Oh Case of the Week, must you torment me so? Occasionally, the "ripped from the headlines" approach can work well both in having built-in inside jokes as well as the opportunity to re-visit perhaps a controversial issue on one's own terms, exploring nuances or alternative outcomes. Sometimes, though, that waivers too dangerously into meta humor that is not so much jokey as just eye-rolling. The part of "Anatomy of a Joke's" COTW that worked was about how Therese (Christina Ricci - yet another guest star!) wasn't really trying to achieve anything more than a cheap laugh poorly executed. The part that failed was the hardly-veiled disdain by the show for, not the FCC's regulations, but the network's, including a few meta-barbs at "being delayed because of football" (as "The Good Wife" often is).
"Anatomy of a Joke" wasn't content to stop there, though - it employed the ole trick of getting past the censors with creative bleeping (which in this case it did with sudden traffic outside of the courthouse whose window was stuck open), and lamented the inability of network shows to show nudity or use profanity. Like "The Good Wife," maybe? Were they steamed that there wasn't the opportunity for naked Kalinda / Nick or naked Alicia / Will? Or for them to curse or show gratuitous violence? It's mostly weird because "The Good Wife" is, lest it forget, a legal procedural, not "Game of Thrones."
The problem with these parts of "Anatomy of a Joke" is that they felt like an excited student's submission of a grand thesis that wasn't fully considered. "The Good Wife" enjoys subverting types, and as such it can sometimes flip characters so much we aren't sure what we're supposed to feel about them.
Lemond Bishop is an example of how this works successfully - he's a gangster, but he's cool and suave and we root for him, then feel conflicted for doing so. But Therese Dodd is a pretty lame comedian in a kind of type where much of the appeal comes from whether you find it subversive that an attractive woman says shocking things. Are we supposed to like Therese? Does it matter? Even she seems confused in the last hearing about why she tells the jokes she does.
In the end the point was that whatever pretenses people like to put up about decency, they're secretly tuning into this so-called "filth" and loving it. Hypocrites, betrayed by Nielsen! Take that!
The rest of "The Good Wife," was (per usual) heads and tails above the COTW plot. The penis birthmark subplot was funny, and a nice way to keep the political smut going without tearing Peter and Alicia further apart. In fact, the two shared some really nice moments, particularly working together at the end where Alicia would say whatever Eli wanted her to regarding said birthmark, and Peter would look into hiring Laura Hellinger (Amanda Peet).
Amanda Peet (guest stars galore!) should make for an interesting addiction to the cast, particularly as she goes up against Lockhart Gardner (the firm always needs to have some of their cases be against the State's Attorney's office, and with Peter in power again and Cary at LG, there needs to be a new frenemy on their side). Why it can't be Geneva I'm not sure - she's always been an underrated character and clearly a very competent attorney who has never fully gotten her due. Still, maybe with focus turning slightly back on that office (and her resentment of Laura) she'll be around more.
Politics generally took a backseat this week, though Maddie* Heyward was revealed as the major political nemesis to Peter, having planted and cultivated the Indira Star story while herself having an affair with a female campaign worker. Twists! Should make for good payoff in coming weeks.
Cary, dear Cary, finally got his own little side-story as well with his father, who flipped the tables on the cliche of the repentant dying parent when it turned out he wasn't (as we all, including Cary, were guessing), and instead was just using his son for an in. Wisely, Cary turned his back on him, and shared a nice friendly moment of bonding with Alicia beforehand. Here's where another plot hole reared its ugly head, though. Why in the world would Therese have been allowed to go on Bill Maher's show (of all people) without either Cary or Alicia there to guide and "handle" her? Didn't they know her well enough by then to know that she would do something stupid? It felt extremely sloppy.
Back in Chicago, Hayden maneuvered again the firm by looking for a buyer. I simply don't understand the demonization of Hayden. His job is to look for the bottom line, and his presence is there because the firm is 60 million dollars in debt. Pause and consider that. 60 million! While I love Diane and champion her and Will's desire to control their firm and not have to lose it, as Berle Preston pointed out to Hayden, "they enjoy intrigue more than making money." Now Hayden is now on the warpath. We'll see if Cary's role as Informant to both Diane and Hayden changes in the coming weeks.
Overall a very typical episode of "The Good Wife" this season. The COTW may leave us wanting (and often seems too convoluted with too many points to make for its own good), but the actual drama and meat of the series is still engaging and a lot of the time quite delightful. If only the show would start shedding its legal framework and move more solidly into politics, I think it could quietly become even better than it already is.
Next Week: Laura is already arguing cases against Alicia, and the judge seems to really hate Lockhart Gardner. And Cary gets attacked ... by Kalinda's husband?
Musings and Miscellanea:
- *Sorry I spell Maddie/Mattie's name differently every week, there hasn't seemed to be a consensus until now!
- Amanda Peet's character Laura doesn't seem like she'll be causing much trouble for Alicia / Lockhart Gardner, but if they keep her around then she is sure to. I'm interested to see how that plays out!
- "It rhymes with 'bits'" - Berle Preston
- I love David Lee, and I particularly liked his Deus ex Machina to end the episode.
- Poor Cary.
- "Safe Harbor" is why so many of my favorite shows that are not on HBO come on at 10pm.
- Throwing in the rape joke thing seemed over the top, that could have had its own episode devoted to that mess, honestly.
- "Do you like Brazilian food?" - mystery caller to Alicia regarding Peter's peter (naughty).
- So Maddie is a lesbian! Or at least bisexual. Like we didn't know.
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