Public Service Announcement 5 of 2016: Madam Secretary, The Good Wife, Elementary

It’s hard for me to say anything about Madam Secretary without sounding as if I’m damning it with faint praise. It’s a solid, carefully-crafted show, with an excellent cast: well-scripted and well-acted TV for grown-ups. This gives it an almost old-fashioned air; drop Mad Sec into the TV landscape of, say, 15 or 20 years ago and it would be hoovering up award nominations. In today’s world of television auteurs producing edgy drama for cable and streaming services, though, it’ll likely manage to go its entire lifespan without crossing Emmy’s radar. It’s good, and I always enjoy it, but it’s never quite felt like essential viewing. In short, what I think I’m saying is that Madam Secretary isn’t The Good Wife. Anyway, it’s back for season 2, and at the moment it looks set for another renewal. Fine by me (tonight, Sky Living, 9pm)

By coincidence The Good Wife itself – the outstanding network drama of its era – returns to UK screens this week for its seventh and, in all likelihood, final go-round: creators/showrunners Robert and Michelle King have indicated that they’re stepping down at the end of the season, and Julianna Margulies has described herself as “unemployed come April”. It might be as well: even Wife stans like Unpopcult wouldn’t argue that season 6 was up to the standards of previous years, and advance word from America would suggest that the decline in quality is ongoing in season 7. Still, even a tired Good Wife is better than just about anything else on TV, so we’ll be watching and reviewing until the end (Thursday 28 January, More 4, 9pm).

And Elementary is back after its mid-season hiatus. No unfunny “comedy” episodes, no overlong and self-indulgent flashback episodes: the best Sherlock currently on TV. Oh yes it is (Thursday, Sky Living, 9pm). Also starting on the same night, season 2 of Agent Carter (FOX UK, 9pm).


4 thoughts on “Public Service Announcement 5 of 2016: Madam Secretary, The Good Wife, Elementary

  1. smkelly8 January 27, 2016 / 4:08 pm

    On the whole I’m with you. I continue to watch Madam Secretary, which I’d say has a mixed cast. I like Tea Leone, Tim Daley, Keith Carradine and Kevin Rahm. If Madam Sec sacked her whole staff, I think it could enhance the show with a reboot. Those kids can be so annoying. I think Barbara Hall’s Joan of Arcadia and Judging Amy were better.

    I stopped watching The Good Wife two or three years ago. Since it’s up against Masterpiece Theater, there’s usually something better on. As a Chicagoan, I’ve always had to put aside how poorly The Good Wife captures Chicagoans. They’ve failed in mining the capturing the spirit of the people in the city. How I’ve wished the writers would take the time to sit in on the courts to do some recognisance and get to know the Hog Butcher of the World. So I’ve watched and mentally change the setting to St. Louis or Anytown, USA.

    As for Elementary, it’s not bad and frankly, I prefer it to the cookie-cutter we get from the other CBS crime-fighting shows.

    We do have lots of auteur, edgy programming, but I’ve never gotten hooked on Breaking Bad, Homeland, House of Cards. They’re like flashy personalities with little (for me) under the surface. I’m discovering Korean drama, which though sentimental can be engrossing.

  2. Jed Bartlet January 27, 2016 / 5:21 pm

    I actually like quite a few of the Mad Sec cast members you haven’t mentioned: I like Geoffrey Arend and Patina Miller, I think Erich Bergen is a find, and I always love Bebe and Željko. I could live without the family, mind you. Kevin Rahm was exactly the hire Madam Secretary needed in season 1: not a household name, perhaps, but a recognisable face, and a smart and idiosyncratic actor.

    Interesting take on TGW; these are nuances I wouldn’t be able to pick up on. I suppose it’s filmed in New York City, so apart from its nominal Chicago setting it doesn’t actually have any connections to the city.

  3. Snoskred January 28, 2016 / 12:11 pm

    I think I commented after seeing the first episode of Mad Sec (love this abbreviation!) – I will be very interested to see what you think of that episode. It was probably my favourite one of the show, ever, and I thought wow, if this continues season 2 is going to be epic.

    Twas not to be, and I think now I have accepted this show is what you say it is, but with one small caveat – it is good and I enjoy it yet sometimes there is an epic cringe at the levels of cheese factor. 🙂

    But The Good Wife, I am actually now MAD at. Why did these people take such a great show and crash it into the ground? Season 7 gave us the worst ever episode, in my opinion. I’m so upset about the terrible storylines I can’t even get excited about the fashion. I’m so upset at the lack of main characters interacting with each other, I can’t even notice any of the occasional good moments.

    And hair and makeup need to take that wig Alicia is wearing and give it a proper funeral, then they might need to perform an exorcism on the room in which the wigs are kept, in case its limp nature and general terribleness spreads to the other wigs! 🙂

  4. Jed Bartlet January 28, 2016 / 4:53 pm

    I really enjoyed the first episode of season 2, definitely one of my favourites. I thought it exemplified the show’s strengths and weaknesses, mind you.

    Good: Henry’s storyline, in particular his doubts about the morality of what he was asked to to. In fact, as ever, all of Tim Daly’s scenes. Željko and Téa sparring. The President Elizabeth stuff was fine, although the show had to reach a bit to get her there. I think I’m next in the line of succession. And I quite like the new someone’s-out-to-get-us plot, even if season 1’s big conspiracy arc was about a plane as well.

    Not so good: the family, in particular daughter and the heroin addict. It’s not the fault of the actors, all of whom are fine, but I just don’t care about the kids, and have never been given a reason to. And the comedy bits just weren’t amusing enough: a Billy Joel song with rewritten lyrics? That’s the sort of thing that The Good Wife – in its imperial phase, anyway – would have made much tougher and funnier. I suspect it might have been there to allow Bebe, Erich and Patina to show off their (considerable) chops.

    Still waiting to see: the new NSA head. That’s a big opportunity for the show to cast someone good, but I’m not familiar with the actor so I don’t know if he’s the man for it.

    On the subject of TGW – it starts tonight in the UK, so we’ll be reviewing soon, although there’s a part of Unpopcult which isn’t looking forward to it; your verdict is by no means an outlier, unfortunately.

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