The Good Wife: 2x01, Taking Control

I’m really happy with the way CBS is handling The Good Wife. With maybe the exception of Friday Night Lights, I think it’s the best network drama out there. (And is FNL still a network drama if it's aired on another channel first?) 
Julianna Margulies said she was looking to do a cable show—more flexible scheduling for an actress who has a family and meatier roles for women—but that she read the script for the show and fell in love with Alicia Florrick. “It was a cable show that just happened to be on a network,” Margulies said during The Good Wife cast panel at The Paley Center for Media in April.
I couldn’t agree more. It handles all the adult issues that its cable equals do and it does it with deft writing and stellar acting week after week.
On a channel that is known for its procedurals, CBS has let the creators of the show, Robert and Michelle King, forge their own path. As Margulies tells it, at first the scripts were monitored to be about 60% procedural, 40% character-driven, but after glowing reviews and nominations in its first season, the network has released the reins and let the show explore what it does best: layers. Not the layers of law, although there is certainly that too, but the deeper fibers of these characters and who they are, why they do the things they do, and what it means in the larger scheme of the show.
The season premiere was no exception.
Last year the show left us at a press conference of Peter Florrick’s. Alicia is waiting to “stand by her man” as it were, when she receives a call from her boss and old flame, Will Gardner (Josh Charles). She tells him she gets the romance between them (and so does everyone else, viewers included), but that she has a family, she needs a plan. As Alicia is about to step out into the spotlight to support her husband, her phone rings again. It’s Will.
The premiere on Tuesday night picked up where the finale left off: Alicia’s phone ringing, Will’s name on the caller ID. Being practically forced on stage by Peter and her husband’s campaign manager, Eli Gold (Alan Cumming), Alicia leaves her phone to the devices of Mr. Gold. Upon seeing two voicemail messages from Will—in one of which he confesses his love for Alicia—Gold deletes the message that could throw a loop into his grand plans to have Peter return to the state’s attorney’s office a renewed golden boy.
The chemistry between Will  and Alicia is one of many things that makes the show  great, these two characters with some sort of romantic past, but which the audience does not know much about, other than they knew each other in law school and Alicia ended up with Peter. I didn’t expect the writers to up the ante so soon by having Will and Alicia share a kiss late in season one, but it was done so beautifully that their relationship wasn’t cheapened. It breaks my heart to see Will and Alicia interact now—Will thinking that she got his messages and chose to ignore his confession, Alicia having listened to only the first message, therefore thinking he wants their relationship to remain purely professional—there’s so much sadness and confusion between them, but the complications in the relationship keeps them interesting and the audience’s anticipation high.
Even though I was hesitant to watch in the first place, because I didn’t want to watch a show about politicians’ scandals, something that seems to constantly be making the rounds in the 24-hour news cycle, I liked the season starting with a new scandal involving a politician from Colorado. It cleverly shows that no matter how much time has passed, it doesn’t reverse what Peter did to Alicia and his family. I’m guessing we will see Alicia realizing and dealing with that fact this season.
Other than the Alicia-Peter-Will love triangle, the premiere reminded me how strong the supporting cast is and how genuinely likeable they are. Once again, the writers are great about giving these characters’ storylines complications. In this first new episode, we saw a competing investigator, Blake (Scott Porter), go up against Kalinda (Archie Panjabi). He already seems to have flustered the unflappable Kalinda, so it’ll be interesting to see where that arc goes.
Diane introduced a new partner, Derrick Bond, to the firm of Lockhart and Gardner. Although it’s clear that Bond is someone Diane has dealt with in the past, the scene at the end of the episode with Will and Derrick “bro”-ing it in his office and Diane looking on was well-played. I’ll be curious to see if Diane starts to feel left out of the boys’ club this season. Maybe that means she and Alicia will get closer, which would be lovely. Any chance for more scenes between Baranski and Margulies.  

Four TV Shows with Strong Women (That You Probably Aren't Watching)

Although strong roles for women in film seem to be few and far between, with cable and premium television programming becoming so popular, many female actresses are turning to the smaller screen.

Over the past few years, Showtime has centered several of its shows around female leads, but with a twist. These main characters are not black and white. These women have flaws. They may make questionable decisions, but they are trying to do what is right for their family, for themselves. They’re human. 

