Posted in Broadway Musicals, Music, Theater

The Sound of Broadway–Reprise

Ah. Broadway! It’s been a while since I did a round-up of some favorite cast albums, so a sequel is definitely in order. All of these have taken up residence in my MP3 player, as they’re well worth the listen.

The New York City Center’s “Encores!” series has rescued a number of musicals which have fallen into obscurity, closed prematurely due to plain bad luck or are just ripe for revival. “Encores!” productions, all of very limited runs, were initially semi-staged, but later blossomed into more elaborate performances. Some have transferred to Broadway: the current production of “Chicago” that’s been running for the last 20 years began as an “Encores!” presentation, and many fine recordings have resulted from the work of this series.

The latest is an absolute gem that memorializes the revival of Lerner and Loewe’s “Brigadoon,” that starred Patrick Wilson and Kelli O’Hara. Before this I had never really been a fan of the show, which relies on the fairy-tale premise of a magical village that avoids the strife of the world by appearing for only one day each century. It has some lovely songs: “Come To Me, Bend To Me,” “The Heather on the Hill,” and especially “Almost Like Being In Love,” the musical’s hit tune. A number of years ago John McGlinn, the conductor responsible for the classic recording of “Show Boat,” recorded “Brigadoon” with Brent Barrett and Rebecca Luker. Much as I admire these performers, I wasn’t impressed. The tempos were slower than they should have been, and the approach taken was too sunny bright, even though there’s a darker side to the story. It seemed like a first tentative reading of the score. I listened to it once and put it away.

The new “Encores!” recording, which was only released a few months ago, is another matter entirely. It’s wonderfully alive. There’s an urgency to the performance—the chorus of villagers in “Down on MacConnachy Square” is brisk and beautifully sung. Kelli O’Hara is such a natural for Fiona that it’s almost ridiculous. Listening to this recording, I was struck by how high her music lies—I believe only Cunegonde in Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” sits higher. But it’s Patrick Wilson who makes the difference in this recording. Whether in song or dialogue, he presents as a true believer in the magic of Brigadoon, which in turn makes true believers of us. These two performers, along with a vibrant Stephanie J. Block as Meg , Ross Lekites as Charlie, and the rest, seem to have had a wonderful time playing this show, as you can see here. My recommendation: Buy it before it goes out of print or otherwise disappears.

Moving from the introverted to the extroverted (to say the least), perhaps the best represented Broadway show on disk is “Gypsy,” with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and an exceptionally strong book by Arthur Laurents.  The gifts this show provides are endless: that classic overture during which the audience always loses it when the strip music begins; a female starring role that’s generally acknowledged to be the Mount Everest of musical roles; and the strippers’ “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” perhaps the best showstopper in Broadway history, among other charms. The musical runs an emotional gamut ranging from show business love letter to wrenching self-confession. Louise, aka Gypsy Rose Lee, isn’t the only one who strips; her mother Rose peels away many emotional layers to admit a core desire: “Someone tell me when is it my turn?”

The original cast album with Ethel Merman is of course the blueprint of performance, presenting the creators’ original intentions. It’s been followed by a number of worthy Roses: Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Imelda Staunton, all of whose performances are available on CD or through streaming services. Each of their recordings is interesting, all valid in one particular or another. I saw Bernadette Peters perform the role onstage (twice) and Bette Midler in the made for TV version, though after listening to the Tyne Daly recording, I really wish I had seen her on stage.

Which recording do I prefer? Your mileage may vary, but my vote goes to  Bernadette, not just because I’m a fan. This seems to contain every note of music in the show, with if not the original orchestrations, some accurate facsimiles. I like her approach to the role–she charms more, shouts less, though there’s some steel there. She’s partnered by John Dossett as Herbie, and refreshingly, the man can really sing. The other recorded Herbies are funny and cute when they can’t carry a tune, but it makes a big difference when there’s a Herbie who can be Rose’s musical foil. And we finally get to hear in their entirety the four strip acts Louise performs on her way to becoming a Minsky’s headliner (This was a wonder to see in the theater—there must have been an army of dressers on each side of the stage to facilitate each costume change). Beginning as a scared to death newbie, she audibly grows in confidence and delight in performing.

