Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is on a crazy good roll these days. The CW’s freshman musical comedy just took home trophies at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards for lead actress Rachel Bloom. And despite struggling in the ratings (it averages less than a million viewers a week), the show has built a loyal enough fan base that The CW ordered five additional episodes, taking the season total to 18.
That means lots more love-sick singing from Rebecca Bunch and her West Covina pals, starting this week as Crazy returns with new episodes. (If you’re a newbie, you can catch up on Hulu and cwtv.com.) We reached out to co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada) to chat about the show’s recent wins, what to expect from Rebecca when the show returns, and her reaction to some viewers being initially turned off by the show’s title.
Congratulations on all the recent awards for Rachel. And you were there with her at the Globes! What was that night like?
Well, it’s funny, because it’s been a long journey for us. It’s been two and a half years since we met, and we’ve been working on the show since the second we met. So it took a lot to get here. It’s such an unlikely journey in so many ways. So for us, we were just thrilled and surprised, and over the moon. We want people to watch the show, so an award like that brings visibility to the show, and we hope it makes people think, “Oh, you know what? I should check that out.”
McKenna (right) with Rachel Bloom at the Golden Globes (Getty)
Rachel mentioned at the Globes that you found her through her YouTube sketches. Which sketch of hers did you see first, and what did you see in Rachel that made you want to work with her?
The first thing that I saw was the Disney princess cartoon video [“Historically Accurate Disney Princess Song”]. So I saw an animated video first — which is interesting, because the thing I was attracted to first was her writing. I think the writing of that piece is extraordinary. And I hadn’t even seen her! Nor was I aware that she was the singer, because it never occurred to me that somebody who had written that would be able to sing that way. So I was really drawn to her wit, and her irreverent brand of humor, and the courage of her humor. And then I just proceeded to watch every single video of hers I could find.
A lot of the characters in her videos are delusional. And I had been wanting to do something called “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” for a long time, and I hadn’t quite figured out what it was, exactly. And then when she and I met, it struck me that she would be the perfect person to bring a character like that to life.
So where do we find Rebecca when the season picks back up? She’s still pining for Josh, obviously.
We find her trying to find her way in the world, and in this new place that she’s picked. At a certain point, it’s starting to dawn on her that this is her life. These are the choices that she’s made. And the second half of the season really deals with the ramifications of those choices, both in her life and in the lives of the characters around her. Because one of the premises of the series is that, here’s a person who makes one crazy decision, and it changes not just her life, but the lives of all the people around her.
So we’re going to learn more about Daryl’s life, and Paula’s life, and where Greg’s going. And Josh… Josh is somebody who always thought his life would turn out a certain way, and he came home to a life that he thought he knew and understood. And Rebecca kind of coming out of nowhere hits him like a meteor, and changes the life of this small town guy who was sort of content to be a small town guy until she shows up.
Is Rebecca ever going to come out of her “Josh fog” at some point, or would that fundamentally change the series?
Well, I don’t give too much story away… but I will say that these long-term romantic obsessions wax and wane. I’ll put it that way.
And Josh still seems oblivious to how obsessed Rebecca is with him.
In a funny way, even though he is sort of the hometown hero, I think he has patches of low self-esteem. Because he’s never really been told he’s the brightest guy. And it would never occur to him that somebody would do something this drastic: move all the way across the country for somebody she bumped into on the street. It’s not where his mind goes.
The show has all these great musical numbers every week. Is there one in particular that gets stuck in your head the most?
Oh God… you know, one of the things about doing a musical show is that they get stuck in your head. You get these earworms. And I think everybody who works on the show, if you stop them and said, “What song is running through your head right now?” they’d have a different one at different times. They get really, hideously stuck in my head. Especially because we work on them a lot. We hear a lot of demos. So they’re all embedded in my brain. [Laughs.] There’s nothing quite like having “Your balls smell weird, your balls smell so much worse than I feared” stuck in your head. My husband says that one a lot.
A lot of viewers hear the title Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and they get turned off. They think it’s a slam on women, when really, it’s the opposite…
Did you think that?
You know, yes and no. I wanted to hear more about it, because I thought it was a bold title. But normally, when you hear a title like that, it’d be a story told from Josh’s perspective.
And that would be called “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” Right? It’s funny; we were super naive about that. Because when we were in our bubble of irony… [Laughs.] The bubble didn’t extend as far around us as we thought it would.
But once I saw the trailer, I got it. The title made perfect sense.
Yeah. We also wanted people to see the title sequence, because we thought if people saw the opening titles, they would understand right away that we were spoofing it and sending it up. It just would never occur to either her or me that… it was so clear to us that we were doing a deconstruction of it. So we were sort of naively surprised that people took it at face value.
I do think that being on a broadcast network impaired people’s ability to detect the sarcasm. Perhaps if we had been on cable or streaming, people would have assumed, “Oh, that can’t be a straight-up rendition of that trope.” But that’s only speculating and hindsight.
And the show actually was developed at Showtime first, right? Before it came to The CW.
Right. So if you had seen a poster for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend from Showtime, you might’ve thought right away, “That’s gotta be ironic, or sly.” We also really embrace the idea of “crazy”: what it means to be perceived as crazy. It’s not a medically meaningful title. But it’s somebody who’s dealing with real issues. Somebody who makes the decision this rash and ill-conceived is someone with real issues.
And we don’t duck away from her having issues. It’s an important part of the show. She doesn’t make good decisions, because she has some underlying issues, and also because love makes you crazy. And we’re encouraged, as a culture, to behave like complete lunatics when we’re in love. And as somebody who’s written romantic comedies, if you pick up your DSM [a psychiatric manual of mental disorders] and start watching romantic comedies, people’s behavior is often nuts. Everyone who’s been in love has done things they look back on and think, “Wow, that was bonkers.”
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend returns with new episodes Monday, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. on The CW. The first eight episodes are streaming now on Hulu and at cwtv.com.