Good Wife Composer Pushes Boundaries in Season 5

It’s been a roller coaster ride on season five of the CBS hit television drama The Good Wife. To accompany the twists and turns of each episode has been the elegant score that compliments the drama perfectly. D.C. Internationalist caught up again with composer David Buckley who has been creatively inspired to push the boundaries of t.v. show music.

DCI: How would you define this season’s music?

DB: We took a change in direction this season. We felt we did not need to be restricted by the character or tone of the music from the past. What prompted this change was the tumultuous events that happened when Will & Diane and Alicia & Cary go their own way. It was like a rebirth for both these parties, and thus it was felt the music too could redefine itself. I have often played around with classical/baroque string figures in the episodes, but now in season 5, these ideas really get crystalized and come to the forefront. Strings, piano, mandolin and woodwinds are all part of the pallet. Having said which, if an episode requires a more ambient approach, then we will do that rather than trying to jam in anything inappropriate.

DCI: Has it been intentional to extend scene music into the title card?

DB: We have always extended the scene music into the title card, but in the old days we primarily went into the same regular main credit music. Now the main title music varies for each episode. This is fun as it makes it episode specific. Again though, if there is no good reason to do this we revert to our original piece.

DCI: What is it like working with Robert and Michelle King?

DB: Robert and Michelle are fantastic. Episode 505 (the big episode) was temped with a load of tracks using just a drum kit (I don’t know who wrote them). I did not care for it and asked Robert if he liked it. He felt it did the job but did not need me to emulate it and in fact asked me to find another way of creating a similar energy but in another musical setting. I came up with these baroque motor cues and Robert loved them. That’s not to say I can write anything and he will say ‘yes, sure!’. He has a strong opinion and we often backwards and forwards before we find what he wants. But they (and the other producers) are both very keen that I should be able to widen my musical universe and not be restricted by the standard tropes of t.v. music.

DCI: What are some of your favorite cues? And where do you get your inspiration from?

DB: My favorite cues this season are from episode 501, 505 and 514. There are others too, like Fake Rental Company (from an episode I cannot recall). Prior to this season, I loved writing the cues for the relationship between Will and Alicia. Inspiration comes from Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Corelli, Will, Alicia, Robert, Michelle, David Zucker…the list goes on!

Sophisticated is Back with The Good Wife

Hallelujah. An audience exists for sophisticated drama. Over nine million viewers tuned into watch the season finale of The Good Wife on CBS. Having ended season four with twists and turns, The Good Wife, created by Robert and Michelle King, is without a doubt the smartest show on network television. It boasts consistently good writing, a stellar and impeccably-dressed cast & outstanding production values. In an era where programming has been dumbed down to reach the lowest common denominator of society, the Tiffany network is challenging the status quo with a slew of shows that entertain and make the audience think. Shows like CBS This Morning and The Good Wife prove that audiences exist for “niche” programming. The good news [no pun intended] is advertisers have taken notice. And not just any type of advertiser. In March 2012, luxury jeweler Cartier ran a whopping three-minute commercial during a Good Wife episode. It was beautifully executed and viewers took notice. When an advertisement compliments the values of a t.v. show, it’s a natural brand extension that makes creative and financial sense for all parties.

I offer two words to the cast and whole crew including Robert and Michelle King, Brooke Kennedy, and David Zucker; thank you!

Can CBS Re-Invent Morning Television?

There are many who believe Jeff Zucker is the man to revitalize CNN and bring about much-needed change. But is he capable of putting the “news” back into Cable News Network? Someone who has accomplished that and more is Chris Licht. As Executive Producer of CBS This Morning, Licht quietly relaunched the Tiffany network’s flagship morning show and gave it an enduring identity that would counter Today and GMA. While ABC and NBC continue their ratings battle, CBS This Morning still finds itself in third place. But one year after its relaunch, there is confidence as ratings have shown a steady increase. At times, some broadcasts are stronger than others. Yet one aspect is clear; viewers will be treated to a diverse group of stories. Some soft. Some hard. CBS also seems comfortable being the network that evokes gravitas. And Charlie Rose, Gayle King and newly-added Norah O’Donnell are capable of projecting a calibrated level of gravitas.

