Tuesday, April 15, 2014

3 Reasons Will Gardner Should Have Stayed on The Good Wife (Not What You Think!)

I make it a habit to avoid hearing about my favorite shows while I'm watching them. You'd think that I'd be like most people - fans that can't seem to get enough, even after watching every behind-the-scenes commentary, vlog and podcast available on the show's main homepage.

And today it usually goes much further. Fans know intimate details about the actors themselves, the ones playing the characters that make these shows so popular. It's as if an actors real life is just another story to fans these days - just another story line that can add to their fulfillment and enjoyment of the show.

I am so different. I do the opposite. I don't want to hear anything about anything when I find a show I really love. For me, it protects the story - protects the characters. I want to fully live in the world that has been written and produced for us. I want to enjoy every sound, movement, costume and line of my favorite shows... and the less I know about what went in to creating that painting, the more easily I can suspend my belief and throw myself wholeheartedly into the story.

The downside (or upside, I suppose) to this is that I never know what is coming. I'm never prepared. If an actor decides to leave a show... most fans know a year ahead of time... and I find out the night it first airs. And I cry right along everyone else who loves that character. It hurts just as much. And I have to mourn like everybody else.

Except when I suspect foul play. I hate foul play. And today is no exception.

Because no matter how good the show is, no matter how amazing the writers are or how talented the cast is... they just can't cover up a real disaster off set. They can't write it, play it, surround it like they always meant it to be there. No. Not even the best of the best can do that.

Downton Abbey, anyone? I have been an incredible fan of Julian Fellows long before anyone knew his name here in the states. He is one of the best writers in the world, honestly, which is why, when "poor Matthew" flew off the side of a road at the end of Season 3 of the massive brit-hit show, I not only knew that the actor (Dan Stevens) chose to leave the show, but I also knew exactly how Julian Fellows felt about it too.

Oh, I'm not even sure if Julian Fellows knows how he felt about it either - I'm sure it was a whole Freudian-slip kind of deal - but I'm a writer and I get writing and I knew exactly what to think of Dan Stevens the moment he died on screen, way before I knew his name was Dan Stevens. It was a beautiful flutter of throwing his (Fellows) hands in the air and proclaiming "Oh bother! What else do I have to do for you popular actors! I give you great characters, give you great fame, give you an job you can actually enjoy AND puts food in your mouths in a career field which rarely gives you either... what else! What else do you want! Oh die already and be done with it (read: throw you off a cliff, double read=easiest writing of a death ever).

So when Will Gardner was randomly whacked in the middle of The Good Wife's Season 5, I did one more face palm. They did him justice, but as I looked at the show's promo photo - of Alicia holding her husband Peter Florrick's hand and Will Gardner's hand (she is the luckiest woman ever, Julianna Margulies is) - and that there were literally no others in the photo... I just wanted to kick Mr. Will Gardner's shins harder. But, as I always do... I figured I hear his side of the story.

So I, for the very first time, Googled The Good Wife and Will Gardner's death, etc etc, and yup... discovered that the amazing actor who portrays him, Josh Charles, did in fact ask to leave the show. Ugh.

And he cited, as so many actors do in some such cases, that he was feeling a tad-bit... a wee bit, maybe... burnt out.

Oh, actors. How you do make me laugh. Look, I am a big proponent of freedom. Freedom to make your own choices and make you own way in this world. Who are we to tell Josh Charles that he can't quit the show, simply because... well, he makes the show? Sure there's a lot of drama surrounding the love triangle between the characters of Alicia, Peter and Will due to lawyers, courtrooms and cases, but they aren't even remotely powerful enough to hold our gaze and attention.

The tension, layers and movement between the various states of Alicia and Will really drove the premise - really caught us and made us watch The Good Wife, because Alicia was always making that choice - to be the "good wife" instead of the "bad wife." To choose family, safety or kids instead of caving in to all her troubles, hopes and fears by simply running away with Will. That is... that was the chemistry of the show.

And it's gone. Just like that. But this isn't Downton Abbey, with twelve other love story to capture us and hold us, not to mention a few world wars raging in the background. And it isn't the first courtroom drama. In fact, I'm pretty sure the courtroom drama was the first and only true entertainment genre of the television era that's lasted... from start to finish.

And it breaks me, because I love women. I want more women. I want to see and hear from them in this more serious setting. And we couldn't possibly have two more amazing women vying for our affection and attention in Margulies and Baranski. Personally, I can't believe I'm saying the show needs more than just Chris Noth to grab us. But this show has been genius enough to make America's Mr. Big into Mr. Jerk. And so we want Will back. Because we do. The glove fit. The character and the actor and the set and the... whole entire arranged marriage that is a Hollywood TV show, it all folded around him and... fit.