The runner-up in the “Gypsy” recording sweepstakes for me is the one with Patti LuPone. I’m not a particular fan of hers, but Laura Benanti is the best Louise on disk. It’s interesting to hear a soprano sing it, plus she plays the comedy exceptionally well—her wickedly accurate imitation of Patti LuPone during one of her strips is worth the price of the recording. Whichever one you favor, enjoy the score of one of the greatest musicals ever written.

One of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen is “The Prom,” now running on Broadway. The story begins with four narcissistic Broadway actors in need of some good publicity who come to the aid of a gay Indiana teenager. The problem? Her desire to take her girlfriend to their prom has resulted in the event’s cancellation by the town’s powers that be. The results are hilarious but with an underlying sweetness that makes the audience cheer. And yes, there’s a prom for all at the end where girl gets girl.

The original cast album is an excellent representation of the work of composer Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, author of the exceptionally witty lyrics. When I first heard the score I thought it a bit generic, but subsequent listening reveals the frequent references to other Broadway shows, in the same fashion the lyrics allude to these other musicals. Broadway diva Dee Dee’s song, “It’s Not About Me” has the rhythmic pulse of “America” from “West Side Story,” and the ending of Emma’s ballad, “Unruly Heart,” is reminiscent of “One Boy” from “Bye Bye Birdie,” as if to say straight or gay, a teenager is still a teenager. Taking the cake, though, is “Zazz,” a Kander & Ebb/Bob Fosse send-up sung by Angie, a girl who’s been in the chorus of a “Chicago” touring company for twenty years, who instructs Emma in the art of strutting her stuff.

“The Prom” cast album presents many other rewards: Christopher Siebert’s ringing tenor in “Love Thy Neighbor,” as he demonstrates that cherry-picking the Bible is not a good idea; Brooks Ashmanskas’ “Barry’s Going to the Prom,” as he finally has the opportunity to make up for what he missed out on as a gay teenager; and Caitlin Kinnunen and Isabelle McCalla as Emma and Alyssa, who share the same vocal range and sing in tight harmony, the universal signal that they’re meant to be together. And because this is a show about a prom, the dance music is a great way to get your blood flowing in the morning if you’re slow to wake up. Here’s a taste, which juxtaposes the recording of the prom-posal scene with scenes from the show.

There’s nothing like a Broadway show, is there?

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Posted in Television

Denouement

To hell with the naysayers…I thought it a fitting conclusion.

“Game of Thrones” ended where we began, in the North, with our eyes on the Starks (and Jon, for all that Targaryean heritage, is still Ned Stark’s son). Sansa has proved herself worthy to be Queen of an independent kingdom, Arya will forever roam and Jon goes back to where he started from, but with a difference. No longer confined to the Night’s Watch, we end with him leading the Free Folk back to their home.

And Dany’s fate? Deserved, and by the one individual who was best suited to kill her (We know Arya was itching to do it, but Jon had dibs). Drunk on power as she addressed her troops—I almost expected her to burst into “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”—she appeared not so much as a mad Targaryean, but one who had lost her moral compass. It was telling that Drogon, after seeing Dany dead, didn’t incinerate her murderer, but instead melted the Iron Throne, as if to say “You were the source of her downfall.”

I very much enjoyed the conclave leading to Bran’s election as King of the Seven Six Kingdoms (Nice work there, Sansa, cutting a deal for your people to remain independent). This time Tyrion got it right. One question though—how did Edmure Tully get there and where has he been? The last we saw him he was Jaime’s prisoner, so presumably he was freed and restored as head of Riverrun, otherwise he wouldn’t have had standing to participate in the council. It was rather amusing to hear Sansa tell him to sit down as he wound himself up to deliver true gas baggery. Some things just don’t change.

A few final thoughts:

Podrick is finally a knight! Long live Ser Podrick! And, not surprisingly, Sam as Grand Maester. This tale needs a scholar.

So sweet to see Jon and Ghost reunited, complete with direwolf nuzzles.

