PASADENA, Calif -- I arrived here at the semi-annual Television Critics Association meetings too late to see an historic moment involving a famous Western New Yorker.
Christine Baranski, the award-winning actress who is the epitome of class and elegance, went before the nation's television critics and used a four-letter word that begins with the sixth letter of the alphabet.
She used the word to help critics understand how the language rules for “The Good Fight,” an upcoming sequel to “The Good Wife,” will differ from the broadcast network series starring Julianna Margulies that ended its seven-year run in 2016.
Since I was supposed to be here on time, I was entitled to access to the CBS transcript provided to critics about one of the mid-season shows that many Western New Yorkers are looking forward to see.
In the press conference, Baranski illustrated the rule difference after the head of CBS All-Access said the new show would have more of a “premium channel sensibility.”
Michelle King, the co-creator of both series with her husband Robert, added that meant viewers will be able to hear “the swear words you would have expected characters to use in the original CBS drama if network standards had allowed.”
“Yes,” added Baranski. “If you find out you’ve lost all your money, even if you’re a lady and dress elegantly, you might say, (expletive deleted).”
“We actually shot it three ways, once with Christine saying (a longer expletive deleted),” explained Robert King.
“Let’s be honest,” said Michelle King, “We knew we’d never use (the 12-letter version) but we so wanted to hear Christine say it.”
I’ll be honest, too. I wish I had been there to hear her say the word -- and every other word she said. I can’t use the swear word, though I thought of saying it when I learned I missed the Baranski press conference.
A third milder swear word was used for the tamer and shorter broadcast version of the much-awaited pilot that will have its streaming premiere on CBS All-Access and the regular CBS network on Feb. 19.
Marc DeBevoise, president of CBS Interactive, added the streaming channel currently has 1 million subscribers. It will also air the second episode on Feb. 19 in an attempt to woo more paying subscribers. The rest of the 10 episode series will air on CBS All-Access weekly on Sunday, as did “The Good Wife.”
Robert King said “The Good Fight” basically feeds off where “The Good Wife" ended.
“It’s also about a change in the environment that we’re all going through, both political environment and legal, and how we all discuss the truth, which was always what ‘The Good Wife’ was too,” said Robert King.
Baranski’s reprisal of her role as attorney lawyer Diane Lockhart almost a year after the "Good Wife" finale is the major selling point to many fans. Lockhart is dealing with marital and law firm issues.
“It seems she’s estranged from her husband for reasons of his infidelity,” said Baranski. “But she’s at the top of her game when this show starts… but halfway into the pilot, I lose everything, so I’m just back, you know, scrambling… It turns very dramatic very quickly, especially for Diane.”
Robert King considered the original series set in Chicago “as sort of” a satire of the liberal mindset. The presidential election of Donald Trump has led to an adjustment.
“I think one of the things we’re looking at in 'The Good Fight’ is how the environment changes," said Robert King. "So it’s not just anti-Trump, anti-Trump, anti-Trump. It’s also looking at how liberals are reacting.”
“The legal parts of the show are not really about finding the truth; they are about who tells the best story. So it’s always been about who puts across the bigger lie or the better lie, the more convincing lie, so it kind of plays into what we love and then the tech stuff. We have our new president coming in who’s very unaware about tech issues except how he can utilize them, and our show has always been obsessed with how tech is changing our world.”
Robert King said the creators and actress Julianna Margulies agreed that the story of her “Good Wife” character ended “and it would be just kind of weird if she just comes in and you see her, like, pushing a garbage can or something, you know, in the background. So I don’t think you would expect that this year.”
Baranski said she had another big offer before deciding she wanted to continue working with the Kings and play the character she played for seven seasons. “There was a real reluctance on my part to let go of what was a great job, a great role, great writers,” she added.
Robert King said the 2016 presidential election gave the series a spine.
“What was good was the world changed on us,” he said. “’The Good Wife’ was always a little bit about the Obama years. Whenever there was an election in ‘The Good Wife,’ it was really a satire of 2008 and all the things we went through in 2008, which was a very dramatic election.
“This, I think, gives shape to a new show, which is this is all gonna change, and some people say for better, some people for worse, but it’s just going to change. And I think that gives a lot of worth to the show beyond wanting to create all these fun new characters and get incredible actors to play them.”
He added the pilot script was rewritten after Trump was elected president.
“It was about Diane retiring, and it starts the first episode with her (and viewers) hearing Trump being inaugurated,” said Robert King.
A photo-shopped picture of Lockhart and losing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton that was prominent in many of the seasons of "The Good Wife" was used in one key scene shot the night before the election.
“When Diane has to leave her office forever because she’s out of a job, she takes that photograph of Hillary Clinton and puts it in a box,” recalled Baranski. "That particular scene was shot the night before the election, and I said to the director, ‘Well, this woman’s going to be the next president of the United States, and Diane is probably thinking if she has the strength to pick herself up, I can do it too.’ And I put the picture in a box and the scene ends.”
The following night she and co-star Delroy Lindo found out between scenes that Donald Trump was the projected winner.
“We were all in free fall,” said Baranski. “And I think the interesting thing is you have a lead character who is in moral kind of practical free fall in a similar way to what the country is feeling right now, like how do you take the next step up when there’s no foundation? Where are we? Where are we morally?”
Baranski said the scene didn’t have to be reshot, though its meaning became different with Clinton's loss.
“I had her picture in my office all those years,” said Baranski. “Diane is a liberal feminist in the show, a great admirer. She probably campaigned for Hillary. But it just changed overnight where we had a different president. When the audience sees the scene and they see me looking at her and putting it in the box, it’s going to have a very different resonance.
“The show is called ‘The Good Fight,’ and it is about the passing of power from one generation to another in terms of female power, and so I’m hoping that the show really has a very positive message of women having to continue ‘“The Good Fight.’”