The Good Wife spinoff should've been a musical. Seriously.

The Good Wife Spinoff Should’ve Been a Musical. Seriously.

The Good Wife Spinoff Should’ve Been a Musical. Seriously.

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Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
May 20 2016 8:01 AM

The Good Wife Spinoff Should’ve Been a Musical. Seriously.

the-good-wife
If only they were singing and dancing.

CBS

They may have left Alicia Florrick standing in a hotel corridor, her cheek still stinging from a freshly administered slap, but CBS confirmed at this week’s upfronts presentation that The Good Wife will be getting a spinoff series created by TGW’s Robert and Michelle King, centered around Alicia’s former partner, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and bestie, Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo). Details, including the title and the length of the first season, have yet to be announced, but one thing that’s certain is where the show will fall on CBS’ broadcast schedule: It won’t. Along with a previously announced Star Trek series, the Good Wife spinoff will be a marquee attraction for CBS All Access, the network’s $5.99/month streaming service.

Considering that The Good Wife never posted particularly strong ratings, it might seem a curious candidate for the franchise treatment, but where streaming is concerned, loyalty matters more than raw numbers, and it’s a more inspired choice than another NCIS or Criminal Minds. But even diehard Good Wife fans felt the show’s inspiration slipping in its final seasons, leaving open the question of whether the spinoff is the equivalent of trying to draw more water from a dried-up well.

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There is, however, one way to guarantee that the Good Wife spinoff won’t simply retrace its parent show’s steps and to give longtime fans something they’ve been wanting for years now: Make it a musical. Here are three reasons why that’s honestly a good idea.

1.) They’ve already got the cast in place.

The main reason Good Wife fans have long hoped the show might one day break into song is its cast. As the rare network drama that shoots in New York, The Good Wife has cut a broad swath through Broadway’s ranks. The list of musical theater legends who’ve guested on the show is as long as Peter Florrick’s rap sheet: Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, Michael Cerveris, David Hyde Pierce, Bebe Neuwirth, Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti, Donna Murphy, Jonathan Groff, Kristin Chenoweth, Anika Noni Rose, Harvey Fierstein, Megan Hilty, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Leslie Odom Jr., to name only a few. Even the plot-crammed series finale made room for a cameo by Sutton Foster, as if the Kings were frantically trying to cross one last name off their list. Julianna Margulies’ soprano was a little too wobbly to start belting out ballads, but with Alicia out of the way, Baranski and Jumbo have ample musical experience, and they can always invite Alan Cumming’s political fixer around when they need someone to sing tenor.

2.) Streaming rewards risk.

CBS, which has the oldest median audience of any broadcast network, isn’t known for taking risks: Its fall schedule, which includes a new Kevin James vehicle called Kevin Can Wait, is heavy on familiar faces and white male leads. But getting people to subscribe to a brand-new service requires giving them something they haven’t seen before, and a music-driven legal drama would definitely qualify. Granted, even in a era of shrinking audiences, musical shows have proven difficult to sustain: ABC just stuck a fork in Galavant, and the CW will banish the acclaimed but low-rated Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to Friday nights in the fall. But the fact that the CBS-owned CW renewed Crazy Ex at all is yet another sign of how the TV business is changing: The show’s audience is tiny, but critics love it, and its smartly stylized musical numbers double as viral videos, which is how star and co-creator Rachel Bloom made her name in the first place. The Good Wife has never been hip, especially when it comes to music, although its unfailingly square needle-drops acquired a certain charm over time. But if CBS wants to give non–All Access subscribers a taste of what they’re missing, a clever, well-choreographed number might just do the trick.

 3.) Variety is the spice of law.

Although The Good Wife had procedural elements—it was a CBS show, after all—it was never a pure case-of-the-week show, which made not repeating itself a challenge toward the end of its 156-episode run. The spinoff faces an even greater challenge: How do you give Good Wife fans something familiar without simply doing the same thing over again? Answer: By setting it to music. Formal inventiveness was always one of The Good Wife’s strengths. Just think if you threw shifting musical genres into the mix as well. Imagine Dylan Baker’s creepy serial killer crooning a Sweeney Todd–esque tribute to all the women he’s sex-murdered, or the show’s National Security Agency eavesdroppers rattling off a catchy Jonathan Coulton ditty about invasion of privacy. Imagine Lucca breaking down a reluctant witness with a flurry of staccato cross-examination or Diane belting out her feelings of betrayal to her unfaithful husband. The possibilities are endless, and they’re delicious.

Look, we’re realists: The odds of the Good Wife spinoff being a full-on musical are only slightly higher than the chances of Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi willingly being in the same room. But at the very least, we’re owed a musical episode or two. Baranski said last year she was still waiting for her “Sondheim moment.” Let’s not make her wait any longer.

Sam Adams is a Slate senior editor and the editor of Slate’s culture blog, Brow Beat.