'The Good Wife,' 'Madam Secretary' premiere: How'd they do?

Julianna Margulies (left) as Alicia Florrick and Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in the season 6 debut of "The Good Wife."

Story highlights

  • "The Good Wife" and "Madam Secretary" premiered Sunday on CBS
  • "The Good Wife" was slightly down in ratings, but had a strong episode
  • "Madam Secretary" had better ratings, but more flaws
"The Good Wife's" season 6 premiere ratings weren't revelatory, but the episode sure was.
Sunday brought the return of Julianna Margulies' Alicia Florrick in an episode called "The Line," which saw an arresting unexpected twist.
After the loss of Josh Charles' Will Gardner last season, it would've been reasonable for "The Good Wife" to come back mild; give its viewers' heart rates a little rest.
No such luck. Viewers were instead treated to the arrest of Matt Czuchry's Cary for allegedly assisting Chicago drug dealer Lemond Bishop in transporting narcotics.
Those watching at home were stunned, and, according to Czuchry, the arrest came as a surprise to him, too.
"It was certainly an unexpected storyline," the actor told The Hollywood Reporter. "When I went into wardrobe and saw it was a prison uniform that I needed to try on, I told my costume designers, 'That's not a suit ...'"
We hope Czuchry's prison uniform is comfortable, because the actor added this plot won't neatly tie up anytime soon.
"It's not a storyline that's going to go away. We're going to see how it affects Cary personally and professionally and how it affects everyone at the firm and on the show," the actor said to The Hollywood Reporter. "What the state's attorney's office is doing in terms of the case is going to be a huge part of season 6. Whether that means Cary is going to be in jail or out of jail I can't say, but I can say that that particular storyline is going to continue. You will learn more about Cary and Bishop's relationship. We will touch on a lot of different issues that come from that storyline. It is less about Cary being in jail and more about him having been arrested."
Unfortunately, the ratings didn't quite repay "The Good Wife" for its storytelling chutzpah, as the season 6 opener was slightly down with a 1.3 rating in the advertiser-valued 18-49 adult demographic; last year's premiere received a 1.5 rating. In total viewers, the episode drew nearly 10 million.
By comparison, CBS' new series, the Tea Leoni-starring "Madam Secretary," had a 2.0 in the adult demo, with 14.7 million tuning in.
That's a promising start for the freshman program, which has earned some mixed reviews from critics.
Leoni stars as Elizabeth McCord, a professor and former CIA agent who's abruptly appointed to the position of Secretary of State after the current one dies. McCord's also married and a mom, so part of the background for "Madam Secretary's" stories are the reality of balancing work and home life.
So far, not so bad: The Washington Post thought the pilot was "taut and well-structured," aided by a "calm, cool and wry performance" from Leoni. The Los Angeles Times called the series a "front-runner" this fall TV season, thanks to its sharp writing "and formidable cast."
The A.V. Club too saw potential, acknowledging that "Madam Secretary is not perfect, but it could be."
But others have taken a less optimistic view. For Slate, the problem with "Madam Secretary" is that it's "just really, really dull, as if someone tried to make a counterweight to 'Scandal' with only the boring parts."
Variety, which calls "Madam Secretary" a "slightly more simple-minded return to 'The West Wing,'" is curious to see how the series will use its stronger selling points. The show, the trade paper says, "has enough interesting pieces ... to have significant potential." It's just that Sunday's premiere "doesn't bode particularly well for being able to maximize those assets ... as they say in diplomatic circles, the devil is in the details."