Skip to main content

Download Delays Stress Us All, Even ‘The Good Wife’ Writers

Among the signatures of CBS’s The Good Wife are ripped-from-the-media storylines, such as this season’s treatments of ongoing NSA surveillance, whistle-blowing and copyright infringement.

In the May 4 episode, which The Wire viewed in catch-up mode, the show seemed to take a shot at the ongoing war of words between Comcast and Netflix over paid peering and impeding network congestion.

Main character Alicia Florrick sits down to some online video viewing after a hard day — and a hard time finding which remote to use (she calls her son for help) and which wire to connect to the back of the set (presumably the HDMI cable) — when a Netflix-like screen comes up and she makes her selection.

A Universal studio logo is prominently displayed (Comcast owns Universal) as the video she has chosen opens. Then comes that dratted buffering bar as she waits for the video to load. It is almost done when the buffering percentage starts to actually reverse itself, to Florrick’s obvious frustration.

An obvious poke at the Comcast-Netflix traffic issue, right? Well, no, said co-creator and executive producer Robert King.

The real story is even more interesting, though, and indeed includes at least a general disaffection with the state of buffering in online video viewing.

But let’s let King tell it.

“We originally had Alicia go to the movie theatre on her day off, and we had a little satire of 12 Years a Slave,” he told The Wire. “A theater- goer calls her racist for leaving the theater in the middle of a whipping scene.”

Sounds like wiser heads prevailed. Well, partly. “But we backed off this — mostly for budgetary reasons,” he continued.

“As a replacement, we needed some frustration with entertainment at home. The whole episode is about the worst thing that can happen to a workaholic — a day off [her boss essentially commands her to take it]. The writers’ room was sharing stories about buffering and slow Internet connections, and that seemed funny,” King said. “We’ve also had problems at home with universal remotes, and found frustration in the number of remotes that complicate our lives. So we decided to satirize our personal experiences. “

As for the Comcast connection: “We ended up with the Universal logo because it was the cheapest to license. We originally had another studio, but they wanted five times as much.

“So ... as much as The Good Wife tries to stay current and ‘ripped-from-the-headlines,’ this was just the case of us trying to go for the cheap laugh,” King said. “We’re not above the sophomoric and the satiric.”

The Wire’s kind of guy.

Familiar Face: L.A. Lawyer Sues Sterling, TWC

What do Donald Sterling and a handful of disgruntled Southern California Time Warner Cable customers have in common?

Maxwell Blecher, founding partner of Blecher Collins Pepperman & Joye P.C.

Blecher has represented both in legal wrangling over L.A. basketball teams.

He is the lawyer who became a familiar face on CNN in the past few weeks defending Sterling, if not his comments, after the soon-to-be-former Clippers owner’s racist remarks on a leaked audiotape set in motion his removal from ownership of the team.

The cable industry also knows Blecher as the lawyer who filed a class-action suit for TWC customers over having to pay for Lakers — and Dodgers — games in the bundled price of their cable service. They sued the Lakers and Dodgers, too. A California judge threw out the suit earlier this year.

The Clippers, meanwhile, are changing hands: Sterling’s wife is in the process of selling it to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, as Blecher pointed out to The Wire.

But the fight continues against TWC packaged pricing and the price of sports programming. “Last week, we filed an appeal brief in the Time Warner case,” Blecher said.

— John Eggerton

Of Mavericks, Mergers And Craig Moffett

The Wire now has a favorite quote about a proposed merger. In handicapping the possible merger of wireless providers Sprint and T-Mobile, analyst Craig Moffett, who gives it only a 10% chance of approval, said one thing that works against the deal is that it would remove a “maverick” (T-Mobile) from the market.

Moffett is more confident the AT&T-DirecTV deal will be approved, in part because the whack-a-maverick issue doesn’t apply: “You’d be more likely to find a unicorn in your backyard than a maverick firm in the pay TV industry.”

— John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.