I didn’t realize that was Robin Arryn sitting with his council elders. The Lord of the Vale looks great now that he’s out from under Lord Baelish’s thumb. He’s still a teen-ager, though—all “Yeah, sure” as he cast his vote for Bran.

I’m so glad the showrunners left us with an image of Brienne completing Jaime’s written history. I was afraid our last glimpse of her would show her being pregnant with Jamie’s child, which would have been a big problem. Armor doesn’t come in maternity sizes.

I am so going to miss this show.

Posted in Television

Penultimate

If gore, guts and burnt bodies are your thing, you must have had a ball during Episode 5 of this season’s Game of Thrones last night. However, I thought it somewhat diasappointing for a couple of reasons. Your mileage may of course vary.

Why should Cersei get such a relatively peaceful end when poor Varys, master of wine, secrets and witty repartee, gets dragon-fried for simply speaking the truth? She and brother/lover Jaime operatically ended up entombed like the leads in “Aida,” which is certainly not just desserts for all the evil she’s done. And Jaime deserved a more heroic finish, given how much he’s changed during the course of the show.

Is there any doubt that Dany has reached full Mad Queen status? Leveling King’s Landing and frying the people she presumably wants to rule is not good for business. Ruling by fear does not a long reign make, and it’s already emptied her bed.

A special tip of the hat to Peter Dinklage for playing Tyrion’s farewells to Varys and especially to Jaime so expertly. It’s amazing that he’s always seemed to find new depths in a character that he’s been playing for so long.

A few last thoughts before departure:

I’ll miss future installments of Travels With Arya and the Hound. Seeing their mutual regard on display was a high point of the episode.

The Hound’s long-promised confrontation with his brother did not disappoint. Nor did the end of that slimeball Euron Greyjoy.

I was frankly shocked that Arya survived. She’s been the Stark most likely to be killed for ages.

Finally, I hope we haven’t seen the last of the folks in Winterfell. Game of Thrones began in the North, and one way or another it should end there. Good storytelling comes full circle.

On to the end.

Posted in Television

All in The Family

A rather somber Game of Thrones episode, don’t you think?

It certainly feels like we’re seeing final curtain calls now. We seem to be saying goodbye to one character after another, whether through death or departure.

So many farewells in this last episode. What a lovely gesture by Sansa to slide a Stark direwolf pin onto Theon’s armor as his corpse lay on the funeral pyre. Jon’s goodbyes as he left Winterfell were even more heart- wrenching: to Tormund, to Sam and Gilly, and–sob!–to Ghost. We’ve got two more long episodes to go, so I’m hoping we see some of these characters at least once more.

There was a contrasting type of farewell by Arya and the Hound. Due to unfinished business neither will see Winterfell again. The Hound looks to repay his brother, currently Cersei’s giant in armor, for tossing him into the fire as a child and giving him that scarred face. Arya’s mission, of course, is to complete her Hit Parade, which has always been topped by Cersei. If anyone has known her destiny, it’s Arya, who probably first proclaimed herself “Not a lady” at the age of three. He doesn’t think so, but with her self-knowledge she did Gendry a kindness by turning him down.

Speaking of which, now that Gendry is no longer a bastard but Lord Baratheon, doesn’t that put him on a par with Jon and Daenarys with respect to claiming the throne? Dany may have thought it was clever to ennoble him, but I think that move is going to bite her in the behind in the long run.

On a lighter note, I thought the Stark conclave was hysterical, what with Jon insisting “We’re family.” I was waiting for him to say “We’re family, but not the family you think, since I’m really your cousin, not your brother.” And so much for secrets—I was surprised Jon’s true identity hadn’t appeared on a billboard by episode’s end, given how much these characters blab. Speaking of which, too bad “loose lips” didn’t figure into Tyrion’s war strategy—knowing about those catapults in advance sure would have come in handy.

