Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, our TV critic Margaret Lyons offers hyper-specific viewing recommendations in our Watching newsletter. Read her latest picks below, and sign up for the Watching newsletter here.
Watch if … you need something great, and you need a ton of it
“The Good Wife,” which aired on CBS from 2009 until 2016, is one of the best legal dramas of the modern era. It’s not that the show does anything so outrageous or unique, it just does its version to rare excellence, balancing a rich, serialized plot and zesty procedural elements in a world exclusively populated by the brilliant and secretive.
Had “The Good Wife” been a premium cable show or streaming series, there’s no way it would have had all its oddball judges and intriguing guest stars — because it wouldn’t have needed to fill 22 episodes per season. And if it had been extruded from the CBS Procedural Fun Factory, it wouldn’t have its prickly politics or character depth, or its sense of patience.
Julianna Margulies stars as Alicia Florrick, the wife of a newly disgraced state’s attorney, Peter (Chris Noth), who is in jail when the series begins. She joins a tony law firm as a junior associate, working for an old friend from law school (Josh Charles) and a new mentor (Christine Baranski). She thrives on the viciousness of her environs and develops a new sense of self.
But Alicia is an unusual heroine. I walked by a small street art piece a few months ago that said “calm is a super power,” and I thought about that idea a lot during my recent “Good Wife” rewatch. Alicia is calm above all, and where a more pat show might have a moralizing monologue, or a crumpled breakdown, or an “lol, moms know secret tricks!” kind of denouement, that doesn’t happen here. Alicia keeps everything locked down, so she fits in great with other litigators who know you shouldn’t ask questions whose answers might hurt your case.
If you need a real grown-up show, or if you ever think fondly about “Boston Legal,” or if you don’t mind some real adventures in wig design, watch this. It’s so good I watched 17 episodes of it yesterday.
… in order to function properly, your body requires a protein that can be found only in very sad British murder shows
When to watch: Now, on BritBox.
Weeping mothers, determined police officers, sweeping concepts of justice, insistently ringing phones and crinkle-eyed sighing … this new six-part series is based on a true story, so it’s even sadder and more gutting than your traditional sad-and-gutting British murder show.
“A Confession” is slow but well done, but the major draw is the cast, especially Martin Freeman as an enterprising cop and Imelda Staunton and Siobhan Finneran as terrified mothers of missing women. Some modern true crime has an uncomfortable juiciness to it, which is mercifully absent here; there’s a sense of genuine gravity. Put on your crying sweater and go to town.