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The Good Wife Eli Gold Peter Florrick Alicia Florrick Diane Lockhart Will Gardiner Carey Agos Kalinda Sharma Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

After five series’ (and renewed for a sixth) this show is obviously a big hit in the ‘States, but The Good Wife (TGW) in an unsung hero of the UK TV schedules – big props to Channel 4 and More4 for giving it a punt, and sticking with it. As a late-20s guy that loves Action & B-movies, It’s not the type of show I thought I’d like, but here’s a bunch of reasons that will hopefully convince you to give this a spin!

The Good Wife Alicia Florrick Hot Sexy - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker  The Women: unlike 99% of other TV shows the main character is a strong, powerful, hard-working mother (don’t run away!). She’s written well, brilliantly acted, fleshed out, and what’s more – she’s surrounded by other equally capable ladies – Diane, Kalinda, and dozens of other minor, characters. It’s a sad time when around 50% of all movies fail the ridiculously simple ‘Bechdel Test’ – and ½ that pass do so by the skin of their teeth – but TGW puts women front and centre, making it a refreshing change.

The Tech: I work in IT and the tech in TGW never fails to amuse and impress, not just the kind of gadgets they use day-to-day – but the way in which cutting edge technology is often the centerpiece of a story arc, or the focus of a case. There are entire episodes based on Bitcoin, search algorithms, NSA surveillance, Reddit (Scabbit), Silk Road, drone murders, leaked documents, Anonymous, ISPs turning over IP addresses, memes, video game murders, and a recurring Google-esque client – ChumHum. You watch it and think “WTF TGW, this exact case was in the news last week!?!?” It’s easily the most tech-savvy show on the planet.

The Good Wife Peter Florrick Alicia Florrick Will Gardiner - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerMajor characters: Although Alicia is the eponymous Good Wife, there are around ten recurring characters that come in and out of the spotlight throughout the seasons. Kalinda Sharma, Will Gardner, Peter Florirck, Eli Gold, Diane Lockhart, Cary Agos, and to a lesser extent, the kids and grandparents. All of these enjoy a good share of screentime, character-building and season-spanning story arcs, that bring some much-appreciated depth to the cast – making them way more than “The husband”, “The Boss”, “The Competition”.

THE GOOD WIFE Dylan Barker Colin Sweeney Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerMinor and recurring, characters: arguably the show’s best feature is the ability to craft great minor characters with very little time. David Lee (Family Law!!) is one of the best lawyers on TV; Colin Sweeney is deliciously creepy; quirky lawyer Elisabeth Tasioni, politically incorrect Senior Partner Howard Lyman, the ever-scheming Louis Canning (Michael J Fox), promiscuous brother Owen, morally sound Clark Hayden, those are just off the top of my head. These characters – and many more – are so good that you cross your fingers every episode, hoping they re-appear and you get enough time to have a proper catch up with them.

The Judges: interestingly, the show has a small roster of regular judges, each with their own personality, leniency threshold, quirks, and history with Lockhart/Gardner. You find yourself thinking “un-ohhh, this is the strict Judge” or “Yeeess, this one fancies Alicia”, or “Is that in your opinion?” Technically another bunch of minor recurring characters, but they’re definitely worthy of their own spot on the list.

The Good Wife Judge Charles Abernathy Dennis O'Hare - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

The main reason that all of these characters are awesome is that the casting for the show is phenomenal. I can’t think of a single actor who you could say was totally mis-cast. Re-inventing actors so inseparable from their big roles – Chandler Bing, Ugly Betty, Marty McFly – making them work alongside relatively unknown / under-rated actors. Someone somewhere has outstanding vision – like a Tarantino of the TV Sphere – making something special out of people with fairly unremarkable careers. It’s a true anomaly of TV. The guest appearances are also often surprising: Eddie Izzard, Method Man, Anna Champ, Sarah Silverman… it feels like everyone is lining up to appear in the show.

