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As this has become a theme of this blog lately, let’s talk about a recent bit of CGI fail that is really bothering me. Tl;dr verson: showrunners recently mistakenly relied on it when they should have declared a breach of contract on an offending party.

In my last post about CGI, I noted in passing how much better TV is handling the art than most movies these days. Game of Thrones, for instance, has an almost unimpeachable record on it, and it is probably the most CGI-dependent series currently in production. This is not an endorsement of the showrunners’ vicious attitudes on women, rape, and gays, mind… but when it comes to sheer production values, the HBO show has created the most believable alternate world ever seen on the small screen, thanks mostly to low-tech location shoots and costuming. The CGI is there to complement, not replace, because they know the human brain has a far easier time accepting a King’s Landing of real brick-and-mortar plus computer-created background buildings, than one that is entirely green-screened. Discussions of unrealistic effects mostly remain in the province of movies.

But one of the biggest CGI fails that got discussed in May of 2015 was still a product of the small screen, and not even with a show commonly associated with special effects. This fail wrecked a lawyer show with zero sci-fi or fantasy, and made some viewers question if there is any point to continue watching. Obviously, I am talking about The Good Wife’s infamously faked final scene between Alicia and Kalinda.

julianna-margulies-and-thats-archie-panjabi-the-good-wife

Basically, what happened was that because one or both actresses absolutely refused to be in the same room together, the showrunners had to shoot each actress separately and then try (and fail) to splice the footage together to make it appear that they were together. Obvious tells were not seeing the other’s face when the camera zoomed on one of the characters; their never touching in the two-shots like above; no background extras ever crossing the midline; and, um, Archie Panjabi’s refusing to deny the fakery.

Why this is important? In seasons 1 and 2, the most vital relationship between any two characters of the ensemble cast (not to mention its astonishing, A-list guest roster) was between Alicia and Kalinda. Not even Alicia’s love triangle with Peter and Will garnered a fraction of the press of the Bechdel Test-smashing friendship between Margulies’ and Panjabi’s characters. The tenuous bond between “Saint Alicia” and the ethically murky Kalinda was the center around which everything else orbited.

But something happened. It is whispered that JM became intensely jealous of AP after the latter earned an Emmy before she did; matters were not helped when AP’s husband decided to drop a catty remark to JM about it. This led to a severing of the two characters’ on-screen friendship at the end of season 2, and Kalinda therefore becoming more and more extraneous. But they did continue to share screen time, and the two characters often tried to patch things up on-screen.

But after some point in the production of season 4, the characters no longer even share any screen time whatsoever. They only communicated by phone. Clearly, something happened in 2012 that made the feud even worse, which beggars explanation because JM had earned her Emmy by then too. But some unknown incident made JM even more hateful to AP, to the point that she deep-sixed any consideration of her sharing a set with AP. Not even for one single goodbye scene that fans had long waited for. Such a shirking of her professionalism and the basic requirements of acting is simply breath-taking.

And this is not just some random lowbrow CSI/NCIS show or one of those forgettable nothing shows where nobody even notices when it gets cancelled. This is CBS’s crown jewel, its greatest prestige product, its answer to the critically acclaimed titans of AMC and HBO. Such a grave lapse of professionalism of its lead actress, that has spilled over onto the tabloid press and has given rocket fuel to the industry’s fervid gossip backchannels, is unacceptable on its face and reflects poorly on the showrunners, Robert and Michelle King.

This is not exactly the first on-set feud to complicate a production, so the Kings should have handled it better. Even Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrell were able to temporarily shelve their “issues” while on the set because they are professional actresses. Hell, all of us have to work with people we hate, and we don’t let it affect our work output because to do otherwise is unprofessional. After all, nobody cares about your petty personal office feuds, not your bosses and certainly not your customers, clients or viewers. If JM was being a royal diva, the Kings should have pulled rank and forced her onto that set for one brief scene or else declare a breach of contract. I mean, come on. Do they really need a physician of all people telling them that you sometimes need to kick some ass in the entertainment industry to get something made?

And what on earth was the triggering incident, anyway? Something tells me this goes far beyond simple professional envy. I’ve heard the rumors, but I refuse to believe them…

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