Robert and Michelle King are the married writing-producing team that created and run the CBS drama series The Good Wife. The show averaged more than 13 million viewers each week and reeled in 9 Emmy nominations for its breakout first season. It also landed the Kings a writing nomination for their work on the pilot along with their production of the CBS Productions series nominated for top drama opposite Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Lost, and True Blood. The couple spoke with Ray Richmond for Deadline Hollywood about their Emmy chances and how they feel about the “procedural” label:
Deadline Hollywood: Do you think it affects your chances for Outstanding Drama Series that you’re a broadcast network show?
RK: That’s really difficult to gauge. But I think Emmy voters understand that we’re doing 23 [episodes] a year while the cable nominees have to produce only 13, which means higher pressure for us obviously.
DH: Are there times you wish you were on cable?
Michelle King: It’s hard not to look at cable with envy at times, for sure. The tradeoff is we get to tell more stories and usually have a bigger budget, so it probably evens out.
DH: What do you think it is about politics and power that causes so many of these political leaders to sexually stray in such scandalous fashion?
RK: That’s really the central question of our show. In every episode thus far, it’s about the odd mix of power and long hours away from home and a certain arrogance that seems to come with the position. And I guess recreational sex seems to be one of the perceived perks.
DH: And yet in your show, women aren’t portrayed as mere innocent victims.
RK: Not at all. When we depict women using power in the show, though, we’re kind of having fun with it. It’s usually done comically. The point of The Good Wife is that women strive for power as much as men, but they’re probably a little better at it. The best way to achieve power is to appear you aren’t seeking it. They use whatever they’ve got in their feminine arsenal to come out on top.
DH: Does it bother you to have your show be called a ‘procedural’?
RK: Actually, we prefer to be seen as a hybrid. It’s a polite way of saying we want to have our cake and eat it, too. Mind you, we don’t hate procedurals. There’s nothing better when you’re sick in bed at home than taking in a Law & Order marathon. We’re not trying to run away from that, but we work to stuff the procedural aspect so tightly bound into a script that there’s a lot of room left to show the impact on our characters. We don’t feel hampered by the label, but we hope people can get past it and any angst they may have over it.
MK: We love procedurals. We’re just hoping it takes up 50% of our show rather than 100%.
DH: Have you had any clashes with CBS or CBS Productions over your content?
MK: The network has been extremely supportive of the show and the direction we’ve taken. They’ve been terrific.
RK: That usually sounds like bullshit when you praise the network for how they’ve handled you, but that’s genuinely been the case. We were kind of tentative going in thinking the network might push to make the show more procedural-heavy. But right from the beginning [CBS Entertainment President] Nina [Tassler] told us she wanted us to concentrate more on the personal side, even in the pilot. We do run into stuff where we really try to push the envelope. Every show does. If you’re doing it right, you’re always kind of bumping up against it.
DH: How does that manifest itself in terms of network notes?
RK: One thing we’ve bumped up against them on is how we depict oral sex, which we did in our first episode. How much can we show and how much can’t we show? Obviously, we’re not cable, so it’s limited. Sometimes, we like to comically play around with the language to get around our inability to use fuck and shit. For example, when a prostitute slept with Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), instead of saying she wanted to “fuck you all night”, she said, “I want to Florrick you all night.” We have a lot of fun kind of dancing up to that line of what we’re allowed to do and say and what we can’t. By contrast, when you watch some cable shows there’s a repetition that I think can water down the dialogue. It’s like, we get it, you can get away with saying that. Can you just tell the story now? What you should take away is the comedy, not the vulgarity of it.
DH: Why do you think the audience has connected with Julianna Margulies as your lead?
RK: Viewers just seem to have a lot of warmth for her as an actress. Also, Julianna is really kind of subtle and dynamic in the role, and she’s adept at both comedy and very intuitive drama. She’s just a very smart person. It’s good to be able to work with a really smart actress. That’s not always a given.
DH: What will viewers be seeing in your second season?
RK: A merger of our law firm with a younger firm that got rich on the BP lawsuit. It’s very much a satire on the William Morris/Endeavor merger. Some episodes in the second season will also focus even more on the human side of the characters.