The Good Wife Judge George Kluger Jeffrey Tambor - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker  The Law: probably the most important aspect of a legal program – and not that I’m a qualified lawyer or anything – but it’s one of the few shows when the law is complex, believable, but still completely accessible (usually through some ‘approach the bench’ exposition). The show’s also not obsessed with Lockhart Gardner winning every case, and you sometimes see the flipside when they have to knowingly defend a guilty party… There’s so much fiery courtroom drama that you’ll soon find yourself walking around shouting phrases like Objection! Sustained! Over-ruled! Leading the witness your honour!! STRIKE THAT!! RECUSE YOURSELF!!!

Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerThe dynamics: it’s baffling that a show with such a super-broad appeal, and so many angles, still works this well. Ultimately, it appears to have been pitched at more senior viewers (median viewer age is 61 years old, and rising), yet it’s very tech-savvy and has a lot of explicitly gay/bisexual characters. It’s supposed to be about a lawyer, but that’s not even ½ of the runtime as family and politics feature heavily. It flips between serious drama, social commentary, and contemporary comedy so easily that it must be enviable to other show writers. You can watch the show as booth case-of-the-week, or appreciate the larger stories that bridge episodes and seasons. On paper it would look committee’d to death – a show that really shouldn’t work – but it’s a true anomaly.

The Good Wife Kalinda Sharma and Blake Calamar Parking Lot Baseball Bat Stand Off Fight Fashion Boots Jacket - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

 

it’s just a shame that the title is so bad. “The Good Wife” – bleurgh! It instantly repels most male viewers (probably wimin’ too); it’s just so frustratingly vague that anyone flicking through the TV Schedules could be forgiven for not giving it a second look. It could be a show about housewifery, it could be a melodramatic soap opera, hell – it could even be a softcore Movies For Men / Cinemax / Bravo style show.

 TL; DR? Short Version: this is a peach of a show, and you should be watching it.

The Good Wife (Season 3): following on directly from Season 2, we follow Alicia and her law firm Lockhart/Gardner through another bout of legal battles. I don’t know how they do it but the cases from each episode are unbelievably up to date – superinjunctions / killer computer gamers / internet money / pharmaceutical lawsuits… The central characters and a handful of smaller roles remain consistent and are continually developed, within story arcs that are still both intense and engaging. Season three goes further in exploring and pushing the dynamics between these characters too, and with acting this good, it simply makes for brilliant viewing. New characters and stories are drafted in as late as the penultimate episode, which does leave the finale a bit too open-ended for me, but it’s still a major cliffhanger. Alicia remains superb; Will shines in the first half, but fades out in the second; Diane is dynamite; Carry and Eli get more meaty roles; and even Chris Noth kicks it up to the next level. Although it’s not dominating, there’s an emphasis on silly stories and comedy characters to broaden the show’s appeal in this season: anything involving the kids is usually ridiculous and unnecessary; the tangent featuring cheese & food lobbying is beyond stupid, not to mention unfunny; also, characters like Will’s sisters feel like they’ve been plopped in the wrong show – these elements do nothing but bring down the highbrow tone and detract from the drama – what’s worse is that there’s more than enough entertainment in the established characters played by Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Michael J Fox,  and Dylan Baker – to mention a few. As far as quality TV goes, The Good Wife doesn’t have much competition at the moment, and with the exception of a one poorly judged side-story and a few stupid minor characters this show hits more home runs than Barry Bonds. Phenomenally well-written, well-balanced, well-acted, well-directed, funny, dramatic, twisty, unpredictable, confrontation, love, lust, and it’s all believable… I can’t recommend this show enough, but do yourself a favour and start from the very beginning.

Score: 9/10

Also, a big shout out to the people at The Good Wife fan forum who brought me a load of traffic last year! Cheers.


The Good Wife (Season 2): looks at a housewife-turned-lawyer whose husband is jailed after a sex scandal. The structure of this show is great – each episode is a stand alone court case, however there are always several stories playing out in the background spanning large parts of the series. Instead of focusing just on the court cases (could become boring territory) this does well to juggle courtroom, political, and family storylines. What makes it stand out is that it feels very current – we see politicians/investigators utilising twitter, youtube, foursquare and memes; the cases  also mirror characters & events from recent high-profile headlines. Some other plus points are the brilliant writing, great casting, stunningly acted (other than Chris Noth), has too many great characters to mention, is believabile, and with Ridley & Tony Scott watching over the production you can’t really ask for more from a TV show. There are a couple of slow episodes, and one ridiculous one (Chavez), but other than those this series is TV Gold, that draws you right in to the stories – you punch the air in pivotal courtroom moments and invest in the central characters. At 23 episodes long this could have dragged, but it’s the 7 day wait between them feels like an eternity.

