Veep: Season 1

I wasn’t sure about the pilot, while I laughed at the dialogue, and felt the premise had potential, I hated the characters. Despite that ambivalence I stuck it out for the rest of the season, although if it had been longer than 8 episodes, or I had other things that were just half hour long, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. So, has anything changed since I watched the pilot? No. This is gonna be a very short review.

My dilemma from the pilot was uncertainty about whether the Vice President was as stupid as her colleagues, unfortunately it turns out she is. I really wish they’d made the other choice, there’s plenty of good, smart comedy mileage to be had from the smart person surrounded by fools. Instead she and her co-workers manage to not only be incompetent at their jobs, but also for the most part pretty unpleasant people happy to sell each other, and their principles completely down the river for their own agendas. Of course those agendas are usually trying to cover up, or recover from their previous incompetences, but of course their ongoing stupidity means they fail in their cover-ups and the whole thing spirals depressingly out of control.

The only positive is that the show continued to have some solid dialogue – really brutal, witty insults and comebacks between all the characters, just the kind of thing you expect from the writer of The Thick of It. But it just isn’t enough. The fact that I made it through the season at all is actually a bit of a mystery to me, I can’t actually remember why I didn’t give up as soon as the second episode turned out to be reducing itself to the level of diarrhoea jokes. I won’t be back for season 2.

Sons of Anarchy: Season 4

As with all seasons of Sons of Anarchy, I allowed this one to stock up on the Sky+ box until I could watch the whole lot in a burst, it really does work more as a 13 hour story than as a collection of 1 hour episodes. It’s still as addictive as it’s ever been, I had to force myself to move off the sofa and not watch 5 or 6 episodes back to back.

In my season 3 review I was very critical of the storyline, I didn’t get on board with the IRA and Ireland storyline, and felt many of the ‘heroes’ were acting out of character. Thankfully season 4 is back in Charming and the characters are back to their usual selves, in fact many are revealing their true colours.

Sons of Anarchy has always been about people doing the wrong things for the right reasons – the Sons are all about protecting their town, their families and the extended family of the club. They’re devoted to each other and have a strong code, but they achieve all that through threats, bribes, violence, gun running and murder. This season presents the challenge of what happens when all that comes inside the club, if one member feels the club is threatened by another member. Now who’s on the side of right and who’s not?
Over the course of the season the levels of secrets and machinations build and build and build. The tension for the characters and audience is astronomical by the end of the season. And that’s without even getting into the new deals that the Sons start running which include multiple other clubs, drug cartels and the IRA gun sellers. I’ll be honest, I struggled to keep it all straight and often lost track of who knew what and what outcome each character was working towards.

As always, the police and various representatives of the Law are just as morally dubious as the Sons are. They use dirty tricks, manipulation and ruthlessness, potentially causing as much damage as the Sons are. Everyone this season is plotting and lying to everyone else, trying to find anyone with the moral high ground is nigh on impossible, although the new sheriff gives it a try admirably and finds why it’s such a hard place to stay.

The acting throughout is stunning and yet again criminally completely overlooked by all the awards bodies. Katey Segal is breathtaking as she increasingly desperately tries to manipulate everyone to keep her family together and Maggie Siff’s gradual transformation into the same role is well played. Theo Rossi as Juice came from being a low level background character to having an emotional arc that just about broke my heart. Ron Perlman meanwhile leaves the soft side of Clay behind and commits completely to the menacing and terrifying calculating thug that he apparently has always been.

I love Sons of Anarchy. It’s so powerful and complex, but doesn’t lose sight of characters and what drives them – they’re all just trying to protect their loved ones and they love powerfully and unashamedly. But the series is not easy to watch because you know that it will all end very badly for these people. The way the tension grows through the season is claustrophobic, everything just gets worse and worse and possible escape roads are blocked or just not taken. Everyone is spiralling towards disaster and all they can do is try to slow the descent.

