I’m a ‘Good Wife’ Superfan. Here’s My Honest Review of ‘Elsbeth’

It’s the new CBS spin-off

elsbeth cbs review universal
Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

As far as memorable guest stars on The Good Wife—the show that ran from 2009 to 2016 about a wife and mother (Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies) whose state’s attorney husband gets caught in a sex scandal—go, there were quite a few.

The judge (played by Ana Gasteyer) who required Alicia and anyone else in her court to state “in my opinion” before every assertion. The attorney (Martha Plimpton) who was a mom of many and continually played up parenting, weaponizing things like childcare issues and breastfeeding, to her advantage. Heck, there was even Michael J. Fox, who played attorney Louis Canning, and used his real life physical handicap to manipulate and triumph in the courtroom.

But then there was Elsbeth Tascioni. Played by Carrie Preston, her character’s “silly old me” schtick coupled with her calculating capability (and array of Vera Bradley bags) delivered some of the best episodes in the series’ seven-season arc. Yes, there have been other spin-offs of the hit show (The Good Fight, starring Christine Baranski as Diana Lockhart is a worthwhile watch), but the arrival of Elsbeth on CBS is already a major bright spot of the spring TV season. Here’s why.

carrie preston wendell pierce elsbeth cbs
Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

First, More About the Premise of ‘Elsbeth’

It’s important to preface this by saying, no, you don’t have to have watched The Good Wife to enjoy Elsbeth. That said, it certainly helps with context: The brand-new CBS series picks up with Elsbeth, a Chicago-based attorney, now working as a private investigator in New York. Her actual job? She’s there to “police the police” (at least, that’s how she describes her role in episode 2.)

Of course, Elsbeth’s presence—as was often the case in The Good Wife—isn’t exactly welcomed by the NYPD. Still, as weekly murders set the pace for the show, Elsbeth brings levity and precision to every case to be solved. For example, in the first episode, en route to her first day of work, she manages to commute via double decker tour bus and see the New York City sights at the same time; she’s also always comically above everyone’s shoulder, pressing them (kindly, but also incessantly) on the details that don’t exactly add up.

carrie preston elsbeth the good wife

3 Things I Already Love About the Show

For one thing, the casting. In the first two episodes alone, Elsbeth has featured cameos from guest stars including Stephen Moyer (of True Blood fame) and Jesse Tyler Ferguson (beloved for his role on Modern Family). Additionally, there’s great chemistry between Elsbeth and two of her NYPD colleagues: Wendell Pierce (from The Wire and Suits) who plays the squad’s captain and Carra Patterson, who plays the officer assigned to keep tabs on Elsbeth. Beyond that, Preston is in a league of her own. Bottom line: Fans of the show are heavily invested in her.

I’m also into the show’s cheeriness. With murder plots as a backdrop, that can be hard to pull off, but it’s a credit to Preston and the character she plays. Also, the way the show is stylized. New York almost feels technicolor—or maybe that’s just Elsbeth with her Statue of Liberty tourist garb and rainbow totes—but it’s a fun juxtaposition against what are often quite disturbing (yet brief) murder scenes.

Finally, the connection Elsbeth has to The Good Wife. The series was created by Robert and Michelle King, the same writer/producer duo behind the original CBS series, and that tie feels good as season one kicks off. Again, the show—so far—is decidedly less dramatic than the one centered around Alicia Florrick, but it mirrors Elsbeth’s quirky traits. Seeing the return of Preston’s character already has me considering a rewatch of the entire Good Wife series.

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Michael Parmelee/CBS

PureWow Review: 4.5 Out of 5 Stars

Three cheers for the return of Elsbeth Tascioni. But seriously, if you’re looking for a show that nods to The Good Wife, but is also light-hearted, clever and fun, this is it. While the early episodes feel a touch formulaic, I have a feeling that some bigger—and perhaps more sinister—plot points are brewing. More than anything, I’m here for Preston’s brilliance at playing this character. (Also, her unflappable optimism against the backdrop of NYC and stop-at-nothing pursuit of the truth.) My husband—who has been watching with me—put it best: Each week, it’s enough just to follow (and enjoy) her non-sensical (yet ultimately logical!) train of thought. So what are you waiting for? New episodes of Elsbeth air every Thursday at 10 p.m. on CBS.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...