Are you going through The Good Wife withdrawal? Don't worry, we are too. Thankfully, we had a chance to hear from executive producers and co-creators Robert and Michelle King during CBS's Television Critics Association (TCA) presentation this week, and they shared insight on Season 5, from the big changes to Bruce Springsteen.
Last Sunday's episode featured three songs from The Boss's new album, High Hopes, and we found out how that arrangement came to be. You can thank the network. "CBS came to us with as they said, this fantastic opportunity, that Bruce had a new album, and they wanted to play it for us," explained Michelle King. "And if and only if we felt that the songs were appropriate to the episode, there was an opportunity to be able to use them, and, of course, we were super excited."
"We needed instrumental tracks without the vocals on it, which is terrible if you want to take Bruce's [vocals out], but we needed it, so we said 'Can you send them?,' because usually artists can send them over," continued Robert King. "Well, they didn't have them. So we heard that Bruce went back into the studio and did the instrumental track. It was like, 'Oh, would he want to compose the rest of the episodes?' So it was fantastic. It was an opportunity of a lifetime."
We also learned that Lockhart/Gardner's (okay, we're still not calling them LG no matter what Will says) expansion plans are not indicative of a Good Wife spinoff, just some character development. "It really felt [like] Will is going through a grief that he's in denial about, and there's a frantic energy to him that I think Diane is correct to analyze as being an energy that is about him having been in this limbo with Alicia for so long," explained Robert. "Now it's like he's trying to make all these multiple choices. So it's coming off of there. And, of course, that's going to hurt the firm going [forward] -- how much can he expand and is that really good for the Diane/Will relationship?"
The Kings gave us a little insight into how The Good Wife's ensemble cast is written for, too, reminding us that even when you have a roster full of tremendous actors, it's impossible to have all their characters at the forefront all the time. "I think the third year we underused Christine Baranski until the second half of the year," said Robert. "Some people get a middle part of the year.
"It's an embarrassment of riches basically," added Michelle. "We have a spectacular ensemble, and some rise at certain parts of the story and others wait until the next piece."
This year it's Archie Panjabi you'll see pick up steam in the back half of the season. "Kalinda was a little bit adrift in the first half of the year. She starts exploding in the second half of the year. The intent is, because we're shooting Episode 15 and we're writing Episode 16 right now, is that her story starts crystallizing in the second half of the year," Robert continued. " I think the difficulty with Kalinda is she can't live sometimes in some of the other stories, because the other stories are so much about the workings of a firm and she has an operatic streak to her that kind of would blow that way.
"We've been aware of where the fans' head is at [with her character], and part of us is saying 'Patience,' and the other part is saying, 'Okay, we're lighting a fire under our own ass.'"
Speaking of Kalinda, we found out just how difficult it was for the Kings to scrap the panned storyline between her and her husband (Marc Warren). "We kind of knew that it was one of those plot points where you kind of stepped the wrong way," explained Robert. "At that point, we started to move up the plot that we had shot into earlier episodes.
"It was one of the hardest things we've ever done in our life. Because what we had to do was keep moving up B-plots earlier and earlier so we could try to end that story by the end of the year. So it was a very checkerboard process of taking some plot we'd already shot and putting it into earlier episodes, throwing some of that plot away. It was a nightmare."
"We're very cautious story-wise. We only want to go someplace if we think we have enough story to go there. And we always worry about painting yourself into a deeper and deep corner. So we only tend to go to someplace if we think we can stabilize it afterwards," he continued. "So much of our instinct is to try to keep blowing things up. Alicia's life from the very beginning, the very moment that started, the series was about her life exploding. And we've always told ourselves the show is the education of Alicia Florrick and that can kind of only happen with change."
Even when the story works out, Michelle told us that sometimes the schedules don't. "We're not looking to just do close‑ended procedural stories. There are these arcs and the arcs do not just involve principal cast members. They involve guest cast," she said, "so if you've cast someone, say, to be Alicia's brother and then you need to tell the story with Alicia's brother, or you feel you do, and he's not available, you've got a problem. And that comes up constantly; you'll think you have someone that you've introduced, and then suddenly they're not there 48 hours before you start filming, so you need to be creative."
Last week's episode was an example of that as well. "[It] was supposed to be Diane and I forgot who," said Robert. "But then we lost Christine Baranski to Into the Woods, going to England, so we had to make it Will and F. Murray Abraham."
The Kings even addressed one of our rare criticisms of this season - the fact that Lockhart/Gardner and Florrick/Agos seem to be the only two law firms we see in the courtroom. The two groups will take "divergent" paths coming up. Robert told us that it was a matter of "having all these great characters, but always having to pit them against some antagonist. Here, they were their own antagonist and that's so much fun. But we can't live in that world. I mean, at a certain point you're repeating yourself, so it's going off, spinning off in unusual directions." Directions that we look forward to going.
If there's one thing we learned more than any other from our Q&A with the Kings, it's that writing award-winning, top-rated television is not easy. It's so much more than coming up with a story that sounds good. There are so many factors to consider and so much effort that goes into every episode. That makes what the Good Wife team is doing all the more remarkable. You can get more insight into the show by following the writers on Twitter (@GoodWifeWriters) and you might want to send a thank-you in their direction, because they're working hard to keep us brilliantly entertained.
The Good Wife returns to CBS on March 9. Until then, click here to see all our Season 5 coverage.