Picking up a year after The Good Wife’s slap heard ’round the world, CBS’ new series, The Good Fight, follows Christine Baranski’s liberal feminist badass, Diane Lockhart, as she gets sucked back into the life of a high-powered attorney—just when she thought she was free to retire. But it’s also about much more.
“The Good Fight is a show that is basically feeding off where The Good Wife ended and following some of the characters and what happens to them next,” Robert King, who co-created both series with his wife, Michelle, said Monday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif. “But it’s also about a change in the environment that we’re all going through—the whole political environment, [the] legal [environment], and how we all discuss the truth.”
The first two episodes of The Good Fight, the first original scripted series to air on CBS’ All Access digital platform, will become available on February 19 at 8 p.m., with the remaining eight episodes slated to be released, one at a time, on Sundays thereafter. The first episode will also air at 8 p.m. on February 19 on CBS.
In plotting The Good Fight, Baranski and the Kings discussed Diane’s life in the year that’s gone by since the end of The Good Wife.
“We did speak about how she processed what happened to her, particularly in that final episode, and where her life was when the new show began, in terms of her marriage and her position in the firm,” Baranski says. “She’s estranged from her husband, but she’s on top of her [career] game when this show starts. But halfway into the pilot, she loses everything… The Good Fight jumps off where The Good Wife ended in a very interesting way that turns dramatic very quickly.”
Diane gets a new job.
“Michelle had this epiphany of, ‘Why don’t we send Diane to work in an all-African American law firm?’” Robert says. “Suddenly you saw that you could have all the old tropes of The Good Wife in a completely different cultural setting.”
The firm is one that takes on a lot of police brutality cases. “We loved this idea of there being this weird difficulty of representing police brutality but also making money off of it,” Robert adds. “In regards to the murder rate in Chicago, that will be addressed, [but] when you’re making a TV show, you’re exploiting the situation, too.”
Despite The Good Wife’s political bent, The Good Fight is not just going to be “anti-Trump, anti-Trump, anti-Trump.”
“The Good Wife was a satire toward a liberal mindset because [the show’s setting of] Chicago is such a liberal town,” Robert says. “One of the things we’re looking at in The Good Fight is how the environment changes… It’s also looking at how liberals are reacting. It’s also how the culture changes and the confusion between what’s real and what’s not new. The legal parts of the show are not really about finding the truth there.”
Still, the presidential election gave the Kings “the spine of the show.”
“The Good Wife was really about the Obama years,” Robert says. “Any time there was an election on that show, it was really a satire of 2008, which was a very dramatic election. This [election] gives shape to a new show… beyond wanting to create all these new characters.” (The Kings re-wrote the pilot after the results came in.)
Technology and its connection to the real world will not be ignored.
“We have a new president coming in who’s very confused about tech stuff except how he can utilize [it],” Robert says. “Our show has always been obsessed with how tech is changing our world.”
It will still be politics as usual, though.
“More than the show being political, we have characters being political,” Michelle says. “What we have always tried to do is present our characters as intelligent human beings, whether they have conservative points of view or liberal points of view.”
One episode will feature a storyline in which a member of Delroy Lindo and Erica Tazel’s African-American-run law firm voted for Trump.
What does it mean for the The Good Fight’s content now that it doesn’t have to adhere to primetime broadcast standards and practices?
“You’re going to hear people talk the way they do in real life,” Michelle says. “These are educated people; they’re cultured. You’re not going to hear them sound drastically different. But they’re going to use the swear words you’d expect them to use in the real world.”
Baranski was more succinct: “If you’ve found out that you’ve lost all your money, even if you’re a lady, you’re going to say ‘fuck.’” (That word is used in the series’ trailer, but it will be “son of a bitch” for broadcast audiences.)
Aside from the swearing, how will the versions that air on CBS and All Access differ?
“One version will be 49 minutes and 10 seconds and the other version will be 42 minute and whatever we’re allowed on network,” Robert says. “We’re cutting two different versions, one of which is cleaner for network TV, but doesn’t lose any content. I would say the biggest distinction is it’s shorter.”
“There was never a thought that it was going to be on a network,” though, Michelle says. “This was designed for All Access.” Robert adds that they “wanted the frankness of sexuality and… sometimes it’s hard to have the characters say ‘friggin’’ when you know they want to say ‘fucking.’”
The Good Fight’s serialization (or lack thereof) is comparable to Netflix’s The Crown.
“I was surprised how un-serialized that show was,” Robert says. “It created little dilemmas and sometimes big dilemmas that were like little short stories, like little strings of pearls. We’re hoping to do something similar there… We wanted to hold onto some of that Good Wife thinking.”
Rose Leslie plays a new character, Maia Rindell, a young lawyer who deals with family drama right off the bat.
“We meet her as a law student and so much happens to her in the pilot whereby her life is flipped with her father’s Ponzi scheme” Leslie says.
Will Julianna Margulies and Chris Noth’s Alicia and Peter Florrick, who were the focus of the first series, appear in this one?
“They’re mentioned, but I wouldn’t say constantly,” Robert says. “The whole point of the show is to treat it as if it’s real and you might walk into Carrie Preston [who played the quirky Elsbeth Tascioni in The Good Wife] walking down the hall… We talked to Julianna about the show and her relationship with it. Julianna and we agree that The Good Wife ended that story. It’d be kind of weird if she just came in and we saw her pushing a garbage can.”
That said, a lot of the characters from The Good Wife will be back.
“There’s like three of four [Good Wife actors] who might appear each episode,” Robert says, name-checking Jane Alexander, Denis O’Hare, John Benjamin Hickey, Rita Wilson, Michael Boatman and Matthew Perry. One familiar regular on The Good Fight is Sarah Steele, who played the opinionated Marissa Gold, the daughter of Alan Cumming’s Eli, on The Good Wife.
“It’s a wonderful revolving door of all the great actors working in New York and L.A.,” Baranski says.
Steele says her character has grown up.
“She has a different job that she didn’t get through her father,” she says, adding that she doesn’t think Marissa speaks with Eli every day.
What has Robert King learned from his short-lived summer series, BrainDead?
“Two words: Avoid satire,” he says. “It was a show that was trying to be as weird and anti-network as it could be, and it was a mistake to do that on a network. There are other streaming services that could have probably [done it]… I loved that show because I thought it was funny and accurate.”