Tonight, The Good Wife will return for its sixth season. We've seen the season premiere, and it kicks off what looks to be another stellar season of the best drama on network television. For some silly reasons — it's a show your parents probably watch, or the Eliot Spitzer cheating scandal is so six years ago, or you have some aversion to CBS — it'll likely be criminally under-watched again this season (the show averages around 9.5 million viewers, about half of NCIS's viewership).
But it doesn't have to be that way. Here, then, is our plea to pick up this great show.
This is as close as you'll get to a reboot
The Good Wife is not an easy binge. Each season consists of 22 episodes, and at 40-plus minutes apiece, a rapid-fire viewing of every episode could eat up all your free time for a couple of weeks. Couple that with creators Robert and Michelle King's penchant for world-building and long-term payoffs, and you have a show that can feel impenetrable for new viewers. But there's never been a better time to hop onboard The Good Wife than right now.
The Kings did something drastic and different in the fifth season — they burned their show to the ground. In a daring move, the creators started at square one dissolving the alliances and friendships that were built in the first four seasons of the show. They eliminated some crucial characters and (without giving too much away) had their avenging heroine Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) start a new firm. The latter part of the fifth season was the fallout from that move.
In the hands of any other writing team, the move could have been unsustainable or might have felt like cheating. But the Kings managed to keep control over the plotline and had everyone — new viewers and old — on the same uncertain and curious plane when it came to what was going to happen next.
This upcoming season then, is the closest thing viewers will have to a reboot. The relationships of all the characters have started anew, the storylines are still fresh, and everyone is on the same page. In fact, the show will remind you of everything you need to know from season five in the first few minutes of the sixth season premiere.
There's nothing else on (yet)
Sundays have become a logjam of good television. And this year is no different. This spring will see the second half of Mad Men's final season and the fifth season of HBO's Game of Thrones. And there's good TV on Sundays in the winter, too, including mainstays The Walking Dead, Girls, Shameless, and Looking. Winter and spring's schedules makes fall Sundays a bit quieter, giving you the time to catch up with The Good Wife.
That isn't to say that the show isn't competing with anything — NFL football never finishes on time, which delays the show for East Coast and Central viewers, Boardwalk Empire is in its final season, and Showtime's Homeland and The Affair are worth keeping slots on your DVR open for. But these shows also likely won't cause as much excitement as Mad Men and Game of Thrones.
The show has a point
Age isn't good to television shows. Whether high-brow or low-brow, shows have their edges dulled by being on the air for long periods of time. It's hard to maintain quality after five years. And for a while, it looked like Good Wife might suffer the same fate as many other shows that have run too long. Good Wife's fourth season meandered, relied too much on a plot featuring Kalinda's (Archie Panjabi) estranged husband, and never hit its stride.
Aside from the Kings' scorched earth gamble, there was something else going on in The Good Wife's fifth season that kept it from aging awkwardly: the show was bent on making a stark statement about the lack of privacy in modern day life. From the NSA, to election surveillance, to whistle-blowing, to bloggy journalism, to social media, and even to friends, The Good Wife made a point to say that privacy is dead and show us the consequences of what happens to our lives when it withers away. Many times, these interruptions of privacy ended up costing the trust of clients, family, and friends.
Making the show about privacy helped an otherwise turbulent season keep its center and feel relevant. The Good Wife has always been fluent in addressing our relationship with technology (it's tackled the likes of Bitcoin and Google algorithms), so tackling the NSA and how dependent we are on our smartphones was a natural step. That it gave a terrific season a thematic focus ended up being the best kind of bonus.
It's beautifully directed
Just take a look at the first 10 minutes of tonight's premiere (directed by co-creator Robert King) to see how wonderfully visual this show can be. It begins with a series of very still shots, actors seemingly frozen in place like exhibits in a wax museum. And then, with a question to Alicia that kicks off the season, the camera begins to move, gliding between people and storylines, building connections that pay off throughout the hour and foreshadowing things that will happen in ways that register subconsciously before they work their way into the show's storytelling. And pay attention to the way the show uses the visual motif of lines on the floor — and who is and isn't able to cross them.
TV is still primarily a writer's medium — and The Good Wife, with its thoughtful, wry dialogue, is a wonderfully written show — but the medium's direction has gotten more and more daring in recent years, and Good Wife has been right at the forefront of that movement. The camera is always moving, using its camera to trace the webs of money, power, and sex that tie together its fictional Chicago.
The woman at the center of it
In this new season of television, there are a lot of shows — Madam Secretary, State of Affairs, How to Get Away with Murder, and even the dismal Mysteries of Laura — that center on telling the stories of women and the balance between their careers and personal lives. The networks arms race to find a badass, complex, imperfect female protagonist, seems to have been prompted prompted by the frenetic runaway success that is Scandal and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington).
If there's any television character who can stand toe-to-toe with Washington's Olivia it's Margulies's Alicia. There are a lot of similarities between the two: both defend murderers, both know a bit about dating their supervisors, and both know what its like to be diminished at work because of their gender. But while Alicia doesn't have the thunderous monologues or flashy lip-quivering breakdowns that Olivia has, she has her own kind of power, suppressing her feelings in order to calmly figure out what to do next.
What The Good Wife does so well is reflect the current cultural conversation surrounding women and their battle (and sacrifices) for equality. Where Scandal zigs into questions about the power women can wield in political marriages and the double standards that benefit men, Good Wife zags into discussions about polling, women voters, women and religion, and motherhood. And it does so very well.
It's so funny
Even though it can be hugely dramatic, The Good Wife always takes time for a good gag or two. We won't spoil anything from tonight's premiere, except to say that any scene featuring Eli Gold (Alan Cumming) and his daughter (Sarah Steele) is pure, comic gold.
The guest stars
From the infuriating Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) to the lovable Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston), there is no show on television with better guest stars. In fact, Scandal's President Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), Rowan Pope (Joe Morton), and Sally Langton (Kate Burton) have all played someone on Good Wife. And basically everyone (outside of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) on House of Cards is part of the Good Wife family:
Still not convinced? Well, how about this — the season premiere features shirtless lawyers, prison, underwear tips for interns, and terrific storytelling. Tune in already!
The Good Wife premieres on Sunday night at 9 p.m. (in the past, the show has been delayed by football games running over their allotted time)