By Lord Castleton | | February 20, 2017 |
By Lord Castleton | | February 20, 2017 |
I hoped for more from The Good Fight. A lot more.
As someone who (often begrudginly) watched every second of ‘The Good Wife,’ I felt conflicted about a creative team that drew all of these fantastic characters, amazing judges, and great courtroom scenes, but had no idea what to do with them. I said it a thousand times. The Good Wife died with Will. Period. Once upon a time, that show was must watch TV. Then it spiraled down the commode into a frustrating, rudderless hate-watch. At the end, it was a balsa wood mockery of its former self.
Alicia was to blame, right? Everyone hated Julianna Margulies. That’s what you saw everywhere you looked. She was a horrible person to work with and no one could stand her. She was the reason everything went pear shaped. The working environment was too much. Too hostile. Too tainted with a reviled lead.
So is it that strange that the showrunners would want to pretty much re-create The Good Wife with no Alicia?
Not at all. It’s pretty understandable.
Hence…The Good Fight. That was a groan-worthy name the first time I heard it. I thought Lady C was joking with me. Really? That’s what you’re doing? I once knew a guy named Brian Murray and his parents paid for him to have this movie written where he would be the leading man. The character’s name? Ryan Murray. Played by Brian Murray. That’s the level of lame The Good Fight took on with that name. Kind of punchliney-bad, right out of the starting blocks.
But I hoped for better. After all, Christine Baranski, right? She’s amazing. But is she leading lady amazing or holy shit that appetizer was to die for amazing? I don’t care what anyone says — my favorite Christine Baranski is ‘Connie Chasseur’ in The Ref. That is grade-A prime Baranski.
But okay, we’re going to build a show around Diane Lockhart? Hmmm. I mean, the showrunners had ZERO idea what to do with her at the end of The Good Wife, but okay. Diane, like Alicia, just had too much of what made her work wrapped up in Will. At least it felt like they learned something about the title. By naming The Good Wife after a, y’know, wife, they had a really hard task to keep her in that wife role. By going with The Good ‘Fight’ as in fightin’ the good fight, Michelle and Robert King showed that they weren’t going to paint themselves into a corner from the outset. It’s not about a person, it’s about the fight. It’s about an ideal.
So fine. Diane it is. And you tell me Cush Jumbo is in? Okay then. I love me some Cush Jumbo.
And then Ygritte is on board? Ygritte is the new Alicia? Consider me officially interested.
The premiere didn’t quite live up to that promise. First of all, we get like six scenes with David Lee and/or Howard Lyman. No showrunners outed themselves as strategically lost more than the Kings when they pushed the Howard & Jackie romance. It was bizarrely tone deaf. So I was massively bummed to have mustache-twisting prick David Lee and senile imbecile Howard Lyman welcome me back.
The Good Fight opens with a TON of promise, as Diane sits agog, open-mouthed, watching Donald Trump get sworn in as president, and then clicks it off in disgust. I was like awwwwwwwwww yisssssssss! If that’s the tone of this bad boy, we’re going to have some fun with Diane.
We quickly see that Diane is ready to tag out. She decides to retire and buy her dream estate in Provence. And we meet her goddaughter, Maia (Rose Leslie), who is ostensibly the new Alicia. We see Maia as she obsessively refreshes the screen of her laptop to find out if she passed the Illinois bar. Ding! She does! Whooooooohooooo! I’m a lawyer she yells and jumps into bed with her girlfriend.
And then it gets a little sticky, story-wise. Because the thing that really pulled people in with Alicia Florrick was that she was cheated on in a very public way and she had to reach down deep and start over and find out who she was after being a wife and a mother of two. She had to reinvent hereself and harden up. And we had to see her do it and cheer for her because for better or for worse, most of us know what it’s like to either be cheated on or cheat on someone else.
But on The Good Fight, the A-plot is that Maia’s parents, who are like Diane’s best friends, are Bernie Madoff. They are arrested and Diane and Maia’s professional and financial lives are both destroyed as collateral damage. It was waaaaaay too similar to pretty much every scarlet-letter wearing Alicia plot and it doesn’t work. EVERYONE HATES ME! It just flat out doesn’t work. Diane has left the David Lee firm when the shit hits the fan and they won’t let her come back. No one in town will hire her except for a firm of black lawyers led by Delroy Lindo who jokes that she’d be a diversity hire.
Here’s the problem — one of many. I’m guessing the target audience for The Good Fight are The Good Wife fans, most of whom are probably in their fifties and sixties. No doubt the Rose Leslie hire was an effort to bring in a Millennial demo. But no matter what, no matter what side of Pearl Jam you’re on, almost no one knows what it’s like to be a billionairre and then lose all your money.
And more than that, no one really cares. Now more than ever, it’s tough to have empathy for those people.
The Good Fight is designed by some talented minds, people I admire (like Phil Alden Robinson), to be about the fight. That’s smart because you have more range. But with an idea and not a person holding center, it feels like a Syndrome situation where if everyone is super, then no one is. The show gets unintentionally swept away with the current and there’s no one person there to dig their heels into the mud.
I’m not sure yet what I’m watching, and I don’t have the confidence in the Kings anymore to think that they have a rock-solid plan for this show.
There are other issues, as well. An absence of chemistry between Maia and her girlfriend. Rose Leslie coming off with less oomph than you’d expect from someone who was North of the Wall. Baranski’s limitations when she tries to press the emotions at the edges of Diane’s cool disposition. Anything and everything with David Lee. Ditto Howard Lyman. The suggestion that Diane is unequivocally done with her husband Kurt McVeigh, (Gary Cole) who is far and away the best actor on the show. Only Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) rises to the occassion of her billing.
For my money, I was way way way more interested in Adrian Boseman’s (Delroy Lindo)
and Barbara Kolstad’s (Erica Tazel)
law firm than I have been in Lockhart, Gardner and Lee for YEARS. I mean, at one point, when Maia is fired, she sits outside her office building crying and trying to figure out what to do and we get a full-screen shot of a crosswalk light where she sees the light turn from walking man to stop hand. And then it cuts to a reaction shot from her. Ooooooohhhhh. Deep, y’all. I’m sorry but that’s just some rough, rough JV-television stuff there. That shot makes me feel like someone at CBS has lost their fastball.
The Good Wife ended as a rudderless skiff on the ocean, and The Good Fight has disappointingly picked up almost where that show left off. I wish I had more faith that the Kings have a magic sextant to bring this ship into port, but at this point, it’s probably already too far off course. There are just so many really good shows out there. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I really hope they nail down the stakes and the tone and have a clear direction, but I’m not going to stick around to find out.