So now Brienne gets her second heart’s desire—Jamie. Aren’t they the oddest couple, though? Sansa and Tyrion, whom I’m still rooting for, make more sense, even though Brienne’s been pining for Jamie since Season 2. More than the romance, their last conversation, in which Jamie recounted his evil deeds, was shocking in its honesty. His final assessment of Cersei and himself— “She’s hateful, but so am I”—was another gut-wrench. Watching the evolution of Jamie Lannister from Cersei’s amoral pawn to the man he is now has been one of the highlights of GoT. I still expect Brienne and Jamie to die side by side in battle, with her telling him “Jamie Lannister, you’re a good man” before she goes.

Ah, Cersei—playing the baby daddy game for all she’s worth. She reached new heights–or depths, depending on your point of view–of cruelty in this latest episode. I don’t think we’ve actually seen a head lopped off on this show before, not even Ned Stark’s. Poor Missandei. At least she rallied the troops with that last “Dracarys,” though her execution may have sent Dany round the bend. What a strange expression on the queen’s face after she turned away from the death scene.

Three quickies until next week:

Paralleling Jamie’s evolution has been the growth of Sansa. I really disliked her at the start of GoT—her boy-craziness over Geoffrey helped set one tragedy after another in motion. Yet over time she’s become one of the most clear-headed characters on the show. This is why I’m hoping she ends up with Tyrion—they’ve grown into a great match for each other.

I am so going to enjoy Euron Greyjoy’s getting his.

If Lena Headey were to be paid by the sneer, she’d be the richest woman on TV.

To be continued.

Posted in Television

Battle in the Night

It would have been better had we been able to see all that was going on.

Yes, it was fitting that the climactic battle between the forces at Winterfell and those of the Night King take place—well, at night—but seeing who lived and died was difficult at times. And while the technical stuff was a wow! the fighting was pretty repetitious (My favorite in the GoT Combat Division is the Battle of the Bastards. Interesting fighting, an almost save of Rickon Stark, and most of all, it took place in daylight!). But it was worth sitting through 85 minutes of this just to see Arya outwit the wights to finally kill the Night King, thus destroying his empire. In Stark We Trust.

By the way, does Winterfell have a Department of Public Works? Who gets to clean up all that wight mess left behind?

So the end score was Night King: 2, House Mormont: 0. Jorah’s been in the GoT death pool for several seasons now, and it was good to see him have a fitting departure, battling to the death to save his Khaleesi. Ah, unrequited love. And little Lady Mormont likewise did herself proud with that bullseye to the eye of that ice giant. I’ll miss her.

No surprises with respect to the rest of the dearly departed. Theon Greyjoy’s been a dead man walking ever since he opted to rejoin House Stark. At least he received that final purifying “You’re a good man, Theon” from Bran. Other non-surprises were Edd and Beric Dondarian who, per that witch Melisandre, had “served his purpose,” living one more life just to save Arya. And speaking of departures, I knew Melisandre could only die by turning into dust. Someone better rescue that ruby fast!

Two quickies to end this discussion:

It was great to see two formerly non-combatants swing swords, namely Dany and Sam Tarly. Good work!

I still think Tyrion and Sansa will end up back together, despite her opinion that their marriage never would have worked out. His reaction to her “You were the best of them” was one for the books. By the way, did anyone else think Sansa was going to pull a murder/suicide with Tyrion in order to avoid Death by Wight? Her mother’s daughter for sure.

Now all these people get to kill each other in the fight for the Iron Throne. See you next week.

Posted in Television

Home Stretch

I’d been studiously sitting out the 24/7 “Game of Thrones” party that seems to have been everywhere during the last several months. This is one show for which I’ve always avoided spoilers like the plague, because there’s nothing like a GoT “OMG! Did they actually do that?!?” gasper. Since I went HBO-less for several months after I received my cable company’s latest rate hike, I didn’t even rewatch any of the episodes except for some bits and pieces in the week leading up to this season’s premiere. However, you can be certain I was sure to catch one of the most satisfying scenes in GoT, namely Littlefinger’s demise at the hands (and dagger) of Arya—good times. In Stark we trust.

So here we are again, in snowy Winterfell, this time preparing for battle against the White Walkers.

