In their first stab at development since creating The Good Wife, Robert and Michelle King have set up Girls With Guns, a drama project at Showtime that will be produced by the companies behind The Good Wife, …
Robert King, co-creator of CBS’ The Good Wife with wife Michelle King, called star Julianna Margulies’ 2011 Emmy win for best actress in a drama series the highlight of their year. When you lose the Emmy competition, Robert jokes, “you dismiss the awards and say those don’t matter anyway. And then when you win, it’s ‘damn right – everything’s right with the universe.’ Everybody understands art.”
The series is already lobbying hard for another Emmy win in 2012. This year, TV Academy voters are receiving seven Good Wife episodes in their mailers, rather than the average 2-4 episodes sent by most network shows. “It’s a nice problem to have, when you have so many good episodes,” says CBS TV Studios president David Stapf. “And with the ability to send out more now, why not?”
The show’s third season has brought good and not-so-good things to The Good Wife. On the good side: the Emmy for Margulies (co-star Archie Punjabi won in the supporting actress category in 2010) and the recent announcement that the show has been picked up for a fourth season by CBS.
As Sunday’s Emmy Awards telecast approaches, the Writers Guild of America West last night hosted its annual ”Sublime Primetime 2010″. It was a panel discussion with Emmy-nominated TV writer-producers including Carlton Cuse (Lost), Rolin Jones (Friday Night Lights), Mindy Kaling (The Office), Robert King and Michelle King (The Good Wife), Bruce C. McKenna and Robert Schenkkan (The Pacific), and Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck, and Ian Brennan (Glee). As part of Deadline’s ongoing series on TV’s top showrunners, freelance journalist Diane Haithman examines the WGA’s Showrunners Training Program about making the leap from writer to boss:
The sixth season of the Writers Guild West’s Showrunner Training Program begins January 2011 and is taking applications now. Conducted in partnership with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, it’s designed to help senior-level writer-producers hone the skills necessary to become successful showrunners in today’s television landscape. But if you want to find about 2010′s boot camp, then you have to first get past the “Cone of Silence”. It seems fitting that the people who make and create TV shows would turn to the sitcom Get Smart to describe the bubble of secrecy that shrouds the popular program. Though voluntary, the pledge to not reveal what happens is vital to the program’s effectiveness. “We’ve only had one instance in five years when something got out of the room, and it was unfortunate but it was the result of an honest mistake,” Jeff Melvoin, showrunner for Lifetime’s Army Wives and one of the founders of the program, tells me. “The reason we have the Cone of Silence is, we want the experience to be meaningful. We have top folks coming in and talking about their experiences, and I think that if people are going to give up six Saturdays and do this program, they deserve the best that we can give them, and that means not pulling any punches.”
While the artistic mission behind the program is making better TV, there’s also another compelling reason: money. Networks and studios are constantly complaining there aren’t enough experienced TV showrunners (creatives who also know how to handle the financial and managerial aspects of putting on their shows). The AMPTP collectively give an estimated $125,000 to $150,000 annually to fund the boot camp. After all, they benefit most from it. The program is one of the most sacrosanct even when the WGA and AMPTP negotiate contracts.
As program co-founder and WGAW president John Wells (E.R., Third Watch, West Wing) tells me: “It’s really kind of a crazy thing, if you think about it – there aren’t too many businesses where somebody writes something, they produce it in the spring [as a pilot episode] and come May 1st somebody says: ‘All right, here’s $26 million – go hire 150 to 200 people and spend it all by sometime next May.’” Wells says that it’s virtually impossible to be just a writer anymore in television. “Some people have done it very successfully, where they’ve found a partner who is willing to take over all the managerial stuff and they are allowed to just sit someplace and write,” says Wells. “But in television, it is certainly the aspiration to reach a point where you are controlling your own material, and feel that you are making decisions about what you are doing – the cast, the music, what the cut looks like.”
Wells and Melvoin formed the program because both believe the apprenticeship system long in place before the word “showrunner” even existed has disappeared. Plus, shows are being given to creators who cut their teeth in the feature film world or, more rarely, playwriting or other writing disciplines. So these creatives were coming to television with a unique vision but no practical experience in the medium.
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.