Watch This: Must-Sees From A Show-Creating Couple

Dec 28, 2011
Originally published on December 29, 2011 7:03 am

In the TV drama The Good Wife, a political spouse forges her own path after her husband is disgraced by corruption and scandal. Real-life married couple Robert and Michelle King are the creators of the Emmy Award-winning CBS series. And the Kings are the latest Hollywood insiders to share their TV and movie recommendations with Morning Edition in our series, Watch This.

By and large, it's a lighthearted list. "We don't really watch too much tragic Ibsen drama," Robert tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "Everything has to have a bit of bitter humor in it."


Breaking Bad

The AMC series created by Vince Gilligan follows the exploits of a high-school chemistry teacher who learns he has cancer and decides he'll support his family by making and selling methamphetamine with one of his former students.

"It is very absolute in its decline of its hero," Robert King says. "... There's such a very dark sense of humor that keeps you laughing as things get more and more depressed and violent."

The teacher, played by Bryan Cranston, doesn't use the drugs he creates and sells — he's a business person. "It's actually very similar to what a show runner does," Robert says with a laugh, referring to his own role on The Good Wife. "Sometimes you feel like you're getting other people addicted ... It's very long hours, very late nights ... there's a lot of money involved."

More On 'Breaking Bad':


In the Loop

This 2009 film is a British political satire about the run-up to "an Iraq-like" war. British politicians come to Washington, hilarity ensues.

"It's a movie that really is all about the dialogue and the characterization as opposed to the plotting," Michelle King says. "If you had to summarize it, there's not that much to summarize."

In one scene, a foreign-relations minister is asked whether war is unforeseeable. "All sorts of things that are actually very likely are also unforeseeable," he replies. "For the plane in the fog, the mountain is unforeseeable, but then it is suddenly very real and inevitable."

"Who's the plane and who's the mountain?" the press corps wants to know.

"The mountain in the metaphor is a completely hypothetical mountain that could represent anything," the minister says.

"It is just a constant wall of one-liners that really doesn't let you up from laughing," Robert says.

More On 'In The Loop':


Team America: World Police

This 2004 action movie — starring puppets — was made by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. "Knowing that the South Park guys made it made us want to go see it immediately," Michelle says.

The plot focuses around the search for weapons of mass destruction, and it wasn't terribly well-received when it came out, Robert says. "It satirizes a lot of celebrities, so I think it was thought of as being hate-filled." He remembers reading a Variety essay that called it "disgusting."

The movie, he says, displayed Stone and Parker's willingness "to slap the face of liberal causes — and conservative — and satirize basically everybody."

More On 'Team America':


Twin Peaks: 'Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer'

The Kings recommend a specific episode from David Lynch's mystery TV series — the third episode of the first season to be exact, which first aired in 1990.

In the middle of the episode, FBI special agent Dale Cooper shows off his technique for figuring out which suspects to pursue — he says the name of a suspect, and then throws a rock at a bottle. If the rock breaks the bottle, he goes after the suspect whose name he just uttered.

"It was a brilliant recap," Michelle explains. "The kind of thing that would have been so boring but necessary — and yet you're unaware of the fact that you're being spoon-fed exposition and reminders, and are just amused by the comedy of him throwing a rock at a bottle."

"Twin Peaks is David Lynch['s] ... personal coloring box of all his little obsessions, but played out through a whodunit," Robert King says.

More On 'Twin Peaks':


More Must-Sees From Robert And Michelle King:

The Godfather

The Sopranos, Season 1, every episode

The West Wing, Season 2, Episode 15: "Ellie"

The West Wing, Season 4, Episodes 67 and 68: "20 Hours in America"

Breaking Bad, Season 1, Episode 7: "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal"

Breaking Bad, Season 1, Episode 3: "... And the Bag's in the River""

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And it's time now for another installment of our series, Watch This, when we ask Hollywood insiders for TV and movie recommendations. And this morning, we'll meet the married couple behind the television drama "The Good Wife." It's about a political spouse who must forge her own path after her husband is disgraced by corruption and scandal. Wherever do they come up with that idea?

Robert and Michelle King created the show and are the executive producers, known in Hollywood-speak, as show runners.

You guys have sent a very serious and somber list of movies here.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROBERT KING: Yeah, we don't really watch too much tragic Ibsen drama.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KING: Everything has to have a bit of bitter humor in it.

INSKEEP: Well, let's get into this list of movies and TV series that you've got here. first, you've got "Breaking Bad." What is that?

KING: Now, no one knows what that is. They have to tune in.

MICHELLE KING: It's a terrific series about a high school chemistry teacher who discovers he has cancer, and realizes the only way he has to support his family is by becoming a meth cooker.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KING: And this is an amazing show created by Vince Gilligan who came off the "X-Files." And it is very absolute in its decline of its hero, from someone who's morally upstanding enough, to someone who makes more and more compromises, morally, in his life.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SERIES, "BREAKING BAD")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You may know a lot about chemistry, man. But you don't know Jack about slinging dope.

BRYAN CRANSTON: (as Walter White) Ah. Well, I'll tell you, I know a lack of motivation when I see it. Just think outside the box here. We have to move our product in bulk, wholesale. Now, how do we do that?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I mean, to like a distributor?

CRANSTON: (as Walter White) Yes. Yes, that's what we need. We need a distributor now. Do you know anyone like that?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yeah. I mean I used to, until you killed him.

