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Emmys: Jeff Jensen and Melissa Maerz on a show that made TV seem small

JEFF JENSEN: Melissa, for all the self-serving yet correct talk about how expansive and diverse and ambitious television has become over the past few years, the Emmys made TV seem rather small last night.

Maybe I lost my sense of humor over the summer (too much Rectify and Ferguson, I guess), but Seth Meyers didn’t work for me. The Late Night comedian—at his best when seated behind a desk, gleefully reading his sharp, tart jokes and engaging guests with smart chat—kept the show flowing and didn’t fumble. He was an effective game manager, but nothing more. And he simply lacks the presence and dynamism that an event like this requires.

Meyers invoked his former Saturday Night Live pals Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and their ace work hosting the Golden Globes, but inviting the comparison only hurt him. (Could they host the Emmys next year? Check that: Can they host everything, like, from now on?) His funniest bit was the “Billy On The Street” video he did with Billy Eichner—and there, Eichner was dragging him along like luggage. (Emmy and NBC would have been better served by Jimmy Fallon, whose strengths—playful and inventive interaction with celebs; genuinely sincere gushing—seem ideally suited to emceeing a kudosfest.) READ FULL STORY

'The Good Wife': Julianna Margulies explains how she negotiated Josh Charles' season 5 contract

Julianna Margulies has no desire to direct, but she definitely earns her producer credit on The Good Wife.

CBS hosted a screening of the drama’s March 30 episode Wednesday night in New York, followed by a discussion with Margulies, co-creators Robert King and Michelle King, and Josh Charles, who makes his final appearance in the hour. By now, fans know his departure has been a year in the making. His contract expired at the end of the show’s fourth season, and the decision of whether or not to renew it coincided with when he was proposing to his wife and doing some soul-searching about his future. “Look, it’s a very long season doing a network television show, and somewhere in year 4, I kinda felt burnt out. Michelle and I had a long conversation about it, and I just felt a little fried and that I was ready for something different for me. That’s no reflection on how I feel about the show, it’s just more about what I want to do in my life,” he told moderator Charlie Rose. (“How much I’ve learned from working with Robert and Michelle about storytelling, the quality and depth of the writing — I mean, I’m afraid going out into the world,” he later admitted. “You don’t see that every day. That’s not something that I take lightly.”)

Margulies first learned Charles was thinking of not renewing his contract in March of 2013. “I got a call from Michelle and Robert, and they said, ‘We need to tell you something. Josh is gonna be leaving the show.’ And I said, ‘Why?‘ And they said, ‘Well, his contract is up, and he doesn’t want to renew.’ My head just started spinning. I said, ‘Well, well, well, wait. Did you see if he could do less episodes? Maybe offer him more directing gigs,” she recalled to much laughter. “I just became the Alicia lawyer trying to figure out how to negotiate this contract. And [the Kings] were both incredibly open about it. They said, ‘We’re open for anything. We don’t have enough time to say goodbye to his character properly in this short amount of episodes.’ Because we shoot so in advance, and they’ve written episodes and have a storyline planned. So it kinda meant his character was gonna just disappear, or someone was just gonna talk about him leaving, and I couldn’t accept that. I thought he’s been such an integral part of the show, such an integral part of my character, and I felt like if this is gonna happen, let’s do it right. And they said, ‘Good luck.’”

Once everyone finished laughing again, she continued. “I called Josh, and I gave him terrible Jew guilt. I knew he was about to get married. I’m good friends with his wife, and they’re dear friends of ours. I said, ‘Josh, how about this: 15. Think about it. Wait. Think about it. Money in the bank for 15 episodes. Do you know how expensive it is to have a baby in New York City?’ I went right to the kid thing, and it was disgusting, honestly,” she said. “We were looking at kindergarten for our son at the time, and I was like, ‘Do you know how much private school is in New York?’ I went on this whole thing about kids and family, and he was like, ‘Well, 15? Let me think about that.’ And I said, ‘And two directing slots!’ And then I hung up and called [the Kings], and I was like, ‘How about 15?’ And immediately they both said, ‘If we have an arc, and we know we can write starting next season and finish up this season as planned, we can do this.’ And so I said [to Josh], ‘They’re gonna write amazing stuff!’ And the next thing I knew, it happened.”

