Brow Beat

The Good Wife Has Also Become Too Ambitious

A CBS promotional shot for ‘The Good Wife’. From left to right: Makenzie Vega, Mary Beth Peil, Graham Phillips, Alan Cumming, Chris Noth, Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski, Josh Charles, Matt Czuchry, and Archie Punjabi.

As my colleague David Haglund points out elsewhere on Brow Beat, contemporary cable TV has an ambition problem. But the cablers aren’t the only ones; some network dramas are also trying to do too much.

Take The Good Wife. It’s one of my favorite shows, a solid procedural that has also established a stable of great characters. But that’s the problem: The Good Wife has developed so many genuinely compelling characters that it doesn’t have enough time for them all.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the show is “juggling storylines about Alicia and Peter Florrick’s separation, the budding love affair between Alicia and boss Will Gardner, Peter’s new job as the Cook County state’s attorney, the financial health of the Lockhart & Gardner law firm, Eli Gold’s crisis PR practice, [and] Kalinda Sharma’s kick-ass love life.” There’s also a weekly legal case, which usually gets squeezed into about 22 of the show’s 44-minute running time.

Since then, the evil bastards who make The Good Wife have upped the torture by introducing two more great characters: Dana Lodge (played by Monica Raymund), a lawyer in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office who is sleeping with Cary Agos and flirting with Kalinda; and Stacie Hall (the always irresistible Amy Sedaris), a glad-handing lobbyist and business rival for Eli. They also brought back Wendy Scott-Carr (Anika Noni Rose), a one-time political rival of Peter’s who is now investigating Will’s ethics. This is in addition to recurring characters like Alicia’s brother Owen and Judges Leora Kuhn (Linda Emond) and Patrice Lessner (Ana Gasteyer).

It feels churlish to complain about there being too much good stuff on one show, but it’s gotten to the stage where I am pre-emptively frustrated when Kalinda strides into an episode. Some critics have called for a spin-off for Eli’s crisis PR firm (Time’s James Poniewozik termed the current setup as “a spinoff-within-a-show”).

I’ve got a more radical proposition: The Good Wife should loan out some of its fully formed characters to understaffed shows. Imagine Eli advising Breaking Bad’s Walter White on his image problem, for instance. Kalinda could join him in Albuquerque and create an interesting triangle with Skyler and Walt or Hank and Marie. Or perhaps Stacie Hall could head west to lobby for the legalization of Heisenberg’s blue meth. And if Walt and Jesse should ever end up in court, it would be awesome if they came up before Judge Lessner. In my opinion.

Who else should be loaned out—and where?