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    76 Guest Stars Of "The Good Wife" Ranked In Order Of Excellence

    The TV show with the best guest stars on Earth has its Season 4 finale on Sunday. From Michael J. Fox through Carrie Preston and Maura Tierney, let's rank them from first to worst!

    There's no better current showcase for character actors than The Good Wife on CBS. It's given established stars such as Michael J. Fox and Nathan Lane fun new things to do as they play off the legal drama's leads, Julianna Margulies (as Alicia Florrick), Josh Charles (as Will Gardner), Christine Baranski (as Diane Lockhart), Matt Czuchry (as Cary Agos), and Chris Noth (as Peter Florrick). The show creators, the husband-and-wife team Robert and Michelle King, clearly delight in giving actors this showcase, and fans follow guest stars' comings and goings with great interest.

    So I decided to rank them according to excellence. And now I'm barely alive. Oh, and "excellence" here is defined as "in my opinion."

    A few notes, and then we'll get to it (I've included a longer explanation of my "methodology" — ha! — at the very bottom). I included actors who have been on three or more episodes; and I did not include actors such as Zach Grenier (as David Lee) and Mary Beth Peil (as Jackie Florrick), who are basically series regulars, even though they're not technically in that category. And so, as I went, the structure that emerged in the rankings was basically this: At the top are the characters (and actors) I consider to be superb; then it's ones I think are pretty great; after that are ones I like; then it's characters played by wonderful actors who maybe didn't have a ton to do (playing judges, mostly) and don't stand out in my memory; and then it's characters the show has forgotten (remember Courtney? Anyone?). The very bottom is filled with characters I actively disliked and/or was disappointed with: Some of my favorite actors are here.

    As far as those bottom-dwellers go, there's no blame to be meted out here. It's not the actors' faults, and it's not the writers' faults, either. If the show is going to continue to take wild swings and offer us high points, there will be lows too. I appreciate the ambition. And if every judge and every friend of the Florrick kids had some memorably wacky attribute that stood out in our minds for all time, the show would be The Practice, and we'd all want to scream in frustration.

    To the list!

    1. Michael J. Fox

    2. Martha Plimpton

    3. Mike Colter

    4. Carrie Preston

    5. Dylan Baker

    6. Matthew Perry

    7. Anika Noni Rose

    8. Anne Marsen

    9. Nathan Lane

    10. Anna Camp

    11. Mamie Gummer

    12. Gary Cole

    13. Titus Welliver

    14. Rita Wilson

    15. Kevin Conway

    16. John Benjamin Hickey

    17. Renée Elise Goldsberry

    18. Dallas Roberts

    19. Jess Weixler

    20. Stockard Channing

    21. Denis O'Hare

    22. Chris Butler

    23. David Fonteno

    24. Jill Flint

    25. Kelli Giddish

    26. Dreama Walker

    27. Tim Guinee

    28. David Paymer

    29. Michael Boatman

    30. Jerry Adler

    31. Amanda Peet

    32. Mike Pniewski

    33. Frederick Weller

    34. Joe Morton

    35. Linda Emond

    36. Gbenga Akinnagbe

    37. Kate Burton

    38. Grace Rex

    39. America Ferrera

    40. Parker Posey

    41. Michael Ealy

    42. John Glover

    43. Jeremy Strong

    44. Jack Carpenter

    45. J.D. Williams

    46. Edward Herrmann

    47. Ana Gasteyer

    48. Bebe Neuwirth

    49. F. Murray Abraham

    50. Terry Kinney

    51. Kurt Fuller

    52. Jane Alexander

    53. Joanna Gleason

    54. Miriam Shor

    55. Rachel Hilson

    56. Romany Malco

    57. Sarah Steele

    58. Eric Ruffin

    59. Liz Holtan

    60. James Carpinello

    61. Skipp Sudduth

    62. Pedro Pascal

    63. Cady Huffman

    64. Felix Solis

    65. Elizabeth Reaser

    66. Karen Olivo

    67. Maura Tierney

    68. Amy Sedaris

    69. Paulina Gerzon

    70. Sonequa Martin

    71. T. R. Knight

    72. Monica Raymund

    73. Lisa Edelstein

    74. P. J. Brown

    75. Scott Porter

    76. Marc Warren

    Note: As I wrote in the introduction, I included actors who were on the show three times or more. It was an extremely manual process — as in, I went through every episode's cast list and made the list that way — so it's certainly possible that I missed a few. There were also three actors/characters whom not only did CBS not have photographs of, but I couldn't get screengrabs of either: Ismael Cruz Cordova (as Jimmy Patrick), Nicole Roderick (as Nora), and Vanessa Wasche (as Will's assistant). With the finale looming, I simply ran out of time. And finally: Thank you, Ariane Lange, for help with the photos and research.

    Update: Peter Riegert, who has been in five episodes, simply fell off my list. He plays Judge Harvey Winter, and was the third judge named in the investigation of Will. Very upset about omitting him, but what's done is done!