marriage: an investigation

The Good Wife Creators on Making a TV Show With Your Spouse

Michelle and Robert King. Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images

How do you make a TV show about marriage when you’re actually married? Let Michelle and Robert King, married couple of 31 years and co-creators and showrunners of CBS’s The Good Wife and its CBS All Access spinoff, The Good Fight tell you.

Robert King: I’m always questioning my opinions, and Michelle is always questioning my opinions.

Michelle King: That is actually not accurate. In writing the show, we almost never disagree about big stuff. If we’re having an argument, it’s over the tiniest, smallest detail. I remember one time we argued about whether “United States” should be abbreviated “U.S.” or “US” for a day and a half.

Robert: So let’s move to the misdemeanors, Michelle. There was an episode of The Good Wife where … what’s the actress’s name?

Michelle: Melissa George.

Robert: Melissa George gets pregnant. Alan Cumming asks what the name of the baby is, and she says, “Peter.” It was my idea that she was impregnated by Peter Bogdanovich. Michelle, I don’t want to put words in your mouth —

Michelle: That was one of our few differences of opinion.

Robert: Julianna Margulies sided with Michelle. She said, “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.”

Michelle: It still ended up in the show. No one had a better idea!

Robert: We never contradict each other in public, because that way lies madness. And we’re easily corrected. There’s a story I’ve been pitching for two seasons in the writers room for a silent episode where not a word is spoken, and the writers are like, “Are you insane?” Michelle agrees.

Michelle: People don’t try and play us off each other.

Robert: Yes they do! Because they think I’m the one who will give in. You’re always saying that. Don’t you?

Michelle: I didn’t think so.

Robert: Oh, really? I thought it was a thing that people came to me first to get a yes because I get all kerfuffled.

Michelle: [Silence.]

Robert: Why don’t you give us time to talk about this?

Plus: Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan on How to Make a Realistic TV Marriage

1. Say terrible things.

People are awful to each other, and particularly awful to the people who are closest to them. We’ve got this line in the latest season where Sharon says, “I’d never behave out in the world the way I do at home.” In real life, you say terrible and disgusting things to each other and then five minutes later you’re laughing.

2. Easy on the sex.

I fucking hate when married women brag about how much sex they’re having. That’s one of my pet hates. First of all, they’re all fucking liars. I went on a hen weekend once. There were 10 or 12 women in the room, and literally, there was only one woman who was having regular sex with her husband. It was so honest — everyone was just like, “Fuck it. That’s just how it is.” In our show, we really tried [to show that]. If you were to compare how many sex scenes there were in the first season with how many there are in the fourth season, the difference is huge.

3. Your darkest moments are the most relatable.

There’s a thirst for “no bullshit.” Rob and I used to have this fear: What if no one else feels or does these things? The response will be, “You’re monsters.” But it’s surprising how many monsters there are out there — the number of people who say, “Thank you. I thought I was a terrible mother or a bad partner or a shit wife.”

How to Make a TV Show About Marriage When You’re Married