Jenny and Silda, Coming to a TV Near You

What Women Really Think
July 1 2009 4:23 PM

Jenny and Silda, Coming to a TV Near You

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The moment when the political wife stands (or doesn’t stand) on stage while her husband soberly confesses that he could not, try as he might, keep it in his pants, has proven time and time again to be a moment of high drama. This fall, it will also be the basis for a television show. Jezebel points to the trailer for CBS’s forthcoming The Good Wife , a drama starring Julianna Margulies (aka ER ’s Nurse Hathaway) as a mother whose politician husband (played by Chris Noth aka Mr. Big) has up and pulled a Spitzer, but landed in jail for it. The wronged political wife is officially an archetype.

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CBS has, however, made some instructive changes to this archetype, in order to make her TV-ready. First, following that painful press conference, Margulies’ character goes back to work, after a 13-year hiatus, as a lawyer. Second, the bad husband is not exactly in the picture, what with him being in the clink and all. These are both departures from the typical, real life script. Most political wives, Hillary being a notable exception, don’t go and get themselves new, non-husband-oriented careers following the scandal. Most political wives also don’t end up leaving their husbands. Depending on how it plays out, in this, Jenny Sanford may actually be a model of something new . CBS' tweaks to the typical wronged-wife story mean this show won’t be about how a marriage gets salvaged, it will be about how a woman "finds herself," by, you know, helping bring criminals to justice. On network TV, heroines have day jobs.

These alterations seem both necessary and smart: The show about how a long-term, broken couple decides to try to make a troubled marriage work, while neither partner has any cause to leave the house, would make for an Ingmar Bergman movie, not a TV series. And during the real life press conferences that inspired The Good Wife , aren't most of us more concerened with the woman, her decision, her feelings, her future, than with the fate of her jacked-up marriage anyway?

Photograph of Silda Wall Spitzer and Eliot Spitzer by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

Willa Paskin is Slate’s television critic.

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