Of course, if that all sounds a little too much, it’s still a very enjoyable action packed series with plenty of guns, explosions, some fast motorbike rides and witty dialogue. The symbolism did get a little heavy handed in the last couple of episodes, but usually it’s all very subtle. Sons of Anarchy is one of those series that is not about what it says on the tin, I’m not saying a show about a motorcycle club would necessarily be a turn off for me (everyone loves fast bikes surely?) but under the leather surface is a stunningly complex and fascinating drama.

Links
My reviews of seasons one, two and three.
Guardian, Hollywood Reporter, The AV Club

You can get most of the seasons on DVD for the complete bargain of a tenner at Amazon

CSI: Season 12

It’s been a tumultuous couple of seasons for CSI with major cast changes leaving the line-up almost unrecognisable. I’m broadly in favour of that, new characters bring new life to the show which would otherwise surely be pretty stale by now. Unfortunately there’s also been some wild variation in the quality of the writing and storylines. While I praised season 10 and the introduction of Laurence Fishburne to the cast, I was critical of season 11 because the destroyed his character by giving him some kind of hammy arch-nemesis like a melodramatic comic book. So he’s out for season 12, Catherine is demoted and Ted Danson is brought in to lead the ship.

I found it interesting that Fishbourne despite being the top billed actor, and the oldest character he was a relatively junior CSI, but I’m not sure it really worked long term, too quickly the other more experienced characters deferred to him. Danson however can lead both the cast and the characters and just fits in more naturally to the structure. His quirkiness never overwhelmed his competence and he was a nice balance of new and commanding, while respectful and supporting. Being a laid back family guy made a really nice change to the mostly career obsessed, highly strung characters. I was dubious at first, but I actually liked him a lot and he felt like a better replacement for Grissom.

His character however didn’t leave much space for Catherine, and it wasn’t long before she started the drawn out process of leaving. I’ve never particularly warmed to Catherine as a character, I found her too quick with emotional reactions and too hypocritically critical of others. So I can’t say I was particularly fussed about her leaving, or really missed her after she was gone. Morgan on the other hand made a nice addition to the cast, bringing a bit of youthful enthusiasm back that has been missing since Greg became a boring grown up. Being the estranged daughter of Ecklie also brought that character more into the fold after a dozen seasons loitering on the periphery. She even managed to humanise the otherwise stunningly irritating Hodges a little bit. I’m still on the fence about the other new character – Finlay, thus far she’s just come across as a bit of a thoughtless loose cannon, but again, she at least brings some new energy to the series.

After the disastrous drawn out storyline of Nate Haskell from the last two seasons it was rather a relief that there was no ongoing storyline this year. With all the character changes that was enough to tie the season together. The cases were the usual collection of unremarkable murders interspersed with looks into unusual communities or lifestyles, nothing particularly remarkable, but generally entertaining.

I said about season 10 that it felt like everything was coming together, but then it all fell apart in season 11. That leaves me pretty nervous about saying that season 12 felt pretty good and seemed to be setting up the new generation of the series. Thanks to the cast changes the series doesn’t feel old at all (comparing for something like NCIS which has barely changed the main cast at all and so feels ancient and repetitive at ‘just’ 9 seasons). CSI continues to be a show that’s reliable entertainment, but is unlikely to ever clamber back to the top of either the ratings or anyone’s favourite shows list. Still, as NCIS proved by contrast, even just being ‘reliable entertainment’ is nothing to be sniffed at.

Castle: Season 4

Season 4 of Castle, doesn’t time fly. It actually feels like I’ve sent considerably more time with these characters than just four seasons. I mean that in a good way, the characters feel like people that I’ve known for years, maturing and adapting and going through life’s little tribulations (attempted murder, explosions, epic betrayal, you know the day to day stuff).

Castle sits alongside shows like Bones which are happy and comfortable in their place at the somewhat sillier end of the procedural spectrum. They don’t take themselves too seriously and usually focus on quirky cases rather than angst ridden investigations into the darkest crimes. I guess it’s actually pretty concerning to be treating murders as ‘fun’ just because the victims and suspects were involved in zombie walks or reality dance shows, but we’ve got to get our entertainment somewhere. There’s also usually just about enough emotional response to make you not feel like a complete monster.

