Established CBS drama "The Good Wife" managed to do something few shows well into their run can do: It got people talking.
Viewers spent four seasons following one firm, Lockhart/Gardner, and then, to quote the buzzy episode that gave the series a jolt in its current fifth season, things hit the fan. Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) broke free from the central law firm to start her own enterprise with Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry), ditching the partnership she had secured alongside her onetime flame Will Gardner (Josh Charles). The showdown had longtime viewers at the edge of their seat.
Husband-and-wife creators Robert and Michelle King were on deck Wednesday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena during CBS' panel with some of its drama show runners. In speaking of the often accelerated story lines that dramas have adopted to compete with their cable counterparts, Robert talked about the caution in shaking things up.
"We only want to go some place where we think we have enough story to go there," he said. "The show is 'The Education of Alicia Florrick' — that can only happen with change."
The Kings noted that the drastic move got a thumbs-up from CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler.
"We sat across the table from her," Michelle recalled of the meeting. "And she said, 'Oh, my God, that's brilliant!' It could not have been more lovely."
The move has taken the show in a new direction. The resulting episodes have featured cases in which Lockhart/Gardner lawyers are pitted against those of Florrick/Agos. There will be less of that in coming episodes.
"A lot of it was the fun of playing off red team, blue team from last year," Robert explained. "But we can't live in that world [forever]. At a certain point you're repeating yourself. We're splitting off into other directions."
The season also saw Lockhart/Gardner expand to New York, taking on the name LG. But it's not the seeds of a spinoff, Robert insisted, rather it's an example of Will's coping process.
"We really felt that the Will Gardner character was going through a grief period he's in denial about," he said. "There's a frantic energy in him that I think Diane [Baranski] is correct to analyze as being an energy about him from being in this limbo for so long. Now he's making all these multiple choices that will hurt the firm."
For those feeling detached from the Kalinda story thus far this season, the Kings promised things pick up for the character, played by Archie Panjabi.
"I'd rather not tell you where we're going," Robert said. "Kalinda was a little bit adrift the first half. Things start exploding the second half of the year. Her story starts crystallizing the second half of the year."