ITV’s dishevelled detective Vera and Good Wife Alicia Florrick show that TV parts for women may be rarer, but they are also more compelling
There may be few leading parts for women d’un certain age but those that do come along offer a blend of melancholy, wisdom and courage that often makes for very watchable characters.
None more so, perhaps, than DCI Vera Stanhope, played as both an open book and a closed enigma by the Brenda Blethyn who can switch from caustic wit to maternal assurance via professional guile without ever dislodging that trusty rain hat.
Her latest case in Vera (Sun, ITV ) struck close to home (no spoilers here) meaning that the storm clouds that perennially criss-crossed her face were particularly ominous and electric.
No such darkness is required for another member of the female justice league Julianna Margulies in the The Good Wife (Thu, More4). At the beginning of season seven Alicia Florrick finds herself not untypically starting again after her bogus election disgrace last time around.
The Good Wife fully found its stride around season four when it finally shed the earnest soap opera shackles of the “wronged woman” theme and headed for the sunny uplands. Along the way it picked up a whimsical Ally McBeal vibe with Alicia’s latest case involving witnesses testifying to the fall patterns of a dislodged Post-It note on which rested the fate of a multi-million-pound Chagall.
Meanwhile TGW cherishes its eccentrics and loves its wheeler-dealers with Alan Cumming’s ousted Eli likely to go toe to toe with the cuckoo in the nest Ruth Eastman, Peter’s new election aide.
The Good Wife’s upward trajectory is opposite to that of the other slick legal drama Suits(Mon, Dave) which started with a high concept – big brains scaffolded by big collars – then realised that it was too unbearably smug to endure, saddled its superheroes with human foibles and has since been reeling like a drunken air steward in turbulence trying to make things work again. Best leave it to the ladies.