Yet Josh Charles bailed. I can barely think of three actors/actresses that this move has ever gone well for - quitting a show that is highly successful - right when it's being watched the most. It makes me pretty angry, actually. I get that actors and actresses are "artists," which means they are made of a different cloth than the businessmen of this world. Numbers and contracts don't mean as much to them. They lean towards making decisions based on "feeling" rather than on "thinking." Okay. I get that.

Wait. No I don't. Not in this particular case. I must not understand it enough. Let me break it down for you. Here is why I think Will Gardner should never have allowed himself to die in the middle of a courtroom drama (other than the obvious fact that fans will miss him).


First, Hollywood is fickle. Look. Josh Charles is a man. Only 13% of Hollywood salaries are given to women. He has a better shot at bouncing back than women do (huh - maybe that's why I can't think of a single story where an actress does something this foolhardy). But man or not, Hollywood never comes calling to anyone as hard as they do when you are succeeding. Never.

The Good Wife Promo Picture
So when that show that is your job is a major hit, everyone comes after you. They want want want want want you! Now! In the heat of it all, it may seem like there are million opportunities out there to grab when you are a main character on a hit TV show, and they all make you feel so limited by your show because it only leaves you open for a few months a year to shoot other things, like movies.

It happens to everyone on every hit show, especially when you're the one everyone is rooting for in the television audience. Wow. I can't imagine how hard each of the Friends cast members were hit up by Hollywood makers and breakers. No one loves you as much as they do when you're King.

But if there's anything Hollywood actually hates, (and they don't hate much, do they?) it's when you're not loyal. They may say they want you to leave that oh-so-limiting show for their own project... they may say they want to pay you huge amounts to come to their network, etc etc etc. But the moment you are on a hit show, and the moment you are an integral part of that hit show... the moment you have actually attained the holy land of Hollywood: stardom!... and then you leave it? High and dry? Because you were "a little burnt out"?

Hollywood hates that. They don't trust you anymore. If you turn your back on fame because it wore on you a little, then guess what? You don't want fame enough. You don't really want to work. That's what they learn the moment you dump what the other 99% of all actors would kill for- that when you have hundreds of employees supporting you and trying to make you successful and it works? You won't mind ditching them down the can.

It violates the entire town on some level. The desire for success and fame is the one and only thing Hollywood can bank on actors for. That's it. Their pride. Their desire for success. And when you turn down success... when you are lucky enough to be in the small little 1% of those that actually do make it and you  (gasp!) walk away? At your top? At your best? When you are loved? Both on and off screen? Wow. Exactly what will make you happy? How can we ever really trust you to give us your best when and if lightning strikes twice?

They aren't saying it, but I'm certainly feeling it. All of Hollywood is shaking their head. Face palm. Goodbye Will Gardner? Uh oh Josh Charles.


The holy book of Hollywood Chapter 5 verse 11 reads, "Thou shalt not walk away upon Julianna Margulies. Ever."


He quit because he wasn't as excited anymore. What!?!? It's a job. Sigh. I can't stand hearing actors complain about being a bit worn out. I know almost nothing that gets reported these days is quoted correctly, but everyone does seem to be on the same page about Josh Charles having a baby on the way, etc, etc. Bottom line, he didn't leave because he lost a leg in the war. He left because he felt squeezed. Uncomfortable. Not right. Off.

What a luxury. Every DMV worker I have ever met feels "off." I felt much, much more than 'uncomfortable' when I was teaching in the inner city schools. And all the rest of us, who aren't actors, but pull 9-5's every day of our entire lives. Exactly what would it take for us to drop a gig that was actually going really well?

Seriously? The media likes to make us think that the entire world is quite fickle - that we all drop our jobs and chase after our dreams like half the auditioners on American Idol. But we aren't. We do our best. We earn a living. We work hard. We work. And when we get to enjoy it, that's only twice the blessing.

And if Josh Charles would prefer not to work, that's his deal. If he's that well off, great. But I know better. In this case, Josh Charles didn't just hurt himself when he walked off that Hollywood set, he hurt the rest of the show - the team he was a part of and one that struck the lucky jackpot - one that works well together, plays well together and succeeds together. That never happens in Hollywood. Never. We'd like to think that it does. They like to say that it does. But it doesn't.

And Josh Charles got to be a part of that. No. Wait. Not just a part - a main role. Which means without him, the whole cookie crumbles. Wow. What a way to say thanks, right? Well, let just see how he does. Who knows. Maybe Downton Abbey will take him? Because no matter how nice these shows are playing it for us, the audience, they still do a really good job of making sure they can never come back, don't they?

Just one Hollywood Analyst's opinion,
Signing Out.

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