It’s been three years since Robert and Michelle King last shook up broadcast TV: In 2016, their long-running legal drama The Good Wife ended on CBS, and they created the short-lived BrainDead for the network. Now the married TV duo has returned to broadcast, with yet another series that upends the platform’s status quo, Evil, which debuts tonight.
In the drama, which Adweek named one of fall’s most promising shows, a psychologist (Katja Herbers) teams up with a priest-in-training (Mike Colter) to help the Catholic Church assess unexplained mysteries—including alleged miracles, hauntings and demonic possessions—to determine what really happened.
It’s the Kings’ third current TV show, joining The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight, which returns for Season 4 on CBS All Access next year, and the upcoming Showtime limited series legal thriller Your Honor, which will star Bryan Cranston and start filming this fall.
The pair talked with Adweek about pushing the envelope, avoiding “Scooby Doo-ing” and what they missed most (and least) about returning to CBS.
Adweek: You two are carving out this space where you make broadcast shows that, on their face, don’t seem to really be broadcast shows. Is that part of the fun for you?
Michelle: I think that’s incidental. We’re doing the shows that we’re hoping to do, and then incidentally, sell them to broadcast.
Robert: We start with “Who do we like working with?” Ever since the writers strike of 2008, we’ve been in a very good position with CBS, where they trust us. The worst thing is to be a writer and write something that you think is good and have people read it and go, “You’ve got to cut that.” And CBS doesn’t do that, as long as we stay within the parameters of standards and practices.
That said, you seem to really be testing those limits in the pilot, where among other things, we see someone’s fingers come off.
Robert: Because that was a visual effect, we told them, “Just be aware that you may have to soften it,” and no one has said anything. Also, the throat slash [that also appears in the pilot]. We shouldn’t have gotten away with that. Don’t tell anyone!
Will you continue to try to see how much you can get away with in subsequent episodes? Or will you try to push the envelope in different ways?
Michelle: I would say different ways. We have never been the people that got excited about showing more violence.
Robert: Yeah, because here’s the thing. Usually when you watch any show, you can hear those strings coming in and the music mounting, and, you know, someone’s going to get stabbed. And it feels like what’s better is to be on a show where you don’t know where the scare is going to come from next. It may be psychological, it may be someone coming out of a closet, or it may be a knife. I think that’s it. It’s not about gore.
It seems like CBS has been doing a great job marketing this …
Robert: I agree!
… But since you’ve said later episodes will focus on different types of evil, do you worry that you’re priming the audience for a type of show they won’t necessarily get every week?
Michelle: Yesterday, Liz Feldman [creator of Netflix’s Dead to Me] used the term about her own show, saying it was “genre nonconforming,” and I thought that was a perfect description.
Robert: We talked to them, saying, “The second episode’s about a miracle, and this is being sold like David Fincher. Are you worried about that?” They said no. When you get the footage together of the miracle episode, we’ll add that in. So I have a feeling there’s going to be other trailers for it and commercials that show both sides.
This show is following the X-Files template, which also started out with a believer and a skeptic, but very soon, everything they investigated was actually real. This is a different show, but how do you modulate that and not just go in one direction, whether either everything is a hoax or nothing is?
Robert: In the writers room, we’ve been calling it Scooby Doo-ing. It’s terrible when [you think] it’s a scare, but it’s a guy wearing a mask. So a lot of it is there’s going to be mysteries in it that are not answered, just as there are in life, but also, that science is just as scary as the supernatural. There’s a lot of suspense in logic and a lot of scares in the supernatural, and what we want to do is have those two mixed.