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'The Good Wife': They're called exotic dancers, OK?

September 30, 2009 |  7:11 am

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Let’s face it: "The Good Wife" is a little bipolar.  It’s a show about a publicly humiliated politician’s wife ... who is also a hungry junior associate at a prestigious Chicago law firm!   The challenge of this show is always going to be tying these two plot lines together cohesively.

So far, the show has bridged the gap between these two worlds pretty effectively, if only because Alicia’s cases are suspiciously close to her husband’s sphere of influence. Last week, a clue from Peter helped Alicia win her first trial; this week, a rape case landed on Alicia’s desk precisely because the current state’s attorney -- i.e. the man who took over when her hubby was put behind bars -- thought it didn’t have enough merit to go to trial. Did I mention that the accuser is also a stripper/occasional prostitute? And that Alicia thinks said stripper/prostitute may have had Peter as a client?

Strictly speaking, it’s an effective way to make Alicia’s personal and the professional plot lines converge. So when she's asking a madame about how much the escorts charge -- and what the clients get for their services -- we know her interest is more than professional. For now, it works, but I am not sure the show can sustain itself at this rate without getting into some “Murder She Wrote” levels of implausibility.

One thing that does seem believable is the way that the show integrates politics into the plot line. Last night’s episode included casual references to Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh and even Emily’s List, a feminist PAC that’s influential but not exactly a household name. The level of specificity makes you believe these characters might just be real-life lawyers in the here-and-now. Similarly, I think the most interesting aspect of last night’s episode was its pointed inclusion of the wimpy liberal Judge Abernathy. From the get-go, we’re set up to believe that Abernathy is going to be sympathetic -- a pushover, even -- toward the rape victim. But then he bends over backward to prove he’s not the softy everyone thinks he is, and even finds the oh-so-guilty defendant not guilty. I am not sure what the point of this character is, though I have a hunch. Could it be that the writers are trying to say something about self-loathing liberals? Or am I strung out after too much “Blue Dog” coverage and therefore reading a little bit too much into a minor character?

In any case, I still think "The Good Wife" is nothing if not timely. So it also makes sense that the show is also a little obsessed with the role of technology and media in its characters’ lives. In last night’s episode, Alicia agonizes over whether to listen to a widely circulated clip of her husband having phone sex with his favorite escort, the hilariously-named “Amber Madison.” (On a side note, the link she eventually does click on is from cbsnews.com, which, if you ask me, seemed like a pretty misguided bit of product placement from the Eye Network. But I digress.) In another scene, Alicia calls to check in on her daughter, who is at home watching what appears to be “America’s Next Top Model” on TV. Her son is adept with computers, but not in a Doogie Howser prodigy kind of way: He just seems like your average teen computer nerd, circa 2009. These little details all make Alicia’s family life seem convincingly contemporary, even when her professional life seems a smidge less believable.

One last thing: Given this effort at verisimilitude, it’s even more of a bummer that the show’s setting is so generic. The show is ostensibly set in Chicago, probably because the city’s politicians are so notoriously corrupt, but visually it could really be anywhere (apparently it is: the show is currently filming in New York)  It’s too bad, because a little more local color would help the show, if you ask me. 

What did you think? Did the political talk bring something to the show, or does it seem a little too smarty-pants for its own good? Do you think Alicia's job is as believable as her domestic life?

-- Meredith Blake

Photo credit: John Paul Filo / CBS

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