CBS All Access puts up a Good Fight

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Full disclosure number one: I have not seen more than a few moments of an episode of The Good Wife, tuning in to see the shocking death of the Josh Charles character, Will Gardner. What I saw was an extremely well-written and well-acted moment that made me think “why am I not watching this show?” But it was too late to play catch up at that point. But with the new-ish streaming service from CBS, CBS All Access, I decided to give the show’s spin-off The Good Fight a look.

Full disclosure number two: Hotchka has an affiliate partnership with CBS All Access, and any subscriptions made through the links provided on our website help support the upkeep of the site.

If you’re not familiar yet with CBS All Access, it is the subscription-based streaming service from the CBS network that allows members to catch up on current and past episodes, classic shows from the CBS-owned library (from I Love Lucy to the Star Trek franchise), and the service is now branching out into original programming to compete with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon to justify the price. The service launched its original programming with Big Brother Over the Top and was intended to have its first scripted series, Star Trek Discovery online in January. And then April. But production delays and behind-the-scenes turmoil have delayed that show with a new premiere date still to be announced, although the show has gone into production.

The service’s second scripted series, The Good Fight, was scheduled for an April launch but got moved up to February because of the Trek delays. CBS broadcast the first episode of the series (in a decidedly edited version, streaming episodes include language and some nudity not permissible on network television) to generate interest in the show with the “producer’s cut” and second episode available on CBS All Access at the same time. Many viewers enjoyed what they saw on CBS, but just as many said they wouldn’t pay to see more. And to those people I say you’re doing yourself and the show an injustice. (And I’m not just saying that because of the affiliate program.)

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Having only vague knowledge of the original show, I knew only a little about Diane Lockhart, played by Christine Baranski. In the new show, Diane announces to the partners at her law firm — the firm she started — that it was time for her to retire, planning to move to an estate with a view in the south of France. With the paperwork signed, sealed and delivered, Diane’s life is suddenly thrown into turmoil when her financial investments are wiped out in a Ponzi scheme. For Diane, this means no retirement, the freezing of all her assets, the potential loss of her home, and the loss of many friends and associate to whom she recommended invest with her friends. It also means that while she has remained separated from her husband, a divorce should be finalized so as to not affect his own financial well-being (something he refuses to do).

But worst for Diane is her career, now in tatters because her exit paperwork was finalized and the firm has already been restructured, her partners using her own words “the firm is too top heavy” (with about a dozen partner names) against her as justification for not allowing her to rescind her retirement (to say that many of the partners were pleased she was leaving in the first place is an understatement). Diane offered to finish out a case she was working on, and was assigned a new assistant, Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie), who happens to be the daughter of the investor arrested for the embezzlement. Needless to say, the familial relation strains the work relationship between the two women, and Maia is also subjected to verbal abuse by clients and other affected by her father’s actions (while he and his wife maintains his innocence, blaming his brother), ultimately leading to her firing from the firm.

But Maia was sharp as a tack and helped uncover some key evidence in the case on which they worked, except it was evidence to help the defendant. With her world crumbling, Diane gave the evidence to the opposing law team, headed by Robert Boseman (Delroy Lindo), screwing her former firm out of six million dollars. It also garnered her a partnership offer at that firm, something she could not turn down after having been labeled toxic by every other firm in town. As Diane leaves her office for the last time, Maia is sitting outside in shock but Diane, appreciative of her work and obvious talent, takes Maia under her wing and to the new firm.

The second episode, “First Week,” finds Diane making her way in a new firm, predominantly African-American, with a lot of resistance towards her hiring. The established partners are worried the famous Diane Lockhart will steamroll her way through the firm, taking over, causing it to lose its identity. They also worry that Diane will not be bringing her former clients with her since none of them want to be associated with her, so it will be tough going. Diane also has a nemesis in the new office, Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo, a holdover from the final season of The Good Wife), who has obvious dislike for Diane but grudgingly agrees with Boseman that the firm can use her talents. Sarah Steele also joins the series in episode two, reprising her Marissa Gold character, proving no one can assist Diane like she can.

Maia gets a lot more to do in the second episode, being placed with a team of legal advocates for a union doing pro bono work, but not giving any real legal advise. Except Maia is so personable with the “clients” that everyone jumps into her line, refusing to go to the other associates. One case becomes important to her when a worker claims he was wrongly accused of stealing 300 pairs of sneakers and then his paycheck was garnished for the retail price instead of the wholesale price. It seems like an open and shut case, particularly when questions arise as to why the company didn’t fire the man and let him continue to work unsupervised, but things aren’t as black and white as they seem. Lucca has to sign off on the case, Boseman gives the okay to pursue it as a class action suit when more information is revealed, but some late breaking evidence from the prosecution (played by Christine Lahti, reprising her Andrea Stevens role) could turn the case upside down. (Denis O’Hare also makes a return appearance as Judge Charles Abernathy.)

Meanwhile as Diane tries to fit in, Maia’s mother (played by Bernadette Peters) reaches out to her to ask for help in getting her husband representation and to get Maia to speak with her. Diane does go to speak to Henry (Paul Guilfoyle) in jail and Maia does go to visit her mother. But arriving unannounced discovers her mother almost literally in bed with her uncle, opening up the question: did the two conspire to frame Henry?

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If you were a fan of The Good Wife, you should enjoy The Good Fight equally. For a new streaming service to launch its first scripted series with such high quality is a true achievement. The show has the look of a broadcast quality production, and the cast is impeccable. What was assumed to be a series focused mainly on Diane will spend more time on the three central women — Diane, Maia and Lucca — and it’s refreshing to see a series with such strong female characters. It’s also great that the original show’s creators, Michelle and Robert King, are fully involved, maintaining the level of all-around quality of The Good Wife, and even seeming to give a nod to their highly underrated summer series BrainDead in the first episode with several references to flowers in the office.

So the big question is, is this worth a subscription to CBS All Access? With this and Star Trek Discovery, and possibly more Big Brother Over the Top (subscribers also get acces to the live feeds during the summer Big Brother seasons), I would say a resounding yes! I subscribed for Big Brother and am now hooked on The Good Fight. You can try the service free for a week and get a monthly subscription for just $5.99 (with limited commercials). For $9.99, you can get the commercial-free option. CBS All Access, unlike Netflix and the other streamers, will be rolling out one episode of The Good Fight per week on Sunday, with the first season to consist of ten episodes. Are you ready to join Diane Lockhart in her Good Fight?

CBS All Access

 

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