I deliberately choose not to write about television because, unlike films, older shows have not had much of an impact on my life. Unlike film and music, I can’t think of a television show that is more than 20 years old that I love.
That can’t be said for television shows from the past 10 years. Out of nowhere I have been flooded with shows which have changed my view on the entertainment industry, let alone television.
As many people already know, I put The Wire above any film I have ever seen on any type of screen – ever. I hold David Simon and Ed Burns’ 5 season epic (ok, maybe only the first 4 seasons) in such reverence that I refuse to believe that anything will ever top it. Furthermore, Season 4 of The Wire is a perfect piece of art in my humble opinion – just perfection.
Despite the blinding brilliance of The Wire, I have still managed to notice the staggering quality of other shows. Although I don’t subscribe to all of the hype, Breaking Bad was still extraordinary and I understand the uber-fanatics that surround the show. If someone looked deep into my eyes and said that The Sopranoes was better than The Wire then I wouldn’t hold it against them, even though they would be wrong. The same can be said for the unloved gem, Deadwood and I still hold a candle for 24 (the first 5 seasons at least).
But there is one show that barely gets the credit it deserves, despite possessing a level of quality that rivals some of the decade’s best and most loved TV shows. I truly believe that people should be talking about The Good Wife in the same way they talk about The Sopranoes and Breaking Bad – it is that good.
I think The Good Wife gets overlooked for several reasons, one of which is its ambiguous format. Unlike the big hitters of this generation, most episodes from The Good Wife would work as a standalone piece thanks to its ‘case of the week’ format. The season long narrative arc is still there and, frankly, it is as strong and compelling as anything on television, but it plays second fiddle to whatever case the folks at Lockhart/Gardner are working on in that particular episode. What makes this show unique is how little details and small bit-part cameos manage to make a huge impact and carry consequences for the rest of the season and in some cases for the entire series.
Another reason why I think the show gets little adulation is because its main character is female and furthermore, much of its cast is dominated by strong independent women. I am not saying that the majority of television watchers are willfully sexist, but I admit that it took some adjusting to accept this show for what it is – a female driven piece.
And as for that female, Julianna Margulies is deceptively brilliant in her role as Alicia Florrick. Her transformation from a meek and wronged housewife into a strong independent terrier like lawyer is as remarkable as Bryan Cranston’s turn as Walter White in Breaking Bad.
It isn’t just Julianna who is strong in this show, I seriously cannot pick out the weak link from the assemble of actors. I carry a special torch for the Bend it Like Beckham alumni Archie Panjabi who is simply fantastic as Kalinda.
I have just finished season 4 of this quiet classic and on reflection I cannot think of a single episode in the series which has been subpar – I can’t say the same from other great shows of the past 10 years. Although the show has received some illustrious awards here and there, I am at a loss to why we don’t talk of this show in the same vein as your Breaking Bads, your Sopranoes and your Battlestar Galacticas.
And yes, I would even say this show deserves to share the same stage with The Wire – that is the biggest compliment I can ever bestow to it.
Update: Blackadder and Only Fools and Horses are the only shows I can think of that are more than 10 years old that I really love.