Objection! Why TV's The Good Wife Isn't Good Law


It’s a cute saying but my trigonometry teacher didn’t buy it. According to her, life was a constant learning experience. I certainly learned how to explain to my mom how I brought home the only “C” of my high school career – and why that grade should be counted as a victory.

I was thinking about this because someone recommended The Good Wife to me, specifically asking for my take on how the show portrays the practice of law. In all honesty, I’d been avoiding the show for that reason.

By trade I’m a divorce lawyer and watching legal shows tends to be a form of torture for me because one thought always goes through my head:

Can’t they hire a technical advisor?

Quite honestly, the lawyering in those shows boggles my mind. I give Boston Legal a pass, only because of William Shatner and James Spader. Those flamingos made no pretense of taking themselves seriously and made it an amazingly fun show to watch.

So I went into The Good Wife expecting something akin to being waterboarded but without Dianne Feinstein’s press office to assist me.


I liked it, after suspending disbelief.

That got me thinking:

Other people don’t suspend disbelief. They think in some form, this is how the world actually works.

Sleeping with opposing counsel. Laughing about conflicts of interest.

Those are Very Bad Things. Lose your Bar card, get sued for ungodly sums of money and still have to pay back your six figure student loans while remembering who had the no fat whipped Frappuccino kind of Bad Things.

We live in a complex world, where our modern, urban lifestyle has made people into creatures of specialization. Where people once had to be jacks-of-all trades, we’ve become the masters of one. So while individuals can look at the narrow slice of the world they have a really good handle on, the rest of it can be confusing.

And yours truly gets to spend time explaining to friends and clients why exactly you don’t get to go to trial the same afternoon you hire your lawyer.

But TV rotting our brains actually has real world implications that go beyond annoying those of us that know better.

Take juries.

At one point, they didn’t know what to do with DNA. As one juror from the OJ Simpson case said, the DNA evidence was not important because “we all have blood.”

Now, however, we’ve gone 180-degrees. Juries demand a case that has lots of glitz and science.

They call it the “CSI effect.” In this worldview, a case just isn’t complete without forensics.

Another area impacted is how young people view the world. Gays are approximately 1% of the population. However, in some studies, people think the number is 20%.

A fifth of the population gay?

Maybe one could expect that in San Francisco. But why would individuals think that in the general population?

One just needs to look at television’s treatment of homosexuals. Once, they were the objects of comic mockery, if they showed up at all. Then, slowly, there was positive treatment with the Token Gay Guy, followed by Will and Grace and Modern Family, in which the tokens became main characters. Now, Fox’s heavily-promoted show Empire has as one of its main storylines how a main character is rejected by his father for his homosexuality.

The entertainment we immerse ourselves in shapes our culture. Liberals have known this for decades and have used it for their advantage.

Even more dangerously, police shows and action movies create an expectation in the public that our law enforcement have magic abilities with their guns. Thus, the question when a police officer kills: “Why didn’t the cop just shoot the gun out of his hand?” or “Why didn’t he shoot him in the leg?” Other people nod their heads sagely as if a really important point has been made.

After all, that’s how they do it on television.

No one points out that a leg wound, with its femoral artery, can cause a man to bleed out in seconds. No one points out that shooting a gun out of a man’s hand, especially in a fluid, high intensity situation, would require a miracle.

But still, the question gets asked.

And then there’s this:


I mean, her heart’s in the right place. It’s not like Cher was calling for the terrorists to be tagged and released into the wild. She wanted to hurt the terrorists.

So you can’t condemn the sentiment.

But Cher acknowledges a basic fact: she knows nothing about fighting terrorism. Yet she still thought this plan made enough sense to tweet.

She probably saw it on TV.


image illustration via here.

This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion: