Has 'The Good Wife' Become Formulaic?'

Saint Alicia might've strayed from her path, but The Good Wife remains perhaps the best example of how to craft traditional television.

The Good Wife: The Fourth Season

Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Chris Noth, Julianna Margulies, Archi Panjabi, Josh Charles, Alan Cumming
Network: CBS
Release date: 2013-08-20

By this time it’s safe to say that The Good Wife has developed a formula. During each of its four seasons we have seen Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) at the center of a big scandal or dramatic news story that stretches for the duration of the season and sets up what will come next. First, it was her husband Peter’s (Chris Noth) infidelity which sent her looking for a job and ending up practicing law again, then it was her affair with her boss Will Gardner (Josh Charles) which threatened her newfound respect at the workplace and during the fourth season she played the role of loving, supporting wife to Peter as he ran for governor of Illinois.

In between these prominent arcs, we see Alicia tend to her cases which usually involve strange motives and stranger clients. By remaining so safe to follow and watch, the CBS show has become perhaps the best drama on network television, the only one without sensationalist twists that week after week relies on fine acting and impeccable writing.

So does this mean that the show has stopped challenging itself? In a time where we are bombarded with “event” television which we can consume in a binge, does the traditional structure of The Good Wife make it feel more like a relic? Has the show’s classic format made it old fashioned? The fourth season began with promise, as we had just found out that Alicia would try to make amends with her cheating husband and discovered that the ever mysterious Kalinda (played by Archi Panjabi) had a husband of her own. (Nick played by Marc Warren as someone who just burst out of a Guy Ritchie movie.)

Within the very first episodes we were given the idea that the characters were up for some wilder thrills, but the truth of the matter is, that these storylines which, unarguably weren’t precisely working, were wrapped up in myriad incongruous ways. The biggest of these botched stories was of course that of Kalinda and her husband. First she hid him from everyone she knows, then he began to threaten her with revealing secrets and after some strange subplot involving one of Kalinda’s female lovers, Nick was sent away without any bells and whistles. It seems as if the writers are still figuring out what to do with Kalinda, who as portrayed by the sensuous Panjabi, never ceases to be a wildly rich character who doesn’t really need to have a complicated backstory. Haven’t they realized that we like Kalinda being a complete enigma?

At the same time, it’s interesting to realize that the writers are trying to take these characters outside their boxes, for we can’t smile and approve all of Kalinda’s quirks, before we wonder how long will it be until we crave to see her more human side. This season she got a sidekick in the shape of the perky Robyn (Jess Weixler) a character who seems to have two purposes: take over Kalinda if the writers decide to send her away and also inspired one of the season’s most fascinating storylines, as it became obvious that there was some huge salary inequity within Lockhart Gardner. The latter part of the season focused in how the lower rank employees, some of whom we’d probably never even seen before, started to complain and decided to form a union. This gave path to some of the season’s most exciting moments as creators Robert and Michelle King found a way to include real life into their show without recurring to sensationalist “ripped from the headlines” twists.

Sadly, it was until the latter part of the season when the characters finally were allowed to be who they are and instead of trying out weird unfitting personas, they were back to being the complex humans we enjoy watching week after week. After a slight misstep which involved her being frenemies with a competitive woman (played by Maura Tierney) she went back to focusing on her future which led to the greatest season finale cliffhanger yet. Peter stopped his sliminess from getting in the way of his political career and showed us a vulnerability that ought to remind us just what a great actor Noth truly is and the sensational Alan Cumming, who plays Eli Gold, continued as an unofficial mediator between the Florricks personal and political lives.

If The Good Wife has indeed become formulaic, it still remains a pleasure to see them do what they do in such an efficient way. Appearances by regulars like scene-stealer Carrie Preston, Stockard Channing, Anika Noni Rose, Michael J. Fox and Matthew Perry continue to be pleasant without turning the show into a The Love Boat-like celebrity sighting fest, while characters who weren’t as important in previous seasons revealed new layers that promise to continue offering great television in the future.

The show is presented in a DVD set which includes all 22 episodes as well as several featurettes and making-of bonus features including “Seat of Power: Directing Seat of Power: Directing The Good Wife", "Standards & Practices: Sex and Seat of Power: Directing The Good Wife", "Style Evolution: The Fashion of Seat of Power: Directing The Good Wife", and "The Ties that Bind".


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

The husband and wife duo DEGA center their latest slick synthpop soundscape around the concept of love in all of its stages.

Kalen and Aslyn Nash are an indie pop super-couple if there ever were such a thing. Before becoming as a musical duo themselves, the husband and wife duo put their best feet forward with other projects that saw them acclaim. Kalen previously provided his chops as a singer-songwriter to the Georgia Americana band, Ponderosa. Meanwhile, Aslyn was signed as a solo artist to Capitol while also providing background vocals for Ke$ha. Now, they're blending all of those individual experiences together in their latest project, DEGA.

Keep reading... Show less

On "Restless Mind", Paul Luc establishes himself as an exceptional 21st century bard who knows his way around evoking complex emotions in song.

The folk-rock swing of Paul Luc's upcoming Bad Seed is representative of the whole human condition. Following his previous track release in "Slow Dancing", the Pittsburgh singer-songwriter is sharing another mid-tempo, soulful number. This time, it describes the way too familiar feelings of uncertainty and diversion can, at times, sneak up on all of us.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.