal is the snowball that gets “The Good Wife” rolling and may be the reason I’ve avoided it, despite rave reviews for five seasons. But it’s now on Netflix, so I decided to give it a shot.

Wow. I’m amazed at how much story gets crammed into an episode.

While “The Good Wife” is a courtroom drama at its core, it adds an intriguing ongoing story arc and does a good job of melding the two into a superb network drama.

Julianna Margulies is fantastic as Alicia Florrick, the wife of Chicago district attorney Peter Florrick (Chris Noth)  jailed for political corruption linked to prostitution.

She’s forced to move from her affluent Chicago suburb to an apartment with her two kids and returns to work as a lawyer, after being away from the courtroom for 13 years.

Another thought about the American system — do the wives of Canadian politicians opt not to work nearly as often as those of their American counterparts? It seems if you hold elected in office in the States are a man, your wife’s job becomes political aide.

Alicia is hired at a huge law firm through law school friend Will Gardner (Josh Charles from “Sports Night”) who is now a partner.

Christine Baranski — who “The Big Bang Theory” fans will recognize as Leonard’s mom — portrays Diane Lockhart, another partner with plenty of screen time.

Rounding out the main cast is investigator Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) and another newbie lawyer, Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry), who just graduated from an Ivy League law school. Alicia quickly learns she is competing with Cary for a permanent place at the company.

The entire cast is exceptional and the writing is engaging.

Noth is great as the smooth talking politician who you want to believe, but can’t bring yourself to, and really adds to this show with limited screen time — in fact he’s considered a reoccurring character as opposed to a principal cast member.

I’ve liked him since the early years of “Law & Order.”

The continuing story of “The Good Wife” only takes up a fraction of each episode. The Florrick teens are adjusting to their father’s fall from grace, their paternal grandma’s move in with them and and their mother’s return to work.

There have also been some short, tense scenes as Alicia and her mother-in-law clash on child raring and visits to the prison. Meanwhile, the kids are sharp and more aware of what’s going on than Alicia thinks they are. They investigate on their own after they intercept a package meant for Alicia containing scandalous photos of their dad.

But there are also scenes which link Peter to the case of the week. Because he was a district attorney, he has connections and information that his wife often needs and he offers them freely — so freely they seem like bribes. Alicia constantly questions his motives, but often not aloud, but in subtle ways — a look off camera or a question which seems off the cuff to the person she’s asking, while the viewer goes “Aha!”

And then there’s the courtroom stuff.

For a long time, I was a fan of “Law & Order,” but after Jerry Orbach died, no other actor could replace him. Strange for a show which notoriously replaced cast members, including Noth, without a hitch. That Orbach wasn’t in the original cast makes it all the more surprising.

Its spinoffs are sometimes OK, and while I’ve liked other courtroom dramas, until “The Good Wife,” my “Law & Order” itch went unscratched for a lot of years.

The legal part of the show is great and mixes investigative elements in with the trial scenes, as well as how politics has influence over the American justice system — something I find terrifying.

Finally, Panjabi and Margulies have a great chemistry as they pursue leads to information that will shore up their case in court, and their characters seem to have a deep bond as Peter fired Sharma before she went to work in the private sector.

Add “The Good Wife” to my immediate watch list — I’ve got lots of catching up to do and the show’s still on the air.


Send incriminating photos of political rivals and other correspondence to Dave Bartlett at



Organizations: Ivy League

Geographic location: Chicago

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Recent comments

  • JMAP
    January 08, 2014 - 21:25

    As some one who has watched the program since day 1, I don't recall the mother-in-law, ever moving in, Alicia wouldn't allow that....she helped out but that's it. Also in my opinion the show is more about a woman's efforts to take her life and her career back, after her husband cheated, while showing her resilience and at the same time choosing not to be a "victim"....Julianna Margulies makes and is the show.

  • Norma Elliott
    January 08, 2014 - 12:32

    Good article. Had a good chuckle though over the phrase "between consensual adults". Surely the author meant "consenting"?

  • Norma Elliott
    January 08, 2014 - 12:26

    Great article. Had a good chuckle over the phrase ""what happens behind closed bedroom doors between consensual adults." Surely you meant consenting?