The show is of course carried by Nathan Fillion, he’s the reason I started watching and his character continues to be one of the best out there, a perfect blend of irritation and charm, capable of bouncing between child-like enthusiasm and grown-up intelligence and honesty. Increasingly though I realise what a fine job Stana Katic is doing as his partner. She lets just enough humour shine through that she’s not ‘just’ the straight man and her balance of fondness and irritation with Castle is adorable. Maybe Bones’ success at creating a believable and actually rather lovely relationship between it’s two main characters has weakened me, but when Castle and Beckett eventually stopped dancing around each other at the end of the season, I wasn’t annoyed. I actually find myself really intrigued to see what happens next season without any of the sense of dread I would have had in the past.

I do wish they’d do a little more with the other supporting characters. Alexis was the only one who really got any sort of arc this year, and it was very well written and acted. Watching her go through her last year of school and struggle to decide where to go to college, torn between reluctance to leave home and excitement at the possibilities ahead was sweet and interesting, particularly when combined with watching Castle correspondingly struggle with pride and ambition for her, but sadness that she’s growing up. Their relationship is beautifully played out and right up there with Veronica and Keith Mars on the wonderful father-daughter relationship rankings.

It’s a shame the other supporting characters don’t really get much to do. Ryan and Esposito are always entertaining, their easy going and very well established partnership a good contrast to Castle and Becket who continually question their partnership. But I’d like to see Ryan and Esposito do a little bit more than just the grunt work and exposition delivery. As everything came together for Beckett and Castle at the end of the season, it seemed to be breaking apart for Ryan and Esposito and I really hope that the fallout of that is given some good screen time next season.

Like Bones and NCIS Los Angeles, this show knows what it is and plays to its strengths, focussing on what the audience loves – the charismatic actors, geeky storylines, and bucket loads of fun banter. The episodes that I find least interesting are actually the ones with the biggest plots, the two parter in the middle of the season with a whole conspiracy theory and national threat thing going on I just found rather tedious. It’s an easy going show, comfortable to settle in with over dinner at the end of a long day.

Smash: Season 1

Each year I seem to fall in love with a couple of shows, generally I can form eloquent reviews explaining why this particular show is so worthy of my adoration, but other times I’m left writing a review that’s full of criticism and yet inexplicably ends with a fuzzy waffly bit about how I love it anyway. The good news for Smash is I love it, the bad news for my poor readers is that it’s hard for me to explain why.

When I watched the pilot I complained that it was full of cliché characters and that remained 90% true through the series. The initial characters are joined by a supporting cast of stereotypes – a demanding an neurotic movie star, a phenomenally camp male dancer and his accompanying ditzy female counterpart, a gruff bartender with a heart of gold… they just keep rolling. None is quite so irritating as Ellis however, the smarmy assistant with delusions of being a producer who borders on pantomime villain at times, pushing the boundaries of the patience of both the rest of the characters and the audience. Having a villain is fine, having one that’s not the tiniest bit threatening, just really annoying – that seems rather dumb.

As I say, those stereotypes are true 90% of the time, it’s the remaining 10% that some of the magic comes from and the characters and relationships become fascinating. Ivy and Karen are constant competitors, but when the former isn’t conniving and the latter isn’t simpering, they have immense respect for each other’s talents and actually support each other. The cliché romance between the director and the star actually turns into an interesting look at how a real relationship can work between people working together in show-business. Tom and Julia separately are bordering on completely non-functional, but their longstanding friendship and professional partnership gives them grounding. Even Angelica Houstan’s over the top producer shows her humanity when she’s fighting for the show she believes in.

