Initially, it seemed a little bit formulaic -new case to win, more revelations about her imprisoned husband (for corruption) and his extra-marital affairs, new eccentric judge -but while it never did really vary much from this formula, I stopped caring because on the whole the show was just too damn good in every other respect. This is down simply to good writing, involving characters, and a damn fine cast of actors firing on all cylinders.
Julianna Margulies (Alicia Florrick) is a revelation as the main character: she's very self-controlled, trying to keep her family together (she has a teenage son and daughter), trying to decide her feelings for her estranged husband and for her new boss (who is an old friend), trying to do a good job as a lawyer and beat off competition for a permanent post from a confident younger man, and more.
Josh Charles (Will Gardner) is an actor I've never come across but he's terrific as one of the (financially vulnerable) firm's three partners. Overtly charming, you're never sure if he's genuinely nice or wearinga false face. Is his interest in Alicia genuine or opportunistic. Christine Baranski (always good value) is the second partner (the third is mostly absent) and less than altruistic.
Chris Noth (Peter Florrick) is appropriately charismatic as the disgraced and imprisoned D.A. but again his motives are always suspect. Is he innocent of corruption, has he repented his liaisons with prostitutes, does he genuinely love his wife, etc?
And then as the firm's investigator Kalinda, there's Archie Panjabi an Anglo-Asian actress whom I was vaguely familiar with but can now state I think she's brilliant. And hotter than hell. Her character is intensely private, strong, cynical, with lots of contacts. Her sexuality is a matter for much speculation (particularly in the lesbians in the media website AfterEllen). Panjabi steals scene after scene and well deserved her Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.
I could go on listing the various other key characters and how good the actors are but that would get boring. Suffice to say that the rest of the cast is uniformly strong. Alan Cumming arrives late in the series, but to good effect, as Peter Florrick's new manager.
This is a genuinely rivetting show packed with characters whose motives and allegiances are uncertain, a murky swamp that the vulnerable heroine has to negotiate in more ways than one. The various crimes/trials themsemselves are always interesting and, again, often morally ambiguous. One minor quibble is that the law firm tends to be on the side of good a little too often for plausibility and they also win a little too often. But despite that I really do highly recommend this DVD. I watched it all in less than a week and couldn't wait to get back to it.