Does finally getting your heart’s desire automatically move you up in the GoT death pool? Brienne gets dubbed a knight, Arya has sex for the first time (and knowing GoT, it may be her last), and Jamie gets a pass from Bran for shoving him out that window so many years ago. Several seasons ago I predicted Jamie and Brienne would die side by side in battle, and it seems to be coming more and more into focus now.

That having been said, is there any doubt that Theon Greyjoy is Numero Uno in the death pool? I’d throw Euron Greyjoy into the pool, too, because I doubt Cersei will be putting up with him as soon as she gets her elephants. A little poison in the mead goes a long way.

I’m so enjoying the Danaerys/Sansa stand-off. Oh, Sansa—in-law trouble already and they’re not even hitched. I loved the initial meeting between these two ladies. You could actually smell the rancor. Things became far more interesting in last night’s episode, which clearly demonstrated their differences. Sansa is internally guided—she’s learned the hard way from her experiences with Geoffrey, Cersei, Littlefinger and the Boltons. She’s absorbed all this and has no need for outside counsel. Thus her pardoning of Jamie, not to mention her unyielding demand that the North remain its own kingdom, even with Dany on the Iron Throne. In contrast, Dany is constantly guided by voices not her own, most recently that of Jorah Mormont who astutely reined her in. Now that she knows Jon’s claim to the throne is greater than hers (not to mention that she’s slept with her nephew), I’m not certain any advisor will be able to help.

Just a couple of quickies before next week’s Big Battle:

Tormund still has it for Brienne. Will anything ever come of this?

I hope Sam Tarly avoids the death pool. Even though they treated him badly, it was heart-rending to see him learn the fate of his father and brother from Danaerys, whose dragons melted them. Sam needs to stick around–it will take a scholar to tell this tale to future generations.

How many Iron Throne claimants are there in the picture? There’s Jon, Dany, conceivably Jamie as a Cersei-usurper, and don’t forget Gendry, Robert Baratheon’s bastard. Assuming the Night King is defeated, who will prevail? It seems the real battle lies further ahead.

Posted in Television

Bingeing “The Good Wife”

 

I passed on CBS’ “The Good Wife” when it initially aired in 2009. To be accurate I watched the first episode, but the second, in which Denis O’Hare as an eccentric judge did something legally outrageous, buried the show for me. However, time, a subscription to Amazon Prime, the recommendations of friends and finally a desire to see “The Good Fight,” its sequel on CBS All Access, made me look again. So I binged, watching all seven seasons in about six weeks (being between jobs helped).

As a result this was my longest sustained TV series binge. It didn’t top my record of nine episodes in a day—that’s held by my New Year’s Day binge a number of years ago of Season 4 of “The Wire”—but “The Good Wife” is so addictive I was tuning in almost every night. I tried to stay away from spoilers, reviews and other online material, but due to news coverage when the show originally aired it was unavoidable that I knew of three key “Good Wife” events: Will Gardner’s murder, Kalinda Sharma’s departure in Season 6 and Diane Lockhart’s slapping Alicia Florrick’s face in the series finale. I usually hate being spoiled about anything, but this didn’t lessen my enjoyment in the slightest.

The verdict? For Seasons 1 through 5: Tremendous. For Seasons 6 and 7: A grade of C-minus and a long, loud raspberry.

For those who never watched the show, “The Good Wife” begins with the media-event resignation of Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) from the office of State’s Attorney for Cook County (Chicago) in light of charges that he used public funds to pay for prostitutes. Standing stoically by his side is his wife, Alicia (Julianna Margulies), enduring the type of humiliation with which we’ve unfortunately become so familiar (See Silda Spitzer, who was the inspiration for the show’s creators; Hillary Clinton; Dina Matos McGreevey; Huma Abedin, etc. etc.). After his conviction and imprisonment, Alicia needs to return to the practice of law to support herself and her two teen-aged children. Fortunately her old Georgetown Law School flame, Will Gardner (Josh Charles) offers her a first year associate’s position at his Big Law firm, Stern, Lockhart and Gardner, where she’ll be competing for a more permanent berth with another first year associate, Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry) who’s a good 15 years her junior. The game is on.

