Meet Your Makers: Michelle and Robert King reveal their biggest influences
With The Good Fight (Thursdays on CBS All Access) and CBS’ Evil, Michelle and Robert King are producing some of the most engaging shows on television. Here, the married writers share the pop culture that has shaped their work.
1. The Marx Brothers
“At 9 years old, [their] films were the funniest things I’d ever seen,” says Michelle. “The sight gags, the puns, the chaos. I loved all of it.”
2. The Dick Van Dyke Show
Carl Reiner’s classic sitcom gave Robert an “overriding sense of television,” he says. “I thought it was a knowing and cunning show that was very funny and showed you could do excellent work over a long stretch of time.”
3. Steven Bochco
Watching the late producer’s Hill Street Blues was the “most valuable thing” Michelle did in college. “It just didn’t get any better then in terms of how you could do procedural and continuing stories and [have] characters that you care so much about.”
4. John Wells
“[He] basically, in my mind, created the modern concept of showrunners,” says Robert about the ER, West Wing, and Shameless producer, to whom Robert turns for advice. During season 1 of The Good Wife, Wells cautioned him against taking credit on rewrites, because the writers “will believe you’re only doing it as a credit-grabber,” Robert says. “I thought that was incredibly good and strong advice.”
5. The News
“Nothing in the land of fiction frustrates me [because] I can just change the channel,” says Michelle. “The real world is what can be frustrating and spur wanting to do something about it.” For her, writing The Good Fight is “an emotional reaction to what’s going on in the world. It borders on group therapy in the writers’ room.” Case in point: The current season is “influenced by people seemingly being willing and able to reject subpoenas,” says Robert, referencing the presidential impeachment inquiry.
6. David Lynch
The Kings’ surrealist sensibilities can be traced back to the 74-year-old auteur. “[He] is the one who connects us to our dreams,” says Robert. “It’s ghastly to compare ourselves in any way to [him]. All we’re saying is that it’s inspired a bit. We’re still carnival barkers wanting people to come in the tent and watch what we show, and if we can grab any of that dreamlike logic, that’s all great, because why not?”
7. The Outsider, by Stephen King
“I think The Outsider the novel, less so the TV show, was an excellent way of using the reality of a procedural to show the limits of the procedural," says Robert. "At a certain point the logic of a procedural can't explain the supernatural. What we like about that is you’re living in a reality that people can't understand an unfamiliar thing. That is probably the best way to blow people’s minds — to take them to something new because they don’t go in going, 'Okay, this David Lynch land, I expect it.' It’s a land of a CBS procedural. One of our joys is that we can do this on CBS and that [when] you go in, you’re watching a soap commercial or commercial for Viagra, and you start watching and there’s a big demon. It’s a way to takeover people’s familiar reality and try to explode from inside.”
The Good Fight returns with new episodes Thursday, April 30 on CBS All Access.
A version of this story appears in the May 2020 issue of Entertainment Weekly, which is available here now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
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