A big part of my enjoyment of Smash is that the characters are good at what they do. I’ve commented in a few reviews recently that I get frustrated when characters in shows are written stupid just to drive plots, if the show is supposed to be set in a world that requires people to be smart, you can’t cheat just to make a storyline work. What I loved about Smash was that although people made mistakes and have crappy personal lives, they weren’t generally stupid or unprofessional. The plots and troubles of the musical all felt like the sort of things that just happen, through natural circumstances or plain old bad luck. The exceptions to that were the aforementioned Ellis and Julia’s affair and subsequent flapping which was a bum note in the middle of the season that, just as you thought it was finally out of the way, staged an irritating comeback at the end.

It’s important to acknowledge that this isn’t a gimmick show, it’s not like Glee which is all about getting to a song and dance number at the end of the episode and delivering the message of the week. For the most part Smash’s fantastically choreographed and performed musical numbers are either from the show-within-the-show, or spontaneous sing-alongs which I chose to believe can happen if you’re surrounded by musical theatre actors. The plots don’t feel manufactured to get to a big musical number, they feel like natural stories that happen in the production of a musical and in the lives of some rather highly strung artistic types. In fact the plots around developing the musical were completely fresh and really did keep me guessing, I never knew what was going to happen, what issues would develop and how they would be resolved, nothing was predictable but it all fit together satisfyingly.

Smash isn’t exactly a challenging show, but neither is it one that you have to switch your brain off for just to enjoy it. I cared about the characters, I was intrigued by the stories and entertained by both the musical numbers and the snappy dialogue. All that comes from a talented and charismatic bunch of actors, good writing and fresh feeling direction (all helped by a hefty budget I’m sure). I knew nothing about how a Broadway show was put together and the story of its development was absolutely fascinating and I can’t wait to see where both shows go next season.

Criminal Minds: Season 7

Criminal Minds has had a couple of seasons of cast shake-ups, but season 7 was all about getting the band back together and returning both Prentiss and JJ to the fold. On the plus side it’s like very little ever changed. On the downside… it’s like very little ever changed. This isn’t going to be a particularly long review!

My resounding feeling at the end of the season was that it was… fine. The characters are now well established and generally pretty consistent. JJ was the only one that bucked the trend, she seems to have come back from her year with the Pentagon something of a super agent, not just now as good a profiler as everyone else, but also a bit of a kick ass action hero. Prentiss on the other hand came back from the grave pretty much unchanged which meant her sudden decision at the end of the season to leave the team again came a bit out of left field.

As per usual with Criminal Minds the attempts to do larger stories around the characters’ personal lives feel somewhat out of place. We’re introduced to Rossi’s ex-wife only to have her die of a terminal illness a couple of episodes later. It feels rather like cheating to introduce a never before seen character just to kill them off to see the effect on a central character. There was a similar problem with bringing JJ’s boyfriend in for the final episodes just so he could be held hostage and upset JJ. The more gradually introduced character of Hotch’s new girlfriend was handled a lot more smoothly and therefore had more long term impact.

The weekly cases were all variously bleak, depressing, gory, creepy and occasionally downright disturbing. I didn’t really remember any of them as particularly outstanding, and there didn’t seem to be as many high profile guest stars as previous seasons. I might have liked a little bit more in the way of long term storylines, but I did enjoy watching each episode so maybe I shouldn’t push my luck.

I genuinely can’t think of anything else to write about the season. Criminal Minds is an absolutely reliable series, always entertaining and interesting, but rarely particularly innovative. However compared to some of the other shows out there, reliable and competent is apparently more challenging than it may seem.

NCIS Season 9 and NCIS LA Season 3

It seems a bit of a cheat to review these two together, but to be honest each review would so heavily referencing the other series anyway they might as well be combined. The thing is that NCIS LA is great and was one of my goto shows for reliable entertainment this year, while NCIS Original is rubbish and I struggled to bother watching most of the season.

It’s not like NCIS LA is going to be winning any Emmys or anything, but it hits what it aims for – a fast paced and entertaining action movie boiled down to 45 minutes each week. The plots are unspectacular but definitely get the job done in providing opportunities for running around, shooting people, interrogating bad guys, driving fast cars, blowing stuff up, using cool gadgets, playing over the top undercover roles and generally being loud.