There are not many things that need changing. But more international stories or guests would not hurt. How about an interview with the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist? A review of the namesake movie directed by Mira Nair which stars Kate Hudson? Get the drift? The music playlist could be diversified a la NPR; my buddy David Lowe could remedy that issue. Being in third place also allows producers a level of flexibility to tinker with show elements to see what works and what doesn’t. For now, CBS This Morning seems to have found some success. The bigger question is whether CBS can ever be number one in the morning wars? Probably…not.  But Licht and his team can hold their heads up high and be proud of what they have accomplished: putting the news back into our mornings.

Post Updated: 2/24

The Interview: The Good Wife Music Composer

If Washington law firms were as humorous and dramatic as the fictional practice of Stern, Lockhart & Gardner, it might be fun to work for one. The Good Wife starring Julianna Margulies is a unique show that has garnered critical acclaim and steady ratings – a rare combination in the world of television. One of many appealing aspects is the show’s music score. It gives the drama a very contemporary, yet elegant feel. We caught up with David Buckley who serves as the music composer.

1. How did you land yourself a gig on The Good Wife? I scored a movie for Scott Free a couple of years ago, and Ridley [Scott] and Tony [Scott] are executive producers on The Good Wife too, so that gave me a bit of an in, but I had to do a couple of rounds of demos to clinch the deal.

2. How do you capture the essence of a scene? Like I would with film, I watch the scene over and over again, and then also look at it in context of the whole picture. It’s a fast turn around with little time to experiment so I find I have to trust my instincts.

3. Your style of music is contemporary (for the series), is that a continuation of Danny Lux’s work? I don’t know Danny Lux’s work. I heard some of the music on his episodes and thought it was quite attractive. I think our scores are pretty different. (that is not to say that I think my music is unattractive!)

4. How did you break into the music industry and what advice would you give to aspiring artists? I’ve been involved in music from an early age and have been fortunate to meet some incredible people in my journey, who have helped me make things happen. It’s a famously tough industry to break into, so I think it’s the same old stuff really – work hard, learn from those you admire, try and find your own voice, bounce back when you get knocked down (because you will, trust me!).

5. Any favorite composers whose work you follow? I don’t really listen to any one composer or artist. My iTunes library is pretty eclectic.

Note – This post was originally published on May 19, 2010.

Ten Ways to Improve The Early Show

Most of us are familiar with the notion that CBS’ The Early Show is perpetually mired in third place from a ratings stand point. No matter how many times they change their anchors, no spike in Nielsen digits. The problem lies with The Early Show itself. It looks so much like the market leader (Today Show), there is nothing to distinguish itself from the competition. How do you stand out in a crowded marketplace? Here are ten ways to improve The Early Show.

1. Who Needs An Announcer – Ditch the announcer and cut the opening “LIVE from 5th Avenue.” Um, we already know your location. We can google it if we want to.

2. Proper Opening Sequence, People! –  Introduce a proper graphics sequence courtesy of Angus McKeown; a brilliant television graphics designer.

3. Music Theme – Get David Lowe (BBC News music) to downplay that loud fanfare beat you’ve got going on. Some people watch BBC News just to listen to Davids music.

4. Be Global – Air more global stories.  That will be a first for the morning news shows.

5. Content – Cover stories on sports, arts, culture…stuff that Today and GMA would never touch. I’ve never seen architect Santiago Calatrava on your show.

6. Beyond 7:30 a.m – Give us an hour of serious news till 8 a.m. Then move into fluff territory.

7. Move Studio – Wanna save mucho dinero? Stop paying so much rent on that Fifth Avenue location.

8. Affiliates – Convince affiliates to add more E.S programming.

9. Grow A Beard – Ask Chris Wragge to grow a beard. He looks way too young.

10. Finally – Stop thinking that lighter news stories boost your ratings. It only works for Today.