It is common knowledge nowadays that the era of print – i.e., newspapers like the one you are reading at this very moment – as chief news provider is long gone. By the very nature of being a medium that is a slave to its deadlines, print is always behind the times, reflecting a reality several hours behind the unfolding present and its breaking news.
For a relatively short period – I’d say from the late ‘70s to the mid ‘90s of the last century – TV was the main source of our information about the world around us, near and far, allowing us the illusion of “being there.” The news was beamed straight into the screens in our living rooms – live images of triumph and happiness (rarely) and misery and disaster (most often).
Now we don’t have to peruse the fine print on the page or turn on the TV set. The news comes at us whether we want it or not, via “push” notifications on our smartphones, tablets and laptops, or through posts on social networks through which we live as members of a pulsating “community” spread over the globe and its time zones. A flutter of butterfly wings in Australia doesn’t necessarily trigger a volcanic eruption in Iceland, but we are notified about both events as they happen, whether or not we want to be.
In this state of affairs, the TV set can serve as a haven from the avalanche of information, a lot of it about carnage and death. We can make a point of not tuning in to the newscasts, and following only our favorite series, season by season and episode by episode, to divert our attention from the sad fact that our world is going to hell at increasing speed. The worst thing is that the networks are prone to preempt their schedules – mainstays for the remnants of our sanity – in favor of going live and barraging us with breaking news of the kind we really don’t need or want to see.
True, there is much to be said (written, that is) about reporting news of yet another stabbing attempt using footage from CCTV cameras or the smartphones of innocent bystanders. But I’d like to draw your attention to yet another TV haven safe from the peril of breaking news: the fictional world of yet another American TV series starting its new season: CBS’ “The Good Wife” on Yes Stars Drama, Tuesdays at 22:00, since October 6 (concurrently with its broadcast in the U.S.).
The series, created and run by the successful duo of Michelle and Robert King (a couple in real life), was supposed to elaborate on certain awkward situations – like the somewhat sordid cases of Bill Clinton and Elliot Spitzer and their relations with “that woman.” The male politician sheepishly admits to marital infidelity, while the “good wife” swallows the insult and stands by her man for the sake of his political career. (We had such a scene locally in the ‘90s, with Benjamin Netanyahu as the straying husband and Sara as the good wife.)
Six years ago, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies of “E.R.” fame, the third actress who was approached at the preliminary casting stage) had to come to terms with her husband, Illinois State Attorney Peter Florrick (Chris Noth, “Mr. Big” from “Sex and the City”) being implicated in a sex and voting scandal, and sent to jail. She had studied law, but spent many years as a housewife who kept the home fires burning while her husband pursued a career. Now she has to find herself a life, not as an appendage to her cheating politician husband, but as a provider for her teenage children and a person in her own right, forging her own career.
The series was received with accolades for its writing, topicality (like many other American series, it is fictional, but includes many sub-plots reflecting real-time events in American politics. Margulies got her share of nominations and prizes for her portrayal of an independent woman who has to succeed on her own in a tangled world of local politics (prone to corruption), as well as in-office machinations at the law firm she joins, leaves, and has to confront.
During the six years since the inception of the series, Alicia succeeded in remaining a loyal wife (for PR purposes) to her husband, who gets out of jail, runs for governor, gets elected, and at the beginning of season 7 vies for the vice presidential nomination, possibly running with Hillary Clinton. Both parts of the series title have to be taken with several grains of salt: Alicia is a wife only in the formal sense – she and Peter lead separate private lives, whereas the adjective “good” sounds as ironic as it can get.
Basically, “The Good Wife” is a legal-political procedural, like “Law & Order,” “LA Law” or “Boston Legal.” Every episode contains a story with a beginning, a middle and an end (a court case litigated, played out in a courtroom, lost or won by Alicia). Every episode has to have its share of politics, more often than not dealing with elections being rigged. That was what toppled Peter in season one, and Alicia herself in season six, when she ran for state attorney, won, but had to resign, as some of her minions, unbeknownst to her, had played dirty.
That allowed the Kings and their co-producers (Ridley Scott of “Blade Runner” and “Thelma & Louise,” among others) to reboot the series. After Alicia rose from the rags of being a subordinate character in her husband’s plot to the riches of her own legal and political career, she is back where she started, having to build herself up on her own again, this time with a blemish on her CV. She has her own agenda and must support her wayward husband’s career without losing herself and her integrity in the process.
Luckily, she has her share of supporters. One of them, Will Gardner, was killed in season 5 (nothing enlivens a series in danger of getting stale as the surprising death of a central character). However, Louis Canning (played by Michael J. Fox, with his Parkinson’s disease as part of the plot), although a devil in Alicia’s view, is very much in her corner, to mention just one illustrious name from a star-studded supporting cast. Canning is the one who tries – in episode one of season 7 – to teach Alicia never to apologize, but rather use every altercation as a means of saying to others: “Watch it.”
Which is what I basically am saying to you: Alicia Florrick’s uneasy way to happiness is WWW (i.e., well worth watching) while it lasts, if not for any other reason than the possibility that the seventh season – which introduces two intriguing new characters – will be its last.
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