Score: 9/10

[Would recommend starting at season 1 – which is also great]

GoldenEye: [Spoilers] when a global terrorist organisation steals a civilisation-busting weapon system called GoldenEye only one super spy can save the world from the looming doom.

Can a normal man catch up with a heavy, aerodynamic aeroplane... Duh!!

Who’s this idiot-hole jumping off the side of a reservoir and grapple-gunning his way to the bottom? Then taking on a room full of Russians, then stealing a bike, then the plane in mid air… The guy’s insane! This is an outstanding pre-title sequence with 007 and 006 (but how did he get there?) carrying out a break-in at a Russian chemical plant – definitely one of the best, most exciting, most tense and most action-packed of the intros. The (now legendary) N64 game captured facility so well when you see the film again.

It's all 6s and 7s in this scene - and film!

With the fantastic Licence to Kill proving to be a box office misfire – I blame the studio – and the franchise stuck in a rut for over five years the series was having a bit of an identity crisis, and it definitely shows in GoldenEye, which to me feels like a half-arsed re-boot.

Not particularly menacing, unless you have a fear of penis-shaped noses

On one hand we have the good old Commies getting themselves into trouble, a trusty space weapon of doom, a villain that wants to wrong all of the world’s rights, a bunch of big-budget action set pieces, enough explosives to match Licence to Kill and some truly awful accents (taxi  for Janssen & Cumming)… It’s like nothing’s changed.

M, a lady, in a Bond film.... OUTRAGE!!!!

On the other hand hand we have a new Bond (with an 80s lady haircut), a new female M (with a boys haircut), a new Moneypenny (with a drag queen haircut – I’M SO CONFUSED!). Despite having a typical Bond story, there’s something different about it… The original parts are all here, but it just doesn’t feel the same! In one of the film’s most telling scenes M notes that in a post Cold War world James Bond is a sexist, irrelevant dinosaur – shame on her!! A few other characters also jibe with Bond about being old hat…Definitely uncalled for given what JB has done over the years, and guess who has to save the day / world / girl / civilisation again!?!? – idiots!!

Bond nerd and Bond girl, two great characters that are both crucial to the story

As far as the new Bond goes, I really rate Brosnan. Growing up through his films (this was the first one I saw in in a cinema, thanks mum!) he’s the Bond of my era, but also, looking back through the years – for me, he’s the first ‘full package’. Sure, Connery is the Bond – oozing charm and humour, Lazenby was the timid one, Moore too theatrical and Dalton quite mysterious – Brosnan rolls all these traits into one performance, creating a full character for the first time.

Sharpe and Steele - surely a winning 00-combo!

Other unforgettable moments from GoldenEye are the: Tank Vs Train fight, the sexually charged vixen Onatopp (hubba hubba), unashamed 1990s SFX abuse with everything and everyone being blown and smashed up, the blatant IBM advertising, “I am invincible” and the super-cool satellite fight at the end.

Xenia Onatopp: has the gadget to rule all gadgets, killer thighs

For the first time in decades we have a great (and quite large) number of solid – fleshed out – characters that all bounce off and balance each other – because although the action is memorable in GoldenEye, it’s really the cast that have to make us believe that the world’s change AND push the picture forward. While it’s more of a facelift than a proper restart the Bond team did well to nail GoldenEye and save the feanchise that so many had written off. Solid 90s blockbuster.

Score: 7/10

A massive tank, drifting 'round corners and through buildings... awesome

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Sean Bean – pretty insane, wants to throw the UK to the dogs!! 7
Henchmen: Femke Janssen, Penis-nose’d Russian, Invincible Boris. 7
Bond Girls: Femke Jannsen – likes it rough. Programmer chick – very attractive. 8
Action: Opening Scene, Car Chase, Jail Breakout, Tank Chase, Antena & Base destruction 7

First film and we've already seen Brosnan's Ohhhhhhh-Ohhhh face!

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Bonus round - so you'll never, EVER look at this poster the same again