Edie Falco plays Jackie Peyton, a nurse, a mother, and a prescription drug addict. Nurse Jackie displays Jackie’s indiscretions—taking a couple Vicodin to get her through the day, having an affair with a co-worker— but also focuses on the empathetic side of the character. Even with her rough New Yorker exterior, Jackie cares about her patients, her co-workers, and her family. 

The half-hour dark comedy has been paired with United States of Tara in Showtime’s lineup. Tara is another series that focuses on a woman with a seemingly normal life: Tara Gregson has a caring husband, Max, and two teenage children, Kate and Marshall. But Tara also has dissociative identity disorder, which means her family rarely gets to see wife, mother and artist Tara; they are more often dealing with her other identities, which include Buck, a motorcycle riding veteran, flirty teenager “T,” and old-fashioned housewife, Alice.

Tara struggles to balance raising her family with finding out more about her disorder and what she can do to fix it.

Toni Collette plays Tara, for which she was awarded a Best Actress Emmy in 2009 and a Golden Globe in 2010. On Sunday, Falco was awarded an Emmy for her work on Nurse Jackie

The supporting cast of characters on both Jackie and Tara are strong as well. Even though the half-hour format and the twelve-episode seasons do not lend as much time to explore these characters as audience members may like, it’s another reason to come back for more.

The programs on basic cable channels such as AMC and premium channels like HBO and Showtime may be getting a lot of press lately, but there are still quality shows (with strong female characters, no less) on network television.

One female who does not get recognized enough is Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. The half-hour comedy is shot in the same mockumentary style as The Office, so many critics were quick to write off the show as a carbon spin-off. (See what I did there? Carbon copy? Carbon spin-off?) However, in the second season, it’s really come into its own.

Leslie Knope is not a female Michael Scott. Leslie is the assistant director of the Parks Department in Pawnee, Indiana. She and Michael Scott both overestimate the importance of their jobs, but unlike Mr. Scott, Ms. Knope has a better reason. She’s a civil servant and her enthusiasm for improving Parks Department programs and the love for her community is touching.

Even though her overt enthusiasm is sometimes portrayed as being grating to her friends and colleagues, Leslie Knope is the type of person (and the type of character) that everyone loves. Her friends and co-workers would do anything for her, because they know, if the situation were reversed, she would do the same.

As intriguing as it is to watch dark comedies about dysfunctional families, sometimes it’s nice to take a break with a show that has a lot of heart and makes you laugh out loud.

Speaking of bureaucracy, Chicago politics provides the background for the new CBS hit, The Good Wife.  
Peter Florrick, a Chicago state’s attorney, has been accused of corruption as well as being involved in sex scandal. The show focuses on his wife, Alicia’s story, and how she handles her husband’s crimes. The show was inspired by Eliot Spitzer’s scandal, as well as other politicians, including John Edwards and Bill Clinton. Knowing the basic premise, TV viewers may ask why they would want to watch a show focusing on an issue that is a common item in the news and overplayed in the 24-hour news cycle.
Most politicians’ wives are portrayed by the media as blindly standing by their man, but I sympathized with Alicia. Some of that empathy may be a credit to Julianna Margulies, who is excellent in the role, but when Alicia decides to not divorce Peter, it’s easy to understand her reasoning. She wants to protect her family and keep her children’s lives normal, especially after they have been through so much turmoil.
Ms. Florrick does not waste a lot of time feeling sorry for herself. She seeks out work as a lawyer. Through her new job as a junior associate at Lockhart and Gardner, we meet a supporting cast of strong women. Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) is one of the firm’s partners. Alicia, who was hired by an old law school friend, Will Gardner, feels that Diane does not approve of her working at the firm, but throughout the season, it’s clear that the two women have a mutual respect for each other.
Another strong supporting female is the firm’s private investigator, Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi). She and Alicia often work together on cases, Kalinda providing a cynical, pessimistic counterpoint to Alicia’s idealistic view.
Many TV viewers may get turned off by thinking that The Good Wife is a show about law and while that is certainly part of every episode, it is ultimately about a woman who has watched her life fall spectacularly apart and is trying to piece it together again. 
In all of these women’s flaws and quirks, there is also an ability to relate to them. We see slivers of ourselves.
So why aren’t you watching?