Can't they all just get along? Perish the thought.
Few spectacles are more exciting and satisfying than watching a great series reinvent itself with bold strokes and high drama. In its five seasons, CBS's The Good Wife has never played it safe in boardroom, courtroom or bedroom — but nothing could have prepared us for just how explosively entertaining the war within Lockhart/Gardner was going to be.
It's no spoiler to reveal that everything changes in Sunday's pivotal "Hitting the Fan" episode (9/8c), a remarkable achievement by series creators Robert and Michelle King. Where we left off last week: Diane (Christine Baranski) pulls the trigger after connecting the dots, informing her soon-to-be-ex-partner Will, "Alicia is leaving the firm with Cary and she's taking our top clients." Ouch.
Sunday's episode opens on these same words, from Will's point of view. And from there, it's game on. "You're awful and you don't even know how awful you are," seethes Will (a masterful Josh Charles) in his blistering confrontation with the "Judas" Alicia (Julianna Margulies, performing a symphony of moods, from sorrowful regret to triumphant defiance). Sorry, Will, but one man's "awful" is another person's "awesome."
What follows is a dizzying, exhilarating whirlwind of conflict, as mentors turn on protégés and former allies (especially Archie Panjabi as the inscrutable Kalinda) debate their loyalty amid surprising reversals of fortune. After Alicia's stunning bid for independence, no one will ever be the same. Neither will The Good Wife — which is an incredibly exciting and even dangerous situation for a long-running show, especially for one on a network that tends to reinforce the status quo in its procedurals.
Despite Alicia's protests that her decision to leave with her fellow fourth-year associate rebels was "never meant personally," everything is now personal. This is dramatic hardball at its most hardcore, and The Good Wife has leaped back into the top tier of first-rate dramas. (Though for loyalists, it never really went away.) Emmy voters, are you paying attention?
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FANGS FOR NOTHING: They don't make them like they used to — which can be a blessing or a curse for practitioners of the horror trade. While such cable hits as The Walking Dead and American Horror Story reinvigorate the genre with bold new extremes of graphic realism and psychosexual surrealism, NBC inexplicably whiffs with its mildewed "re-imagining" (a word that's almost always a red flag) of Dracula (Friday, 10/9c).
A classic example of fixing what isn't broke, this laughable attempt to add relevance to a timeless myth manages to drain away whatever allure and danger the old Count still possesses. Of all the many bad decisions made in this clumsily contrived and poorly acted reboot, perhaps the worst is to force Jonathan Rhys Meyers to adopt a flat American accent in Dracula's disguise as industrialist Alexander Grayson, an upstart in the energy trade who takes on a London cabal of stuffed-shirt Victorian oil barons with his demonstration of newfangled geomagnetic electricity.
Yes, this is just about as exciting as it sounds.
And what does it have to do with vampirism, anyway? Turns out Grayson/Dracula's bigwig rivals are part of a secret mustache-twirling Order of the Dragon that turned him into a ghoul several centuries ago and burned his wife at the stake for good measure. This story is his vendetta, abetted by Dr. Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann), who in another bad call is no longer the vampire's nemesis but his accomplice in weird science. Dracula is drawn to Van Helsing's fetching protégée Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw), the seeming reincarnation of his charred beloved, but she and her journalist beau Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) are such simpering stiffs they make the love triangle in Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera seem edgy.
So hokey that one torture scene actually shows salt being poured into a wound, Dracula lacks wit, style, surprise — and, most important, bite.