NCIS original flavour on the other hand just doesn’t seem to be having as much fun. There’s more politics, the forensics that used to be cool are now just a bit tired and dull and the explosions seem to be limited to the occasional splashy two-parter. It’s now categorised as a show I’d shove on in the background while cooking or ironing and once something’s relegated to background noise it’s very hard to come back.

The biggest difference between the shows though is in the characters. We’ve spent 9 years with the original characters and I’m just plain fed up of complaining about the inconsistent way they’re written. It’s like they take turns being the competent one and all the others are forced into idiot roles. One week Tony is a hugely experienced and talented (if quirky) investigator, the next he’s a frat boy clown. One week Ziva is a highly trained operative, the next she’s losing her temper and over-reacting. One week McGee is still the inexperienced probie he was when introduced but other weeks he actually remembers he’s got nearly a decade of field experience and really isn’t a child any more. There’s no sense of continuity or growth and it’s insulting to those of us that pay attention. The only positive is that the talented actors each actually manage to pull off all those personalities convincingly.

NCIS LA on the other hand actually focuses on the characters and their relationships, and rewards the loyal viewers with continuous (all be it very gradual) character development. Characters behave consistently but not woodenly, and have entertaining personality traits without becoming caricatures. They manage to have fun, make mistakes and have emotions without ever putting the audience in doubt that they are still extremely competent professionals. The building of the relationships and partnerships is particularly charming, I’m far more interested in Deeks and Kensi’s relationship than I ever have been in Tony and Ziva’s.

The only worry I really have is that the decline of NCIS is inevitable, that by keeping a series going for that long without occasionally shaking things up, it ends up becoming either dull, or a parody of itself. CSI original flavour has stayed reasonably fresh for 12 years by continually shuffling characters in and out and bringing new people in. The main team on NCIS hasn’t changed since Ziva joined in season 3, the only other cast changes have been the swapping of the director from Jenny Shepard to Leon Vance in season 6 and frankly neither really felt like a central character. They need new characters to make things interesting again, the introduction of Jamie Lee Curtis’ recurring character was a start, but she only really had an impact on Gibbs so her impact was extremely limited.

With all those complaints, I’m finally calling time on NCIS and dropping it from my watch list. The good thing about the series’ lack of consistency is that I can always drop in for occasional episodes that the grapevine says are worth watching. As my enjoyment of NCIS:LA grew, it just showed how old and out of touch its older sibling was. NCIS LA is fun, lively, entertaining and exciting, NCIS original just plain isn’t.

Bones: Season 7

Generally with “will-they-won’t-they” relationships, I come down on the side of hoping they won’t, and that preference was enthusiastically true for all but the last three minutes of the first six seasons of Bones. I always thought of them as a more interesting partnership and friendship than romantic couple and got frustrated with endless blathering from ‘shippers’. But for whatever reason, the writers decided to pull the plug and not just have them start a relationship, but jump straight to living together, buying a house, and having a baby.

And it worked.

I should have trusted the writers and actors, they have such a great grasp of their characters that whatever situation they are in, they still behave consistently. So even though they’re now dealing with a new relationship and pregnancy, neither character really changes, they just grow. Brennan remained apparently emotionally removed, preferring analysis and verifiable evidence over instinct and feelings, but she was given more opportunities to show that she does care about people. Booth meanwhile was adorably protective without being overbearing or controlling – he never tries to change Brennan, he just gives her a nudge occasionally.

With a reduced episode count (due to Emily Deschanel’s actual pregnancy) and the not unwelcome focus on Booth and Brennan’s relationship and eventual baby arrival, there wasn’t really a great deal of time left for any other characters or plots, which is a bit of a shame. The regular cases were unremarkable and continued to be rather emotionally removed (see my season 6 review) . The recurring villain of the all powerful geek was a little tired and didn’t really feel like it fit with this show particularly well.

