My astonishment exactly, Alicia.
On paper, an episode of The Good Wife devoted to — among other juicy things — a racy comedienne’s breast-baring TV antics should’ve spoken to my soul. It should’ve filled me with the spitfire glee of a thousand Sandra Bernhard specials. But no. Christina Ricci played the comic, and when she shot off one-liners throughout the episode and tried to give off the eye-rolling playfulness of a Whitney Cummings-type standup, she was just (caution: This is my LEAST FAVORITE WORD) awkward.
In fact, “awkward” accurately describes a lot of what we saw on Sunday’s episode, “Anatomy of a Joke”: Cary finally earned a storyline, one that revolved around his deadbeat dad’s reemergence; Eli spazzed about a rumor that Peter’s penis is discernible by a Brazil-shaped birthmark; Clarke schmoozes with a visiting lawyer (F. MURRAY ABRAAAHAAAAMMM) in order to sell Lockhart & Gardner (which doesn’t fly with Diane and Will); Kalinda stood in a doorway a few times; a de-uniformed Laura Hellinger (Amanda Peet) wound up with a big new job with Peter thanks to Alicia’s recommendation; Alicia fake-laughed at a lot of things. That was it. It was a crammed, overstimulating, sometimes-fun, mostly weird episode. Here are the five things I retained:
F. Murray Abraham, motherf*ckers!
This is why we have The Good Wife, ladies and gents. So that gentle gems like F. Murray Abraham can pick up a briefcase, throw a few Salieri stares at our girl Alicia, and stun us with Emmy-worthy sternness for an entire episode. There he is, looking like a cross between Ben Kingsley and Scar, thank God. I loved the Oscar winner’s return to the show this week, as he provided some necessary sanity (and saltiness) as L.A. attorney Burl Preston. You just root for a guy like F. Murray Abraham. After all, Amadeus holds up, and who can forget his gushing introduction of Best Actress winner Geraldine Page at the ’85 Oscars? Well, mostly everyone. But not me.
“I consider this woman the greatest actress in the English language!” he proclaimed. You know this was his way of letting us know there are several superior Russian actresses. Under his breath as Geraldine approaches the stage, you can hear him mutering, “You’ll never be Maria Ouspenskaya. Never. But I am.“
Is Christina Ricci an international funnywoman? Not with these leftover Punchline jokes, she’s not.
Therese Dodd (Christina Ricci) exposed her breasts on a live Letterman-like talk show. (How very Drew Barrymore.) It was part of a bit about cancer awareness, but the network sues her even before the FCC comes down with a fine, so the entire drama feels oddly timed and kind of uninteresting. And then it got weirder when F. Murray Abraham, the opposing lawyer, said that she’d be cleared of charges if she could prove she was acting out of grief for her mother, who died of breast cancer. I don’t understand, but fine. Call her Sassin’ G. Komen and send her to joke jail.
What’s important is that Christina Ricci, a national prize since Addams Family Values, had to utter awful jokes that make all incendiary comics look bad. “Boobs are just big lumps of fat!” she proclaimed during one standup gig, or something. Then Will and Alicia had a b.s. conversation about what constitutes “an easy laugh,” and thaaaat upset me. If you don’t support the existence of racy humorists, we encourage castrated humor to take over, and Will should know how stupid that is. It didn’t help that Christina Ricci was simply ill-suited for this role. She didn’t look comfortable enough spouting the asinine material, and that’s what being a provocateur is all about. Worst, at the end of the episode she made a joke on TV about the aforementioned Peter Florrick Brazil Penis Sensation, and that was also terrible. See:
I’ve spent the last week with my lawyer, trying desperately not to say anything about Brazil and penises. I suppose there are worse birthmarks to have. Like Greece. I mean, who wants a penis that’s always in recession? My lawyer says, it really only looks like Brazil when it’s erect. Otherwise it’s more like New Jersey.
Alicia concluded the episode by laughing hard at this. No, Alicia. Laugh hard at the fact that Eli looks like a Pez dispenser version of Inspector Gadget. Start there.
Eli went from “conniption” to “conniving” in under 40 minutes.
Eli spent the majority of the episode doing what he does best: making cartoon eyes at Peter’s dopey new scandal. Luckily he got nefarious at episode’s end, as he and Kalinda looked into the possibility that Maddie Hayward (Maura Tierney) is snuggling uo with her own female aide. Turns out the truth is dicier: Maddie and Peter’s accuser Indira Starr are working together. Yikes. And yet, we know that Peter didn’t fool around with the damn lady, so the drama here feels a little unsubstantiated. Bring me back the chair-kicking Eli, not the vaguely uninteresting Eli who can’t stop hard-blinking at everything.
Cary’s dad is super mean. OK?
We’ve been waiting all season for a decent Cary yarn, and here’s what we get: Out of the blue, Cary’s estranged father (John Shea) calls him and wants to reconcile. The resolute Cary holds off, but after a friendly consultation with Alicia that we’ll discuss momentarily, he agrees to meet up with his deadbeat pops. A phone call with Dad reveals that what he really wants is an in with Diane, who could hook him up with a great job in Chicago. Oooh, bastardly!
Cary all but shouts into the phone, “YOU’RE THE WORST DAD” as he hangs up. Matt Czuchry is admittedly convincing as he fills with rage, but this isn’t the meaty mensch-iness we want from Cary. We want more of — well, we want more of the best part of the episode, pictured below.
Cary + Alicia = the reason Sundays are sacred
Just before Cary met with his tool father, he and Alicia enjoyed a hotel powwow where they reflected on their years-long relationship. “I thought you were a jerk,” Alicia said. And in season one, who didn’t have misgivings about Cary? He’s the Logan Echolls of this show. He was a tad unlikable, but now he’s so fully realized and cool that you can’t imagine the show without him, even as we’ve seen too little of him this season. The rapport we saw here was casual and cool and really brought out the best in Alicia, who spends way too much time looking like the victim in a migraine commercial.
What’d you think of this episode? A little too scattered? And what did you make of that completely unnecessary kiss between Christina Ricci and Cary? Did I miss something?