Why The Good Wife is my legal high

The end is coming for Julianna Marguiles' Alicia Florrick – and TV editor Alison Graham is devasated


I’m a legal nerd. I can’t help it. When I was a news reporter, there was little I loved more than sitting through a Crown Court trial, making copious notes in my brilliant, flowing shorthand (ahem) then belting off to find a free public phone after the jury brought in its verdict.


Dear young people, we didn’t have mobile phones and laptops. We filed stories straight from our notebooks, via our actual human voices, to real people clacking away on typewriters. I’d be terrified to do that now. My shorthand is illegible through lack of use; it looks like some sort of automatic writing from a bored ghost at a very bad séance.

Some reporters hated courts but not me. I’m a nosey parker who’s endlessly surprised by the terrible things that people do. You learn, too, that crime isn’t glamorous and criminals aren’t gimlet-eyed masterminds. They are, generally, ill-used and pathetic people. Though some are rotten to their howling souls. I remember one multiple murderer and serial rapist who’d smile up at me in the press gallery from the dock. He probably thought he was being charming. So yes, I’m a nerd. I love law reports, anything to do with court cases, and I love reading actual laws (hooray for the treasures of the internet and my ability to find every cough and spit of the Offences against the Person Act 1861). As I do so, I sometimes remember my lovely dad’s brutally pragmatic careers advice: “Go into law. That’s where the money is.”

If The Good Wife had been on telly when I was a kid, and if I hadn’t decided at the age of six that I wanted to be a journalist, I’d have gone into law. It looks fabulous – great clothes and the opportunity to wear statement jewellery. Never mind the thrill of being asked to “approach the bench”. I’d love to “approach the bench” and oh how I want to be kick-ass law firm boss Diane Lockhart (the always magnificent Christine Baranski).


The Good Wife, which stars Julianna Margulies as a woman who returns to practising law after putting her career on hold to support her faithless politician husband, is my Breaking Bad, my The Sopranos, my favourite of all American series. Apart from Hill Street Blues, but that’s placed on a special shelf in my TV Heaven where it will remain untouchable. Just to the right of the first four series of Frasier.

I know The Good Wife so very well after seven series that I wondered aloud in last week’s RT if it might be belting towards its end. Stories are being pushed through thick and fast and there’s a fin de siècle sense about the whole thing. I wasn’t pleased to be proved right when, during a break in the Super Bowl, its network CBS announced that this current series would indeed be The Good Wife’s last.

Oh, I’m so sad about this. Maybe, as others will argue, it long ago went off the boil (I disagree), but there are few shows on TV, British or American, that at least have that veneer of intelligence mixed with a good dollop of gloss. The Good Wife is smart and funny and is bold enough to explore “difficult” current themes – abortion rights, the right to die, the killing of young black men by police officers. And something about “Bitcoin” that I’ll never understand.


I’ll miss it when it goes, and I suspect nothing of its ilk will ever come along again, at least on mainstream television. It’s too clever, which, in a world that worships idiocy, is its death warrant.