KING: There's such a very dark sense of humor that keeps you laughing as things get more and more depressed and violent.

KING: But he's a business person. He's not an addict. He doesn't use.

KING: No. It's actually very similar to what a show runner does. Sometimes you feel like you're getting other people addicted.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Let's talk about that a little more. How is being a show runner, day by day, like cooking methamphetamines to sell?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KING: Well...

KING: It's very long hours, very late nights, and...

INSKEEP: Sometimes the product blows up in your face.

KING: Oh, yeah. There's a lot of money involved.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KING: I think the metaphor is starting to fall apart.

INSKEEP: I was just thinking it's getting richer and richer, as we go, here.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Now, you've also sent "In the Loop." This is a movie which had me laughing uproariously. A satire, basically, of a war somewhat like the Iraq War.

KING: You're exactly right, it's about the run-up to an Iraq-like war. They never mention what the war will be. And just so we all know, there's nothing dry in that. It's not even as dry as you might think "Dr. Strangelove" is. It is comedy on top.

KING: Yeah and it's a movie that really is all about the dialogue and the characterization, as opposed to the plotting, which - I mean if you had to summarize it, there's not that much to summarize. It's a bunch of British politicians that come to Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IN THE LOOP")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: So, is war uncivil, Minister?

TOM HOLLANDER: (as Simon Foster) Look, all sorts of things that are actually very likely are also unforeseeable. For the plane in the fog, the mountain is unforeseeable but then it is suddenly very real and inevitable.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Is this your opinion or is it the...

HOLLANDER: (as Simon Foster) The mountain in the metaphor is a completely hypothetical mountain that could represent anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Sorry, Minister. I...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Who is the plane and who is the mountain?

KING: It is just a constant wall of one-liners that really doesn't let you up from laughing.

INSKEEP: You have also sent us a movie called "Team America." One of the names associated with this movie, Trey Parker of "South Park," which gives us an idea that this might be a little raucous.

KING: Yes, it's very much from the "South Park" guys. And this was a movie that I don't think was well-received when it came out, 'cause it was not as funny as the "South Park" movie. But it takes the obsession with weapons of mass destruction and kind of makes it, just turns it into a Bruckheimer-type action movie, but all with puppets.

It was very dangerous at the time, and it satirizes a lot of celebrities. So, I think it was thought of as being hate-filled. I remember reading a Variety essay about it, just saying that it was one of the most disgusting things they'd ever seen. And it was just something about the willingness to slap the face of liberal causes - and conservative - and satirize, kind of, basically everybody, and not seeming to have one political ax to grind.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TEAM AMERICA")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: You lose.

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: He's getting away with the WMD.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: I got him.

INSKEEP: So, when you read in Variety, that this was a hate-filled, nasty movie, did you both say, Oh, we've got to see that?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KING: Actually, I think, knowing that the "South Park" guys made it had us wanting to go see it immediately.

INSKEEP: Well, hers another famous name, David Lynch. "Twin Peaks," you have specified an episode in the TV series "Twin Peaks."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: "Zen or the Skill to Catch a Killer," what's this about?

KING: Well, first of all, "Twin Peaks" is David Lynch kind of his personal coloring box of all these little obsessions, but played out through a who-done-it. And this episode, probably is most famous for the dream at the end, with the midget dancing - or a dwarf dancing. But what's very funny is in the middle of it, there is an attempt to figure out who'd killed this woman, who's dead at the beginning of the show, Laura Palmer, by throwing rocks at a bottle with a new Zen technology that Special Agent Cooper has, which you name each of the suspects. And then you throw a rock and if it breaks the bottle, that's the suspect you pursue.

What it served is a very smart function within the plot, which was to remind the audience of all the suspects.

KING: Yeah, I mean it was a brilliant recap. The sort of thing that would have been so boring but necessary, and yet you're unaware of the fact that you're being spoon-fed exposition and reminders, and are just amused by the comedy of him throwing a rock at a bottle.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SERIES, "TWIN PEAKS")

KYLE MACLACHLAN: (As Special Agent Cooper) Sheriff, I almost forgot. When we say the name, also briefly state that person's relationship to Laura Palmer. Ready?

KIMMY ROBERTSON: (As Lucy Moran) Ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: Ready.

MICHAEL ONTKEAN: (as Sheriff Harry S. Truman) Dr. Lawrence Jacoby. Laura's psychiatrist.

MACLACHLAN: (As Special Agent Cooper) Dr. Lawrence Jacoby

ROBERTSON: (As Lucy Moran) You did it. You hit it.

INSKEEP: You know, David Simon was on this program not too long ago, talking about his series, "Treme," and you used a phrase that has stuck in my head: Soul-killing exposition.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: He hates to just explain, in a pedantic way, what's going on in the series, or whatever. And you're basically saying these people found a more creative way to do that.

KING: Yeah.

KING: That's exactly right.

KING: Oh, that's great. We're going to hold on to that.

INSKEEP: Well, Michelle and Robert King, thanks for sharing your suggestions with us.

KING: Thank you.

KING: Oh, thank you for being interested.

INSKEEP: Oh, and let's do a little exposition here. Robert and Michelle King are the executive producers of "The Good Wife" on CBS. All of their movies and TV picks are at NPR.org.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.