‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Is Still the Most Charming Show on TV
Golden Globe-winner Rachel Bloom on ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Season 3, turning 30, and why it’s important to watch a singing, sex-positive, anxiety-ridden feminist now more than ever.
Can someone please get Rachel Bloom a damn peach bellini?
The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creator, star, writer, and songwriter is just trying to wind down after a long day of press in support of the third season of her CW musical romantic comedy, and would just like to sip some peach-flavored bubbly booze through a straw.
Finally, third time’s the charm. “They are so phoning this in,” she jokes, adopting a faux diva accent. “Let it be known that the Beverly Hilton really phones in their bellinis.”
Rachel Bloom, of course, is no diva. She’s positively delightful, which you already know if you’ve seen her emotional Golden Globes speech after winning Best Actress, watched her geek out meeting Broadway actors as the Tony Awards’ backstage correspondent, or seen how she managed to make the meet-the-accountants segment a highlight of last month’s Emmy Awards with her hysterical musical number.
She’s also, as we’ve seen on her show, a master at inhabiting, and in the process skewering, gender tropes—be it the diva, the slut, the stalker, the love-crazy, the bitch, and, of course, the crazy ex.
Season 3 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which launches Friday, adds another stereotype to the mix: the femme fatale, as Bloom’s Rebecca Bunch goes full “funny Fatal Attraction” after being left at the altar by fiancée Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III).
The Season 2 finale ended with Rebecca on a cliff surrounded by her best friends, channeling her best Glenn Close: “Josh Chan must be destroyed.” In Friday’s opener, a heartbroken Rebecca rents Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct and invests in a physical and attitude makeover: “I know. My hair is dark, so I look evil. And I’m wearing white, which is ironic.” She’s ready to take her revenge.
Throughout its first two seasons, the series earned its acclaim by nailing the balance between homage and parody, as well as between surrealism and realism, using the musical theater and romantic comedy genres—and tackling mental illness, promiscuity, heartbreak, rage, insecurity, female jealousy, and puppy love in the process. Now it’s applying the same treatment to the revenge comedy genre.
“I think as long as we know that Rebecca sees herself as this character, and we know that she is consciously aping something and not inadvertently falling into a stereotype, that’s the key,” Bloom says. “We can do these tropes, as long as they’re conscious.”
As it happens, Rebecca is really bad at being the femme fatale, something that plays out almost immediately in Friday’s premiere. (One revenge plan: mailing Josh cupcakes made of poo.) As Aline Brosh McKenna, the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend showrunner—and rom-com Wonder Woman responsible for writing The Devil Wears Prada and 27 Dresses—tells me, “I don’t think Rebecca has the most innate talent at being vengeful, but she’s sure going to try.”
Brosh McKenna and Bloom seem, at least on the surface, an unlikely pair to bring to life this story of a woman who is not only unlucky in love, but obsessed with a happily ever after that she routinely self-sabotages. Bloom married her husband, Dan Gregor, in early 2015, before Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premiered. Brosh McKenna has been married for two decades.
“It’s interesting, because the show preaches that you don’t solve your problems with love, yet the two creators are in very happy marriages,” