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TV's Good Wife Takes On the FCC

Plot line gives nod to CBS' 'Nipplegate'

Matt Czuchry, Christina Ricci, Julianna Margulies and F Murray Abraham. Photo: David M. Russell

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Episodes of The Good Wife are often about take-no-prisoners Chicago politics or cutthroat corporate lawsuits. But Sunday night's episode was a "Capitol" delight, taking on the Federal Communications Commission's broadcast indecency rules, which frequently end up in court.

CBS, the network that airs The Good Wife, has had plenty of experience with broadcast indecency. Last June the Supreme Court declined to take on the infamous wardrobe malfunction case (where Janet Jackson's breast was exposed for a fraction of a section during the Super Bowl) letting stand an appeals court decision that tossed the FCC's ruling and $550,000 fine.

In a wink-wink nod-nod to the case, Sunday's episode did one breast better. Christina Ricci, playing a comedian whose pet cause was breast cancer and the promotion of self-examination, exposed both her breasts on a fictional evening talk show. No malfunction there!

To escape a $2 million lawsuit judgment, Ricci's character flies to Washington, D.C., with her legal entourage led by Alicia Florrick (Juliana Margulies), to argue her case before the FCC. Of course no broadcast indecency story would be complete without including the equivalent of the Parents Television Council (Parents Against Indecency, in the fictional account), which effectively organizes millions of complaints from its email lists.

The episode played up the problems with regulating what is indecent on the air. All the networks have been in and out of the courts for more than a decade claiming the rules are vague and arbitrary. Last June, in broadcast indecency cases involving ABC and Fox, the Supreme Court punted the rules back to the FCC, where about 1.5 million backlogged complaints hang in the balance.

In last night's episode, the FCC commissioners come to a speedy decision and decide not to levy a fine. If only the FCC made decisions as quickly as the one reached on The Good Wife.