“No baby, yet,” she added, looking at Charles, “but that will happen, too.”

 

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Julianna Margulies 'Good Wife' Facebook chat: Here's what we learned

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched Sunday night’s episode of The Good Wife, stop reading now!

In the wake of Sunday night’s Good Wife episode, fans are champing at the bit to find out everything they can about what exactly went into killing off the beloved Will Gardner (Josh Charles). And in a recent effort to offer perspective, Julianna Margulies did a Facebook chat with her fans.

Here’s what we learned:

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'The Good Wife' and the problem of too much good TV

The moment I finally became a fan of The Good Wife occurred just about three weeks ago. It came in the current season’s widely praised fifth episode, “Hitting The Fan.” This was the one where Will (Josh Charles) and Diane (Christine Baranski) fired Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Cary (Matt Czuchry) for plotting to start their own firm. As Will progressed from betrayal (his reaction, a symphonically-performed shock-face culminating in a downbeat “what?!”, was priceless) to “commando mode” (rallying emergency quorums; hustling clients to keep them from bolting), and as Alicia progressed from resolute yet regretful to full-on “Oh, it’s so on!” (countering Will’s counter-attacks; wooing Chum Hum; an adrenaline rush quickie with Governor Hubby), it was thrilling to watch them find new energy and purpose in their lives amid the crisis, if slightly heartbreaking to watch the former lovers, now former colleagues, become enemies. It was impossible to take a side; I wanted both to win. In a story full of such grand drama and significant developments, it was a smaller, funnier exchange between Alicia and Will that grabbed me. As a contentious phone conversation came to a close (“Go to hell!” “No, you go to hell!”), Will remembered something very important. “Oh, your daughter called,” he said, suddenly civil. “She needs you to call her school to let her go on a field trip.” “Oh. When was this?” Alicia asked, equally pleasant. “About 40 minutes ago.”  “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” Click. And then war resumed.

Not a terribly ingenious scene, I grant you. It hewed to a familiar screwball comedic structure. The whiplash tonal shift; two rivals abruptly making nice or banal in a way that almost feels out of character. Except here, the moment felt true to the characters, at least as I understand them so far. It was an effective way to dramatize that their relationship was more complex than their current conflict, to show that neither of them should be defined by the crisis/concerns consuming them at present; and it was a moment that was representative of all of everything else in the show that was converting me to rabid Good Wife fandom. READ FULL STORY

'The Good Wife' preview: Julianna Margulies and the Kings talk season 5 fireworks

Tonight, The Good Wife returns for its fifth season (9 p.m. ET on CBS), and we pick up right where we left off — Alicia (Julianna Margulies) telling Cary (Matt Czuchry) she’ll leave Lockhart/Gardner with him to start their own firm with the other fourth year associates. Margulies was happy it was Cary and not Will (Josh Charles) at Alicia’s door in the final moment of the finale. “I wanted it to be an element of surprise, and that’s what [the show’s creators, Robert and Michelle King] are so good at. I think I actually got more than I bargained for,” Margulies says with a laugh. Here, she and the Kings tease what’s to come.

• Alicia and Cary won’t leave immediately. Because what fun would that be? The Kings interviewed lawyers about starting their own firms and learned the period between deciding to leave and pulling the trigger is ripe with drama. “You’re trying to quietly solicit clients for the new firm as you get your ducks in order and you feel like a betrayer,” Robert says. The reason for the delay: “Alicia starts to realize that the associates she’s leaving with are thinking idealistically and not like mature partners would. She keeps trying to get them out faster and they want to wait for bonuses,” Margulies says. “Alicia knows that that’s just not going to play out well, and sure enough, it ends up blowing up in her face.”

When we spoke with her, she hadn’t yet filmed the scene in which Will finds out she’s leaving. Alicia will keep it a secret from Will and Diane (Christine Baranski) for as long as she can. (“For as long as we can,” Michelle says.) Margulies told us she was bracing herself, and having now seen the promo below, we understand why. Plus, she’d already seen a preview of Will’s wrath: “I saw this scene yesterday,” she said. “Literally, Alicia stands there while Diane and Will go at each other, and it was just devastating to watch.”

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