For viewers irritated by CBS's Sunday night strategy, which seems designed to frustrate with constant shifts in show start times, know this: "The Good Wife" (9 p.m. Sunday, KDKA-TV) should air new episodes relatively unscathed for the next four weeks.
There's a small chance March Madness basketball could cause delays but otherwise "The Good Wife" should play without interruption. This comes after Sunday's original "Good Wife" episode ranked ahead of ABC's new drama, "Red Widow," with 8.9 million total viewers (but "Good Wife" was shellacked by the 13.1 million viewers who tuned into "The Bible" on History).
Still, despite variable start times due to sporting events that run long, CBS seems devoted to "The Good Wife." Although the show's ratings among younger viewers are not as robust as executives may like, "The Good Wife" is one of the few critically acclaimed series on the network, making it a bit of a prestige project.
In a teleconference with TV writers this week, husband and wife executive producers Michelle and Robert King said they are confident the show will be renewed for the 2013-14 TV season.
"This show has a very strong serialized element and at the same time each show tries to be a short story," Mr. King said. "You want the audience to have continuity like they have on cable where you can follow it week to week. [The network] sees the problem, too. ... The on-air advertising suggesting five new episodes in a row shows they are really trying to get the audience turned on to the story."
"We have every reason to anticipate coming back," Mrs. King added.
At its start, "The Good Wife" was about Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) returning to work after her politician husband, Peter (Chris Noth), went to jail in a sex and corruption scandal. In the years since, Peter has reclaimed his political career -- he's now running for governor of Illinois -- and Alicia just made partner at her law firm, Lockhart/Gardner, which recently emerged from bankruptcy.
Mr. King said the remainder of the show's fourth season will explore the theme of "be careful what you wish for."
"The characters get a lot of their dreams and yet the dreams are not what they might appear," he said.
The election for governor will happen this season and the show will continue to explore the renewed sexual tension between Alicia and longtime friend/boss Will Gardner (Josh Charles). Mr. King says it's now a different dynamic than in the past.
"It's a more interesting situation now because in many ways in Alicia's earlier attraction to Will, she was off the hook ethically and morally because of the way Peter behaved," he said. "Now things are warming up with Peter again. She does see changes with Peter. It puts Alicia in a very different position: What happens when the drama doesn't give the character an easy out? It's Alicia struggling with her attraction to two men and we're going to explore that through the end of the year. It's a different moral claim than before."
Some fans and critics were not enthralled with the storyline of Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) and her estranged husband, Nick, earlier this season and producers opted to cut the story short three episodes sooner than intended, leaving open the question of whether Kalinda had Nick killed.
"The fan reaction obviously had something to do with it," Mr. King acknowledged. "We bent the character so there was a thematic [parallel] between Kalinda's life and Alicia's life. [In the future] we don't want theme to lead plot again."
Kalinda's next character arc kicks in Sunday with the prospect of Lockhart/Gardner hiring a second investigator. Mr. King said it's an opportunity to give Kalinda scenes with a more regular character rather than just the one-and-done guest characters she runs up against in her investigation work.
"We wanted to see how Kalinda works through the eyes of somebody else and someone who, in theory, she's supposed to train," he said.
It's often the recurring guest stars who give "The Good Wife" a real sense of existing in a fully-realized world. That includes characters such as Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox), Wendy Scott-Carr (Anika Noni Rose) and Nancy Crozier (Mamie Gummer, "Emily Owens, M.D."), who will be back later this season.
Recently the show did a three-episode arc with Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston, "True Blood"). Because some of these actors have other commitments, the "Good Wife" producers have limited access to write their characters into storylines.
"Take Carrie Preston, she's a regular on "True Blood" and she only has an out [clause in her 'True Blood' contract] for three episodes [of another show she can be in]," Mr. King said. "We are judicious and careful and know we can use her in only three episodes every year."
Earlier this year "Good Wife" introduced the character of Clarke Hayden (Nathan Lane), a court-appointed financial overseer who joined Lockhart/Gardner and left when it was revealed he was becoming a late-in-life lawyer. Was that plot twist done with the notion of bringing the character back once he's a practicing attorney?
"That's exactly what we did," Mr. King confirmed. "You start out not knowing whether a character will work. We'd love to have the ability to bring him back as a novice lawyer."
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news. First Published March 8, 2013 5:00 AM