All the other supporting characters continued much of a muchness, Hodgins and Angela are fun and interesting as new parents, but got very little to do. Cam remains a bit preachy and Sweets got a bit over-the-top about being a field agent for a while but settles down again. The ever rotating group of interns continue to provide some variation, but could do with finally developing a bit more (and I’m not sold on Finn the new one yet). Tina Majorino was an interesting occasional addition, it’s nice to see some new people for Booth to play with too.

Booth and Brennan’s relationship was a shot of adrenalin for the show; where I thought it would damage my enjoyment it’s actually really increased it. It feels a bit petulant to be complaining that the other elements of the show haven’t taken a similar step forward and ‘just’ remain dependably ok, but I worry that without progress there season 8 is going to struggle to match the excitement and interest that made season 7 really stand out.

Game of Thrones: Season 2

It’s always good to start off a review with a disclaimer but I wanted to make clear upfront that this review is entirely of the television series. I think any work has to stand by itself, not relying on other versions to fill in gaps, or use problems in the original work as excuses for flaws. Fortunately I don’t have to trip over myself trying to separate the two, because I’ve not actually read the books, but friends who have reliably inform me that many of the problems of the series are actually authentic to the books. If you’re making an adaptation of source material in a new format, the keyword is adaptation – unless you’re just repeating every line of dialogue from the book exactly, you’re making changes and therefore you can also change the stuff that’s a bit rubbish. Maybe these ‘features’ work in a book, but they don’t translate to television and the work has to be appropriate for the media that it’s in.

So what’s my problem with Game of Thrones season 2? Too much stuff! By my rough estimate there were about a dozen story lines running through the season, with fairly minimal overlapping between them. So let’s do some maths – there are 10 episodes of an hour each, so 12 story lines will get roughly 50 minutes each. Not every thread appears in each episode, so each story thread gets about 10 minutes every other episode. That’s 2, maybe 3 scenes, and many of the story lines don’t even get that many. For the new characters and stories, there was never enough time to properly understand or care about the characters, and there was no momentum to their stories. But meanwhile for the characters that you did care about you were endlessly frustrated to only be with them in tiny flashes before being dragged away somewhere else. I spent a good chunk of each episode sounding like my grandmother – “Who’s that?, What’s he doing? Why is he doing that then?”

Some of the stories got a distinctly lacklustre showing, poor Daenerys spent the first half of the season just stuck in a desert, when all we really want to know about is her dragons. She did eventually get an interesting story to work with and a bit more time, but it was still a very long frustrating time until the dragons that had been revealed with such excitement at the end of season 1 actually got to do anything. Somehow Rob Stark, despite leading a massive war had barely anything to do, his only big storyline involved the old love-at-first-amputation trick. There were tiny scenes and characters that seemed a lot more interesting, but they never got a chance – Renly Baratheon’s weird threesome and the younger Stark boys and their advisor in Winterfell for example. I will divert from relentless criticism though to mention that I did find the development of Sanza’s character and situation surprisingly interesting and it actually had just the right amount of screentime.

Back to the criticisms – the slightly relentless stupidity and whining of character also got pretty grating. Circe drinking herself into a mope because it turns out her son is a sociopath (she hadn’t noticed?), Stannis being endlessly horrified at his own allegiance with the demented religious woman and then getting seduced by her over and over, Theon and Rob brooding about their poor lots in life, everyone obsessed with increasingly random quests, rivalries and feuds… I’m definitely on the side of the dragons burning everything down.

Plot wise there were plenty of frustrations, mostly built around my inability to keep track of who anyone was, just as I caught up they tended to get killed. There was a massive plot hole in the final episode which was just plain shoddy (where did all the soldiers go) and by the time the zombies arrived I’d just about had enough – really, zombies? That’s where we’re going? Oh and don’t get me started again on the utterly unnecessary nudity and violence.