At this point I suppose I should get the elephant out of the room. As an attorney I’m sometimes irked at the inaccurate way TV portrays the legal system, but sometimes not—I was a huge fan of “L.A. Law” back in the day, and their shenanigans were legendary. Insofar as “The Good Wife” is concerned, its track record in this regard is somewhat erratic. It seems for every six things they get wrong, they do get at least one thing right. There are good scenes involving trial preparation and discovery, and it was refreshing to see Alicia handle gritty bond court work after dwelling in the rarefied air of Big Law. But I had to throw in the towel on legal accuracy after seeing a deposition conducted in an early episode. Among other things: (1) Opposing counsel sat right next to Cary Agos’ client; (2) Cary did not demand that opposing counsel move to the other side of the conference table, as is standard (3) Opposing counsel didn’t question Cary’s client, but laid out a scenario in a long conversational discourse (4) Without an “Objection as to form” from Cary. At this point it was either nitpick the show or enjoy it, so I opted for the latter. Disbelief wasn’t just suspended–it was thrown out the window.

So enough of the law–we’re here for a TV show, and for my money, the first five seasons of “The Good Wife” featured the best writing on a network series I’ve seen in a very long time. It was immediately apparent that the show’s creators, Robert and Michelle King, were playing to the urban and the urbane, and by knowing their audience so well, they produced a particularly engrossing series. The storytelling was taut, with little braking for explanation, whether as to a legal point or otherwise. It amused me to hear Will Gardner refer to ex-senior partner Stern’s cronies as “alter kockers” with no translation (per Leo Rosten’s excellent book, “The Joys of Yiddish,” the cleaned-up English equivalent would be “old farts”). Similarly when Will and his partner Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) are discussing funeral arrangements for Stern, the latter asks where the family will be “sitting shiva,” i.e., observing the Jewish period of mourning. Again, no explanation because refreshingly the audience is expected to know. Another source of enjoyment: how entertainingly “The Good Wife” serves as an astute tutorial on politics, both public and private. Peter Florrick’s world and especially the maneuverings of Eli Gold (Alan Cumming), his political advisor, are neatly mirrored in the power struggles at Lockhart Gardner where name and equity partners play tug of war over the firm’s future.

After bingeing so many episodes, I’m a bit blurry as to what happened when. Nevertheless, some stories are particularly memorable. The superb episode “Doubt” from the first season, featuring rapid cross-cutting between jury deliberations on the fate of a college student accused of murder and flashbacks to the trial testimony. We see the jury vote by written ballot, but after much angst, the defendant is persuaded by her mother to take a 10 year plea deal rather than gamble on a verdict, though the defense made a strong case that there was no crime—it was a victim-induced accident. The heartbreaking reveal? The jury voted “not guilty,” but not in time to prevent that young woman from throwing away a significant portion of her life. Talk about cutting to the bone. Similarly a pair of key discussions, one between Alicia and Will, the other involving Diane, are true eye-openers for Alicia as well as the audience. When Will turns at the last minute and votes against Alicia’s choice for a new associate in order to support the hiring of equity partner David Lee’s (Zach Grenier) niece, Alicia is all “Why???” Will calmly replies: “Because I owed him one. How do you think you were hired?” When Alicia is made an equity partner for political reasons to the exclusion of other fourth-year associates, Diane’s confession to Alicia that the only reason Stern made her (Diane) a partner was out of tokenism, namely to fend off accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination made against the firm. And the episodes involving the courthouse massacre in which Will dies and its aftermath are just flawless.

