THE GOOD SHOW

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY STYLE - BY HANK STUEVER

“The Good Wife,” CBS’s Tues­day night legal­dra­mathat is nowmid­way through an ad­dic­tive and ex­cel­lent sec­ond sea­son, is one of those rare shows that be­come qui­etly totemic for loyal view­ers, some­thing we carry around but don’t talk about.

It sub­sists quite well on a tiny frac­tion of the hip hype and thinky de­con­struc­tion­ist re­caps that many pre­mium cable dra­mas gen­er­ate as a mat­ter of course. Hardly any­body tweets newthoughts about “ The Good Wife,” which draws about 12 mil­lion view­ers a week. It’s just the good show.

So­let’s talk­a­boutit. ShouldAli­cia Flor­rick (Ju­lian­naMar­gulies) un­shackle her­self­from the post-scan­dal, brave-faced obli­ga­tions of her du­ti­ful, Silda Spitzer-like po­lit­i­cal wife­hood to find true love with Will Gardner (JoshCharles) at the law­firmwhereshe isan over­worked ju­nior as­so­ci­ate?

In a way, her love life is the least of our wor­ries, on a show that has some­how man­aged to update and make main­stream the

CBS’s le­gal drama

‘The Good Wife’ re­vives the lost art of the long story arc

lost art of the long story arc. It asks you to re­mem­ber what hap­pened a fewepisodes— or30episodes— ago. It’s anet­work­show­for the last fe­wof us who can do that.

“The Good Wife” was born from an ob­vi­ous pitch: The stoic spouse of one of those politi­cians who can’t keep his pants zipped — what goes through her mind dur­ing the me­dia cir­cus that en­sues?

In­stead of be­com­ing a story about a bit­ter divorce and a tell-al­most-all book con­tract, “ The Good Wife,” cre­ated by hus­band-wife team Robert and Michelle King, took se­ri­ously the theme of rein­ven­tion and self-re­liance, as told through the eyes of a woman who was able to look away from her own press (imag­ine!). Right away, Ali­cia’s choices left be­hind the par­al­lels to head­lines and en­tered the realm of sat­is­fy­ing fic­tion. Her hus­band(ChrisNoth), the state’sat­tor­ney in Chicago, went to prison; to sup­port her two teenagers, Ali­cia fell back on her lawde­gree.

Thus the show mag­i­cally soothes an up­per-mid­dle-class re­ces­sion­ary qualm about the gen­eral lack of a Plan B for peo­ple with ad­vanced de­grees: Can you find a job af­ter tak­ing a long break in your ca­reer to raise kids?

Un­like thou­sands of re­cent and still un­em­ployed law-school grads in the real world, Ali­ci­awasim­me­di­ately hired, thanks to­con­nec­tions— name­lyWil­lGard­ner, with whom Ali­cia went to law school at Ge­orge­town.

The job she got­wase­qual­ly­make-be­lieve, send­ing her promptly into tele­vi­sion’s warp-speed con­cept of what a lawyer does and how the court sys­tem works. In Ali­cia’s world, cases come to trial and re­ceive a ver­dict­be­fore­hour’s end. Ratherthanin­vite scoff and scorn, I’d wa­ger that “ The Good Wife” is raptly watched by mem­bers of the bar.

“ The Good Wife” owes most of its rat­ings to decades of court pro­ce­dural dra­mas and fic­tional lawyers who pre­date Ali­cia, as far back as Perry Ma­son. The caseload is what

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