The Long ‘Good’ Bye: Broadcast Loses Trophy ‘Wife’

With CBS’ announcement, on TV’s biggest stage, that The Good Wife’s next batch of episodes will be its last, CBS—and broadcast in general--loses more than an acclaimed drama. When The Good Wife wraps after seven seasons, it brings to an end one of the few critically adored broadcast series in a peak TV era where cable and the streaming services get the large majority of the praise.

The show’s place in history came up organically late in 2015, when I was speaking with TV critic Alan Sepinwall. Broadcast and cable, he noted, are “in different businesses.”

“Once The Good Wife goes away,” said Sepinwall, of, “how long before you see another network drama trying to be a cable drama?”

Creators Michelle and Robert King said they always had a seven-season arc in mind for the series. They’d announced some time ago that the seventh would be their last, but acknowledged in a call with reporters Monday that CBS was within its rights to continue without them.  Last month, at TCA in Pasadena, Glenn Geller, CBS entertainment president, discussed the possibility of Good Wife continuing without the Kings.

“We have a deep bench on the show,” he said. “Some of the writers have been there from the beginning, and we haven't made any determination.”

Nine episodes remain. Michelle expressed gratitude that she and Robert are able to tie up the series on their own. “We felt very fortunate and flattered to be allowed to end the show, together with the writers and the producers, the way we hoped it would end,” she said.

That will include the return of some of the meaningful departed characters, including Gary Cole’s Kurt McVeigh. “It’s not going to be exactly the end of Seinfeld in that way, said Robert. “We just want to get a little bit of a check-in with the characters we’ve seen.”

A possible return for Josh Charles’ Will Gardner, gunned down a few seasons ago, “is something we haven’t figured out,” said Robert.

A spinoff is a possibility, though not currently in the planning stage. Said Michelle, “We’re not saying no to anything at this point.”

The couple is at work on BrainDead for CBS, a comic thriller set in Washington.

They saluted CBS for giving them freedom to make The Good Wife just about exactly how they wanted to make it. Tellingly, Robert noted how the creative process is different in broadcast and in cable, which results in the latter’s series winning a glut of awards. “Network TV doesn’t really match up to cable sometimes because the creative doesn’t take the lead,” he said. “What’s been lovely about the way CBS has been doing this, they let us fall on our faces. CBS really gave us the ability to tell a story, which is amazing.”

The Good Wife received a pair of primetime Emmy nominations this past year—Alan Cumming for outstanding supporting actor and Christine Baranski for outstanding supporting actress—but did not win.

The final stretch being announced during the Super Bowl, said the Kings, came as something of a surprise. Robert said the pair only became aware of the primetime announcement in the past week.

The Good Wife has averaged a 1.08 same-day rating in adults 18-49, according to TV By the Numbers. It was never a ratings magnet, but Robert said CBS always appreciated it, and wished to send it off in style. “I’m amazed by how much CBS loves talking about the show,” he said. “I have a feeling they wanted to honor the show.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.