I know that I often talk about (and complain about) the liberal skew of Hollywood productions. Which I think is fair, but I should also point out when they do something I would like to see more of. I had an email exchange recently about politics and entertainment which reminded me of a post I’d long wanted to write about The Good Wife. This post assumes that you have not watched the show, and don’t care to, and will have some relatively inconsequential (or predictable) spoilers.
The basic premise behind The Good Wife is Alicia Florek as a protagonists whose husband is caught in a sexy political scandal, forcing her to transition from a Stay-At-Home-Mother back into the workplace, in this case a law firm. For the most part, though, it’s a political and legal drama with Alicia at the center of it, both in court and with her husband on the political stage.
The show takes place in Chicago, which means that almost all of its politics are going to be skewed to the left. Along these lines, it would have been easy and inconspicuous for conservatives to be notably absent and their view either unrepresented or poorly represented and liberal perspectives to be embedded in the show across the board. For the most part, this is how the show ran for the first few seasons. Though even early on, there were exceptions and indications that they weren’t going to stick with that formula.
The show had (basically) three elections over its run, with almost all of the participants being Democrats because Chicago. In all but one race, the Floreks found themselves up against somebody running to their left. This served to moderate the Floreks, comparatively speaking, as they pursued white and/or centrist voters. This lead to a decent plot thread wherein a member of the Florek family figured out that they were targeting the white vote specifically against his black opponent. But it introduced a degree of ambiguity that served the show well.
Sometimes shows with politics to go out of their way to make all of the bad guys Republicans. They managed to avoid that by recognizing that when they needed an unexpected racist that it might be better to make him a progressive liberal that everybody in the office looked up to. Little things like that matter, especially given “Family Values Republican actually a sexual deviant” is more a cliche than a twist, at this point.
They also introduced Kurt McVeigh (no relation), a reasonably well-developed rightwing character. He was introduced as a ballistics expert, but became the romantic interest to Diane, the most liberal character on the show. Setting aside political preferences and such, it interwove liberal and conservative characters in a way that I would really like to see more of. It’s not just about having different perspectives represented, but it makes for more entertaining television when everybody in the room doesn’t share the same basic orientation.
Where the show really hit its stride in this regard was in the later seasons, when I think they were running out of ideas to keep the show going. Among other things, they brought in Oliver Platt as a conservative character who hired the firm and used Diane to bounce ideas off of. This lead to a great episode where they talked about RFRA and gay wedding cakes. Platt and company talked about the prospects of a cake baker, and eventually isolated a wedding planner as the best case to find and bring suit. Diane, who fell squarely on the side of gay couples, got the last word. But nonetheless it was well done. And from there, Diane went on to help one of Platt’s intermediaries with a PP Video case that she viewed as a First Amendment issue, much to the chagrin of everybody else at the firm.
Though the above may give a faulty impression, The Good Wife falls squarely to the left, on the whole. But impressive-to-me, they never let that get in the way of telling a good or interesting story. I have multiple motivations for getting on my soapbox on the subject, but the most basic reason I want to see more variety is simply because it can make better stories that way. The legal aspects of The Practice were better than Boston Legal simply by having Helen Gamble (Laura Flynn Boyle) on the show. This doesn’t just apply to legal and political dramas (for those in particular, a skew usually makes narrative sense and there is only one skew they can pull off), but more or less anything where politics is likely to come up.
 The exception was the Illinois Governor’s race, wherein Peter was running against Maura Tierney, who was running to his left, and then a general election against Matthew Perry, who played an ideologically nondescript Republican.
 Everything in this post is a simplification. They actually spent more time pursuing the black vote, with Peter forming a bond with a black preacher, and so on. But there were two plot threads wherein the Floreks pursued voters that at least some participants were uncomfortable with. Peter’s dogwhistling and later Alicia’s run against a rumored-to-be-gay David Hyde Pierce.
 One example, The Event, had a protagonist president and an antagonist vice president, so what were they to do? Why, they decided to make it a unity ticket. That way, the president could be a intimated Democrat and the vice president a Republican. Presto!
 Boston Legal did have a couple of conservative characters, but more as foils than anything. Denny Crane was crazy, and Brad Chase was ineffectual. It was – until the end, anyway – better than nothing, but it was what it was.
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