I very nearly gave up on the season after the first couple of episodes and only one thing stopped me doing that – the absolutely superb Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. It almost feels like he’s in a completely different show to everyone else. It feels like he actually exists in, understands and impacts the world around him, while everyone else feels like a flat character in a book. He’s hilarious, he’s smart, he’s terrified… he’s actually a person! I adore him.

Fortunately the last few episodes of the season pick up the pace a bit and indeed, focus more on the story lines that Tyrion touches, so I have a warmer feeling for the season at the end than I did in the middle. Game of Thrones got through the first season based on its originality (in the sense that there’s no fantasy on TV, not that the fantasy itself is original). It got through the second season on a couple of isolated performances that rise above the writing. If it wants me to get through the third it’s going to have to do something more again, and that doesn’t mean introducing more characters, it means giving the ones they’ve got a chance to thrive.

The Good Wife: Season 3

There isn’t much on network television these days that I would label as ‘superb’, that praise tends to be with-held for cable shows and frankly not very often even then. Shows on network channels in the US are always desperate to maximise the number of people watching, particularly in key demographics and for some reason that doesn’t generally seem to correlate with what I for one consider high quality. The Good Wife was ranked 26th in the ratings this year, while above it were shows like NCIS, NCIS LA, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, CSI and Castle. There’s nothing wrong with those shows, I watch and enjoy them all (well, maybe not so much NCIS but that’s another story) but fundamentally they play for entertainment not quality. The Good Wife really is in a different league, and I’m genuinely not sure whether to be depressed that quality only ranks at 26th, or pleased it is as high as that at all.

The Good Wife has got all the right ingredients, a talented and charismatic cast, interesting characters with a network of complex relationships and a good balance between gradually evolving long term story arcs and well thought out episodic plots. When I write it out like that it doesn’t sound like rocket science, but it’s amazing how few shows actually get it right.

The last point in particular is one that procedurals struggle with, too often the cases of the week (be they medical, criminal or legal) are instantly forgettable, or the arc storylines are unevenly developed with mad rushes of character issues generally prompted by unlikely disasters to engineer cliffhangers. The Good Wife manages to inter-weave the plots seamlessly, the way that normal people’s lives work combining the day job with big life choices.

The best thing for me however with this show is the cast. Everyone on the show from the regulars to the astonishing guest stars are veteran performers and their experience shines through. They have a lightness of touch that makes every scene and every line a joy, simple looks between characters or lines of dialogue are delivered so beautifully that they have me reaching for the remote to re-wind. Just in the last episode simple things like Will and Alicia leaning against the wall of the lift (echoing the end of the previous season), or Will’s response to bad news (“oops”) had me grinning because they were just so understated and well done.

I did have some criticisms of the second season, particularly the Kalinda storyline which just seemed a bit daft. Thankfully that was toned down a lot this season and she went back to being a mysterious and complex character, instead of a nut case. There were a few plot developments that maybe stretched credulity, but I mostly gave them a pass as it’s possible that lawyers and politicians (and even worse – the murky waters of the state’s attorney office that combines both) really are that mean and vicious. On the plus side those moments did bring in some of the best guest stars including Matthew Perry, Michael J. Fox and Martha Plimpton, three hugely likeable actors playing epically unpleasant characters. Jackie, the \Good Wife’s Mother-in-Law meanwhile is becoming a slightly pantomime character, she makes her son seem like a pushover compared to her ambitions.

I love this show. It’s funny – the characters may be big important lawyers, but they still have fun and stumble through normal problems like Diane’s awkward romantic endeavours, Eli dealing with a headstrong daughter or Will being harassed by his sisters. The moments of friendship are beautiful – Will and Diane dancing, Kalinda and Alicia gradually working their way back to sharing tequila and feel so grounded and well earned. I enjoy watching the show, I find the storylines interesting and challenging and genuinely care about the characters for all their flaws. I realise this review is a bit on the gushy side, but really amongst so much mediocre ‘okay-ness’ out there, The Good Wife is an absolute gem.