Tuesday, October 13, 2015

TV Tuesday: The Good Wife & Madam Secretary

This week's TV Tuesday features two powerful women in excellent back-to-back shows on CBS on Sundays (though we never watch anything when it actually airs anymore!): The Good Wife and Madam Secretary.  Both shows are top-notch: smart, funny, and engaging with excellent writing and casts. My husband and I were thrilled to see both shows return for new seasons two weeks ago.

The Good Wife, starring Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, just started its seventh season, and it hasn't lost any steam. At the beginning of season 1, the show began with Alicia's husband, Peter Florrick, former State's Attorney for Cook County (Chicago), going to jail after a sex and corruption scandal that rocked the city and left Alicia in the spotlight. Publicly, she literally stands by her man in the press conferences, but behind the scenes, she is furious with him for cheating on her - and in such a lurid, public way (he was caught repeatedly with prostitutes). Alicia works hard to protect her two teen children from the media and her husband's scandal. With Peter in jail, Alicia has to go back to work, after 15 years as a stay-at-home mom. She gets a job with a prestigious law firm - Stern, Lockhart & Gardner - though she must start out as an Associate, along with a lot of younger lawyers just out of law school. Will Gardner, one of the firm's partners, was a classmate of hers back in law school, and it seems they might have been more than friends back then.

I won't go into much of the details beyond that starting point, because this show is filled with wonderful plot twists that we never saw coming. Alicia builds her new career, while juggling motherhood, and Peter eventually gets out of jail and resumes his politic career (this is America, after all). I loved Julianna Margulies in ER in the old days, and she is absolutely spectacular as Alicia and has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for this role. The rest of the cast is just as good, with Chris Noth as the charismatic Peter, and Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart (another of the firm's partners). Alan Cumming is one of our favorites as Eli Gold, Peter's campaign manager, as is Archie Panjabi as the sexy, mysterious investigator Kalinda Sharma. We were late to this show, finally listening to all the rave reviews from friends and family one summer, when we got the DVDs from the library and binge-watched 3 seasons in a row! You can watch the early seasons free on Amazon Prime or Netflix, and the latest season (2 episodes so far) is available On Demand and on the CBS website (seasons 1 and 7).

As if that wasn't enough, last year CBS also added Madam Secretary to its line-up, and we were soon hooked on that show as well. Tea Leoni stars as Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA operative who is named Secretary of State by the President, who is a former colleague of hers. Right from her first day, it is obvious that Elizabeth is going to do things her way, as her staff, headed by Bebe Neuwirth, rushes to adjust to her open, straight-forward approach. Each episode tackles a new international crisis of some sort - everything from hostages to informants to potential war - which keeps the plots fresh and interesting. If you could find any criticism with the show, it would be that they always manage to solve major world crises in an hour-long show, but we find it easy enough to just go along for the ride because it is so much fun.

At home, Elizabeth is married to World Religions scholar Henry McCord, played by Tim Daly, and they have three children ranging from young teens to young adult. In addition to her constantly changing duties as Secretary of State, Elizabeth must also juggle whatever crises come up with her family. The entire cast here - from Elizabeth's staff to her family and beyond - are all excellent and great fun to watch. There is a lot of chemistry between her staff members and plenty of humor, too, throughout the show. Tea Leoni has always been one of my favorite actresses - she was great in movies like House of D, The Family Man, and Ghost Town, and her crying scene in Spanglish is one of my all-time favorites! She's wonderful in Madam Secretary, as is Tim Daly, and the script is clever, suspenseful, and funny. You can catch up on Season 1 on Netflix or on Amazon Prime (though not free there), and season 2 is currently available On Demand and on the CBS website.


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