Unfortunately, “The Good Wife” began to lose steam for me beginning in Season 6. Plots and machinations became repetitious; while watching Will, Diane, David and Julius Cain (Michael Boatman) plot to vote out a disagreeable partner was delicious in Season 2, it became tedious several seasons later as paranoia among partners set in and the gamesmanship took precedence over the lawyering (no wonder Cary leaves the firm). Even more, Kalinda Sharma’s departure was a major disappointment for several reasons. Archie Panjabi played that role with panache—it was a kick to watch Kalinda in action, either sleuthing or seducing. I also thought the plot which led to her exit was both awkward and awkwardly handled—a drug kingpin like Lemond Bishop would have made it his business to kill her. And while Cary Agos’ standing trial on drug charges was a nail-biter, his subsequent ascension to name partner undid our interest in him. He was far more engaging as a snarky first year associate and Deputy State’s Attorney, even more so as Alicia’s partner as they bolted from Lockhart Gardner. Many fans point to Will Gardner’s murder as the breaking point for the show, but oddly, I didn’t miss Will all that much at first. However, as the quality diminished over Seasons 6 and especially 7, I really felt his absence. Without him the backbiting at the law firm became very irritating, and I very much missed the rapport he had with Diane.

It’s impossible to praise the acting on this show enough. The casting was spot-on; it was a major asset for the series to be shot in New York, thus enabling it to draw from the pool of Broadway talent. It was also a shrewd move to have so many actors in recurring roles, which certainly kept things lively. Particularly memorable were Patti Nyholm (Martha Plimpton), attorney extraordinaire, Neil Gross (John Benjamin Hickey), internet billionaire with his amusingly named “Chumhum” search engine, and especially the louche Colin Sweeney (Dylan Baker, creatively cast against type) with his equally kinky fiancees and wives, wonderfully played by Morena Baccarin and Laura Benanti. Whenever he appeared, it was a party. On the other hand, I thought the show had too much of Michael J. Fox as Louis Canning, and not enough of Gary Cole as Kurt McVeigh (Be still my heart!) or Michael Boatman as Julius Cain (His “Because I don’t like you” to voted-out partner Derrick Bond was one of the show’s funniest moments). I also wish we had had more of Matthew Goode as Finn Polmar—he brought a refreshing Jimmy Stewart touch to a world of some slick characters. But “The Good Wife” stands on its regulars, and while all were excellent, special honors must go to Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart—she is simply superb in that role.

A few final, random thoughts:

  • The antics of the NSA eavesdroppers were great comic relief. I cracked up at every one of their goat videos.
  • I really enjoyed the guest cameos of the judges and arbitrators: Jane Alexander, Jane Curtin, Ana Gasteyer (“In my opnion…”), Jeffrey Tambor, Richard Masur, Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior!), Vincent Curatola (Johnny Sack!), Jay O. Sanders. And Christopher McDonald as the crooked bond court judge made a great “Man You Love to Hate.”
  • Speaking of villains, I thought Michael Cerveris as State’s Attorney James Castro was the best, what with that shaved head and soft-grained voice. It was hard to believe this was the same actor I saw as the closeted father in the Broadway musical “Fun Home.”
  • I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve omitted discussion of Alicia and Peter’s family. For the record, I liked Zach until he decided to drop out of college and run off to France with his older girlfriend. I disliked Grace until she pitched in to secure clients for her mother’s new law firm. And both mothers—Alicia’s and Peter’s—were annoying, ditto Alicia’s brother.
  • As excellent as it was, “The Good Wife” left several threads dangling: Kalinda and Peter’s one night together was never really explained, though I picked up a hint this was compensation for his assistance in disguising her identity and erasing her tracks as “Leela”. We never learned whether Kalinda’s husband really left town, and whether he did so via her Plan A or Plan B. And what happened with Special Agent Lana Delaney after discovery of the information leak to her girlfriend Kalinda?
  • Sorry to all Jason Crouse (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) fans, but Alicia’s best squeeze was Will Gardner. Second place goes to Finn Polmar.
  • And what of Alicia’s future? In the final analysis she’s a survivor, though in my mind not an admirable one. Her “standing by her man” may have wowed voters, but there’s a doormat element to that kind of pose. Staying in that marriage came to seem masochistic, though it was obvious she and Peter continually and mutually used each other. I thought she was at her most likeable when she was most independent—bolting from Lockhart Gardner with Cary, and later starting her own firm. Having lost just about everything else, running for office seems to be all she has left by the end of the series.
  • And in case you’re wondering, I think she deserved that slap from Diane Lockhart for trashing Kurt McVeigh.

Onward to “The Good Fight”!