How The Good Wife Became the Best Show on TV

ABC cancelled Sports Night?!?!?!

Spoilers for The Good Wife follow, but do you really care about Good Wife spoilers?

It’s 8 PM CST Sunday Night October 27, 2013, and the television set is on. Breaking Bad has finished its run a month ago, leaving destruction in its wake, Homeland is airing its fifth straight lull of an episode, The Walking Dead is The Walking Dead, and everything else on just seems a little boring. Except for The Good Wife. At 8 PM CST, October 27, 2013, The Good Wife is the best show on TV.

Lets back up a bit to the night of April 28, 2013, when the show’s 4th season finale, “What’s In The Box?” is just about to finish. As the absolutely electric and propulsive finale is wrapping up, the show poses a question to its protagonist Alicia Florrick in its final minutes: Do you want to start your own firm, or would you rather stay with Will? And that’s when the show crossed the bridge from electrically entertaining to wholly riveting television.

By just asking a simple question of its protagonist, the show entered into new ethical and moral territory, pushing far past the boundaries any broadcast show would ever go. It’s not like The Good Wife was ever not a great show, it’s just that with this particular push, the show transformed into a newly regenerated kind of animal. The show was still the case of the week procedural that it always had been, but by having Alicia, Carey and all the other disbanding employees of Lockhart Gardener take their painstakingly sweet time in figuring out their new law firm, the narrative of the show became transformative.

In last night’s episode, “Hitting The Fan,” the show somehow pushed past the extreme boundaries it had worked out for itself. Will and Alicia’s confrontation (pictured above) was devastating, and at the same time extremely entertaining television. The thing that makes The Good Wife so great is that while being so concerned in the moral consequences and the ethicality of it all, it’s at the same time so fun to watch. As the episode detailed how the discovery of Alicia and Carey’s new firm affected everyone in the show’s ecosystem, it became clear that this show knows what it’s doing, and knows how to work out its universe. Every character is so defined that every decision they make in the episode (whether it’s Kalinda’s stealthiness, or Peter’s defensiveness) doesn’t only make sense, but also enlightens the show’s narrative core.

While the episode’s script (credited to creator/showrunners Robert and Michelle King) is astounding, the performances take us the extra mile. Again, that confrontation scene! Josh Charles reminded us why he was nominated for Emmys before the Best Supporting Actor Category became too crowded, and Julianna Margulies continued to play out Alicia’s deceptiveness with flourish. Archie Panjabi, Christine Baranski, Josh Czuchry, Jess Weixler, Zach Grenier, Chris Noth, and Alan Cumming also put in A+ supporting performances and showed us how one of the best supporting casts on television works. There was literally no dull moment in the episode, all thanks to the performances, so credit where credit is due.

But what’s so important about this episode is that it takes The Good Wife from “the best show on broadcast TV” to “the best show on TV period.” When brought up in conversation, people often feel the need to specifically note that the show’s seasons are 22 episodes and air on CBS. Because the show is on CBS and its seasons are 22 episodes long, it is a procedural type case of the week lawyer show, and by today’s standards that automatically makes it lesser to the 13 episode per season serialized and morally complex cable shows run by anti-heroes. Just because shows like Parenthood, New Girl, Bob’s Burgers, Parks and Recreation, and The Good Wife have to produce 22 episodes per season, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be placed in the same league as shows like Breaking BadMad Men, and Game of Thrones. With the greatness of “Hitting The Fan,” The Good Wife can really be put up against any show on television.

I have exuding confidence for The Good Wife’s future now more than ever. Nobody would’ve ever guessed that they would have been absolutely and completely riveted by CBS procedural in its fifth season, and now that we’ve seen it happen anything is possible. Don’t put up with anyone who says that The Good Wife is the best show on broadcast TV, because sunday nights are now The Good Wife’s night.

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