Should The Good Wife Stay or Go Once Its Creators Exit?

Decisions, decisions … Photo: Paul Sarkis/CBS

The Good Wife’s showrunners, Robert and Michelle King, announced Tuesday that they’ll be stepping down at the end of the show’s current season. This isn’t much of a surprise — the Kings have been fairly vocal over the years about their seven-year plan for Alicia Florrick’s story — but it leaves the fate of the series uncertain. Because CBS owns the show, the network could theoretically choose to keep it on the air with new showrunners attached. “The bottom line is CBS is trying to make deals for an eighth season, so we would be there in a supervisory role, but the storytelling we have will finish in the seventh year,” Robert told TV Line. Here are three reasons for The Good Wife to stay on the air … and three reasons why the Kings’ departure means it’s time for the series to take a graceful final bow.

Go: The show has been surely but steadily declining in quality across season seven.
In a way, the Kings’ announcement is a bit of a relief. While the quality of the series has always ebbed and flowed a bit throughout the years, season seven has had far more ebb than flow. Recapping this season, I’ve noticed a perplexing change in tone. A show that was once very anchored and frequently subtle has become much more over-the-top, which is particularly problematic because subtlety is Julianna Margulies’s specialty. It’s not that the show is consistently bad now — at the very least, I still find something to enjoy in every single episode — but it’s not as strong as it once was either. There’s a compelling argument for the show to call it a day before it declines any further.

Stay: Fresh showrunners’ eyes could restore the show to its original glory.
Seven years is a very long time to do any one job, and in TV years, it’s practically an eternity. Maybe the answer to the show’s more recent issues is as simple as having a fresher pair of eyes at the helm. The Good Wife has had several repeating problems over the past couple of seasons: introducing and then dropping interesting guest performers, dragging out story lines that aren’t connecting with viewers, and trying to balance too much storytelling all at once. It stands to reason that a new showrunner could go a long way toward improving the quality of the show. On the other hand …

Go: Showrunner swaps can be absolute disasters.
While some shows have managed to change leaders without losing the appeal of the show — the musical chairs played by the showrunners of The Walking Dead are a fine example — more often, changing the creative leadership of a show means losing what made it special. Dan Harmon’s departure from Community for the show’s fourth season is a prime example. Even though the reins were passed to showrunners who were fans of Community and who’d successfully written sitcoms in the past, and even though the same very talented cast was in place, the show wasn’t very good, and it certainly wasn’t Community. That mars the ultimate legacy of a show, something CBS might be keen to avoid.

Stay: Television will simply never have a finer cast assembled.
Aside from The West Wing, it’s hard to think of a network-TV show in recent memory with as strong a cast as The Good Wife’s. From Marguiles on down, there’s not a single weak link. Even the series’ day players and one-off guest stars are stronger than normal, a likely benefit of the fact that The Good Wife films in New York City and gets to siphon off theatrical talent. It makes total sense that the network would resist willingly dissolving such an incredible cast. Perhaps they could just read aloud from the phone book each week? Hell, CBS could even skip getting new two new heads of the writers room and just have the cast perform a great theatrical work from the public domain each week, in repertory. Problem solved!

Go: Creators should get to decide the fate of their creations.
While it’s likely that CBS’s decision-making will come down to the financial needs of the network and not the desires of The Good Wife’s creators, there’s something to be said for letting the people who created something decide how that thing will end. The Kings have had an idea for who Alicia would be at the end of the series for eight years now, and (again, I know this isn’t how things work) it feels unfair for Alicia’s story to end any other way.

Stay: The Good Wife is CBS’s sole prestige offering.
CBS is America’s most-watched network, and while it takes great pride in that broader appeal, it’s equally proud to have a show like The Good Wife that gets fewer viewers but is respected by critics and often ranked on best-of lists alongside prestige cable shows. CBS’s Sunday nights (which feature 60 Minutes and Madam Secretary alongside The Good Wife) are a tentpole for the network, and CBS currently don’t have a show that can take The Good Wife’s place. While it’s true that the Kings are in the process of developing a new show for the network, it’s a thriller (with aliens!), not a more traditional, understated drama. That’s an awfully big piece of a programming puzzle for the network to cede.

Should The Good Wife Stay or Go?