THE FRIDAY GUIDE: The CW's The Carrie Diaries returns for a second season (8/7c), with Carrie (AnnaSophia Robb) living in Manhattan for the summer — where she finally crosses paths with the infamous Samantha (Lindsey Gort). ... As NBC's Grimm launches its third season (9/8c), hero Nick (David Giuntoli) has turned zombie. Because these days, who hasn't? ... Before there was Stonebridge and Scott, we had John Porter (Richard Armitage) and Hugh Collinson (a pre-Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln) rocking the international counterterrorism world. Cinemax's six-part Strike Back: Origins (10/9c) introduces U.S. viewers to the action thriller's first season from 2010, which inspired the pay channel to venture into high-octane first-run production (and spawned the even twistier Banshee, which is back in January). ... There's no music fan quite like a Bruce Springsteen fan, which is the point of the feature documentary Springsteen & I (9/8c, Showtime), produced by Ridley Scott. This collage of music and personal reflection includes material submitted by fans from around the world, sharing their passion for The Boss. ... Hallmark Channel ventures into fantasy with the "Walden Family Theater" movie The Hunters (8/7c), featuring Victor Garber, Michelle Forbes and The Tomorrow People's Robbie Amell in the story of a family of "hunters" who traverse the world, raiding museums to protect fairy-tale artifacts. Are we sure they don't work for Warehouse 13? ... ABC's reality hit Shark Tank (9/8c) crosses a new threshold when a contestant accepts what ABC is calling "an unprecedented amount" for a deal. ... Tapping the same striking-it-rich vein, Discovery's reality hit Gold Rush returns with a two-hour Season 4 premiere (9/8c). ... Bravo's new reality competition Styled to Rock (8/7c), executive produced by Rihanna, challenges 12 designers to come up with looks inspired by music celebrities. It's Project Arena!
THE SATURDAY GUIDE: Having run out of storm metaphors to mangle, Syfy simply names this Halloween season's zombie jamboree movie Zombie Night (9/8c), a nonstop gorefest directed by John Gulager (remember him from Project Greenlight?) and featuring Anthony Michael Hall, a nearly unrecognizable Daryl Hannah and, most indelibly and weirdly, Shirley Jones as a frantic blind granny who's better off not being able to see what goes down. ... The year's best Lifetime movie title: The Husband She Met Online (8/7c), with Dawson's Creek's Meredith Monroe the unlucky heroine who wishes she'd never clicked in the first place. ... Hallmark Channel reprises its longest-running movie franchise with The Good Witch's Destiny (9/8c), the sixth in the "Good Witch" series. Once again, Catherine Bell stars as the bewitching Cassie Nightingale, who fears a curse could put a damper on her birthday plans. ... CBS's 48 Hours (10/9c) examines the troubling trend of dating and break-up violence with the case study of two Massachusetts teens whose parting of the ways had (as is usual for this series) deadly consequences. ... Making their debuts on NBC's Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c): host Edward Norton and musical guest Janelle Monae.
THE SUNDAY GUIDE: As the centerpiece of OWN's night of programming dedicated to issues about being gay in America, the moving documentary Bridegroom, directed by Designing Women's Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, receives its TV premiere (10/9c) after a successful run on the festival circuit. (It will also be available on Netflix starting Sunday.) This timely film couches its tragic love story in the broader context of equal rights. It's about a young couple, Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom, parted too soon when Tom died after an accidental fall, with Shane's ordeal magnified by being alienated by Tom's family. ... It's preceded by a special edition of Oprah's Next Chapter (8/7c) that focuses on gay Hollywood, interviewing Wanda Sykes, Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Scandal's Emmy-winning Dan Bucatinsky. ... When the lights go out, what would you do? According to National Geographic Channel's speculative verité disaster movie American Blackout (9/8c), we'd all turn to our phones and cameras and obsessively record what we're going through as long as we could. Sounds about right. Like a missing reel from NBC's Revolution, this mock-documentary dramatically chronicles a breakdown of society over a chaotic 10-day period. Who knew batteries lasted that long? ... Smithsonian Channel's three-part Civil War 360 (8/7c) examines the conflict from multiple perspectives of the North, the South and the slaves' struggle for freedom. First up: "The Union," hosted by Ashley Judd. ... CBS's The Amazing Race (8/7c) brings back the dreaded Double U-Turn as teams race through Poland. Is it too petty to hope that one of them is used against the tyrant Marie, who has abused the privilege of holding an extra "express pass" for weeks. ... CBS's The Mentalist (10/9c) continues its hunt for Red John by investigating a death within the Visualize cult. ... BBC America continues its countdown to Doctor Who's 50th anniversary with a salute to one of the most popular incarnations in Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited — The Tenth Doctor (8/7c), featuring David Tennant and executive producer Steven Moffat reliving their adventures from 2005 to 2010. The good news: Tennant returns to the role next month (alongside Doctor No. 11, Matt Smith) in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor.