'The Good Fight' Offers Edgier Version of 'The Good Wife' In Series Debut

Feb 19, 2017
Originally published on February 19, 2017 6:17 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now to television. If you love "The Good Wife," then you will find many of the characters you loved most in the new spinoff series, "The Good Fight" debuting tonight. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says it's a compelling look at a powerful middle-aged woman forced to start over after a high-profile setback just like a certain presidential candidate.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: It's a year after the events in the finale of "The Good Wife," and high-powered attorney Diane Lockhart has prospered so much that she has an announcement for her partners in the tony law firm she founded.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GOOD FIGHT")

CHRISTINE BARANSKI: (As Diane Lockhart) I'm resigning.

ZACH GRENIER: (As David Lee) To go where?

BARANSKI: (As Diane Lockhart) Nowhere. I'm retiring.

GRENIER: (As David Lee) Oh, my God. When?

BARANSKI: (As Diane Lockhart) Two weeks.

DEGGANS: But then a news report about the investment fund where her money is parked dashes Lockhart's hopes of buying a retirement villa in the south of France.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GOOD FIGHT")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Earlier today, the FBI shuttered the invitation-only investment fund calling it a multibillion dollar Ponzi scheme.

DEGGANS: This produces a predictable response from Lockhart who was on the phone with her accountant.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GOOD FIGHT")

BARANSKI: (As Diane Lockhart) Glen, what about my retirement money? [Expletive].

DEGGANS: Viewers watching "The Good Fight" on CBS's streaming service All Access will hear that F word unbleeped, along with a few others. The series debuts tonight on CBS's broadcast network and the streaming platform, but future episodes will only stream online where language standards are a bit looser.

Just as "The Good Wife" featured a cheated-on political wife, Alicia Florrick getting her groove back, "The Good Fight" centers on Diane Lockhart, a smart, professional woman struggling to recover from a humiliatingly public setback. Played by Christine Baranski, Lockhart's forced out of her firm and losing it while talking to her only friend, the husband she is about to divorce.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GOOD FIGHT")

BARANSKI: (As Diane Lockhart) This is my life. It's gone. I'm losing my apartment. I'm unemployable. How is that possible? How is my life suddenly so [expletive] meaningless?

GARY COLE: (As Kurt McVeigh) It isn't.

DEGGANS: What works here is that so much of this series looks and feels like an edgier version of "The Good Wife," the same topical legal plots, the same dashes of absurd humor and "Good Wife" characters like Alicia Florrick's former law partner Lucca Quinn, who now works for an African-American-run law firm that eventually hires Lockhart.

But it's an odd note that Lockhart's rock bottom is joining an all-black law firm, even if that firm has somebody cool as Delroy Lindo making the job offer.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GOOD FIGHT")

DELROY LINDO: (As Adrian Boseman) You're broke, Diane. You're looking for a place to land. Nobody wants you because of this Rendell scandal.

BARANSKI: (As Diane Lockhart) I'm tired, Adrian. I want to go home.

LINDO: (As Adrian Boseman) You know, we're in the midst of expanding. You could be our diversity hire.

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: The first two episodes are still largely focused on white characters like "Game Of Thrones" star Rose Leslie. She rolls out a note-perfect American accent to play Lockhart's god-daughter and mentee who also happens to be the child of the guy who lost all her money. Originally, the first scene in the first episode featured Lockhart watching the inauguration of Hillary Clinton, satisfied that the ultimate glass ceiling had been broken. But instead, producers had to change it because of this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear...

DEGGANS: Still, the rewritten version with a slack-jawed Lockhart's snapping off a TV showing Trump's inauguration makes even more sense. It shows that Lockhart's fight is just beginning as a middle-aged woman reclaiming her life working at a black-run law firm that handles civil rights and police brutality cases in Trump's America. I can't wait to see how her good fight turns out, even if I have to watch it online. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.