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Ellen Gray: 'Good Wife' finds good fit in Tuesday time slot

THE GOOD WIFE. 10 tonight, Channel 3. A LITTLE MORE than a year ago, "ER" veteran Julianna Margulies returned to series TV as an angry, bitter lawyer in Fox's short-lived "Canterbury's Law."

THE GOOD WIFE. 10 tonight, Channel 3.

A LITTLE MORE than a year ago, "ER" veteran Julianna Margulies returned to series TV as an angry, bitter lawyer in Fox's short-lived "Canterbury's Law."

Tonight, she's back practicing law in CBS' "The Good Wife."

But while her new character, Alicia Florrick, has reasons of her own to be bitter and angry - chief among them a cheating pol of a husband (Chris Noth) who's been sent to prison for corruption - Alicia is too busy suiting up for her return to the workforce to dwell on them just now.

It's a better fit for Margulies, and a good one for CBS, whose 10 p.m. Tuesday slot was once the home of "Judging Amy."

Slightly harder-edged than "Amy," but just as estrogen-fueled, the best-timed show of the new season is a combination of the crime-centered procedurals CBS favors and a drama about the kind of family most of us have speculated about at one time or another.

Personally, I'm rooting for the family drama to remain central to the story, and not just because Alicia's first case, a murder defense, suggests the show's writers have a ways to go before they can compete with their counterparts at "CSI" or "NCIS" on the procedural front.

Murder aside, Alicia's work life is fraught enough: She's been hired by an old law-school friend ("Sports Night's" Josh Charles), but there are sharks everywhere, from a would-be mentor played by Christine Baranski to a younger associate ("Gilmore Girls'" Matt Czuchry), who knows something she doesn't.

Robert and Michelle King, the husband-and-wife writing team that created the show, would seem to have an edge in writing about a marriage, and there are possibilities aplenty in exploring a couple who for the moment seems to be neither breaking up nor staying together.

Plus, OK, the more the show focuses on Alicia's battered marriage, the more likely it is that Noth will appear regularly.

I'd count that as a good thing for "The Good Wife."

The readers weigh in

A dozen Daily News Reader Reviewers got their first look at "The Good Wife" last week during our annual "Everybody's a Critic" screening and awarded it an average score of 7.5 out of 10.

"I didn't realize I was on the edge of my seat until the screen went black for a commercial break," wrote Alycia Sheppard, of Northern Liberties, who gave it a 9. "I really was immersed."

"I love this show, and will definitely watch it again," wrote Denise Bray, of University City, who awarded "Good Wife" a full 10.

"Good TV, but I don't know that I'd run any lights to get home from work to see it," wrote Sultan Muhammad, of University City, who gave it an 8.

'NCIS' spins West

CBS' "NCIS" (8 tonight, Channel 3) chugs along, season after season, winning hearts and minds (and ratings) and keeping them even when Fox's "American Idol" returns to mow down everything else in its path.

That it does all that with hardly a peep from TV critics isn't much of a surprise: This isn't the kind of show people in my line of work tend to get gooey over.

Yet I've seen just enough of "NCIS" to appreciate its appeal, which I suspect lies in casting and character development (combined, of course, with occasional explosions of action).

Those elements appear to be part of the DNA for "NCIS: Los Angeles," the spin-off that premieres tonight (9 p.m., Channel 3) and which stars Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J as members of an NCIS division that specializes in undercover work.

In fact, even the building they work in, a converted Spanish mission, is undercover, with bougainvillea climbing the outside of a staircase leading to a roomful of high-tech gadgets the guys at the mother ship might well envy.

It's a nice change of pace that LL Cool J is playing the more stable partner while the normally blander-than-bland O'Donnell's a bit of a head case.

And just as the original "NCIS" brought in an old pro in David McCallum ("The Man from U.N.C.L.E.") to play Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard, "NCIS: LA" has enlisted one of its own in Oscar winner Linda Hunt, whose voice alone would be reason enough to check out the West Coast edition.

Best to forget 'Forgotten'

"Without who-is-it," says Christian Slater's character in tonight's premiere of ABC's "The Forgotten," "there's no whodunit," concludes one of his colleagues, who's clearly heard him say it more than twice.

They talk that way on "The Forgotten," a show about ardent (and sometimes delusional) amateurs who ID John and Jane Does and yet another bit of evidence that Jerry Bruckheimer saves his best series for CBS.

A little bit "Cold Case," a little bit "Ghost Hunters," "The Forgotten" pilot has the usual Bruckheimer touches - including music some viewers will complain drowns out the voices - and is narrated by the victim, à la "The Lovely Bones."

Frankly, it's creepy.

And not in a good way. *

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