How The Good Fight found clarity in chaos, and answers in absurdity

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The Good Fight’s title sequence is instructive. Set to a frantic score by David Buckley, it marries ordered elegance with violent disruption; a vase of flowers, phones, a gavel and so on all explode, their pieces scattered. A vibrant red claret from a shattering wine glass fills the screen, and dust and ash float across a dark background.

What it is, in effect, is a means to set the stage. It establishes chaos as the status quo. And then it begs the question: what next?

Where last year The Good Fight heralded a need to fight, it now turns to a different question: how can you fight? Again, the title sequence is instructive, having been fine tuned since last year; the television screens, added to the explosive line-up this season, juxtapose the absurdity of Putin’s overly macho image with the chilling horror of Charlottesville marchers. It’s a world where the awful and the absurd are so often the same; it’s a world ripped from the headlines, after all. As Diane Lockhart (The Good Fight’s inimitable lead, Christine Baranski) notes, “I used to laugh at the absurdity of the news. Now I’m all laughed out”.

I love love love The Good FightIt’s one of my favourite shows of the past two years; ahead of writing this article I spent a whole day rewatching episodes of season 2 and, while I normally hate binge-watching television, it was genuinely the most fun I’d had in ages.

The ending of this piece is perhaps a little weak; I think there’s a thread of connective tissue that I didn’t quite get right, which hampers that conclusion a little. A few days later I worked out how to fix it, though… and then promptly forget it, which is irritating.

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Designated Survivor has been left behind by reality, and doesn’t know what it wants to be anymore

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Of course, not long after Designated Survivor’s premiere, there was a huge political upheaval in the real world too – the election of Donald Trump as President. While both events left a relatively inexperienced political outsider in the highest political office in America, the similarities largely end there; nonetheless, though, the ABC show has scrambled to engage with the real world, often with difficulty.

The most recent episode is particularly interesting in this regard; Outbreak deals with attempts by a civil rights group to have a Confederate statue removed, a story directly ripped from the headlines. Designated Survivor walks a delicate tightrope, an attempt to find the middle ground without committing to any one side in particular – in the end, the solution is to move the statue out of sight, rather than take it down.

It’s an interesting stance to take, and one that’s perhaps revelatory about just what the show is trying to be now – safe. 

An article about Designated Survivor. I really enjoyed the show when it first began; the premise was quite compelling, it had a couple of actors I liked (Kal Penn!) and it was something I watched with my friends each week and we all discussed it together, which was nice to have. Sadly, though I’ve been considerably less enamoured with it since the beginning of season 2 – admittedly the cracks had been starting to show since much earlier, but it really felt like stopped working entirely with the second season.

I ended up giving up on the show – so did my friends, actually, with the exception of Mevrick – and eventually Designated Survivor was cancelled at the end of season 2. Didn’t come as a surprise especially; really, the most shocking thing was the reminder that Designated Survivor was an ABC drama, not a CW show. (That’s unfair on the CW, but still.) For my part, admittedly, I suspect part of the reason I grew less enamoured with the show was that I watched The West Wing across the summer; when Designated Survivor returned in the autumn and tried to posit itself as more of a West Wing equivalent, it was kinda obvious the emperor had no clothes.

More to the point, though, I think the difficulty with Designated Survivor – other than the very high turnover of behind the scenes creative talent it had – was that it never quite worked out how to use its premise. Rebuilding America after an attack of that scale, with all the domestic and international implications that would have, while the office of the President is held by a nobody and his staff are made up of the B team? That’s potentially quite brilliant. To just sort of do a normal politics show in the wake of that, with episodes about statues and presidential pets? It’s a waste. Perhaps, admittedly, something that was prompted by the high turnover of showrunners. Equally, perhaps, I imagine Trump taking office did do a lot to take the wind out of Designated Survivor’s sails – if nothing else, I imagine it prompted a lot of the empty centrism that I complained about above, but I suspect it also contributed to a general lethargy to shows like this from audiences.

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The Good Fight deserved an Emmy nomination – it’s the definitive piece of post-Trump television

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Indeed, The Good Fight is shaped as an explicitly, brazenly post-Trump drama, intimately in tune with the concerns of the day. The series tackled police brutality, fake news, and the alt-right; it’s a bold, intelligent drama, one that fiercely and unrelentingly persists in its depiction of a post-Trump world. 

An article on The Good Fight, which was amongst my favourite new dramas of 2017. I genuinely, properly love this show – I’ve been massively enjoying the second season, too, which I’m planning on writing about in a few weeks. It’s genuinely just perfect.

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King Charles III is a Shakespearean epic for the modern age

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The central conceit of King Charles III is to posit a world in which Shakespeare survived to satirise a modern monarch in much the same way he did with Richard III or Henry V. Bartlett’s King Charles III is firmly rooted within the Shakespearean tradition, drawing on familiar aspects of the Bard’s work – Diana appears as a ghostly spectre akin to Hamlet’s father, while Kate Middleton fills the role of Lady Macbeth.

But this goes beyond simply remixing familiar archetypes and applying a modern veneer to Shakespeare’s existing work. King Charles III mimics the style of Shakespearean language, written in blank verse; such use of iambic pentameter, rarely seen on television, allows a grandeur of scale that positions the play firmly within a Shakespearean style, but allows it to seek out its own innovations and find a fresh outlook. In turn, then, King Charles III isn’t a ‘greatest hits’ compilation that aims to imitate Shakespeare, but rather a play that seeks to stand among his work.

A piece of King Charles III, the TV adaptation of Mike Bartlett’s award-winning play. I really enjoyed it!

In response to the obvious: no, when I wrote this I had not seen or read very much Shakespeare. Yes, I’m aware it shows. No, I haven’t read or seen a great deal more since, but enough to find the above faintly, albeit endearingly, embarrassing. Yes, I intend to read and watch more Shakespeare.

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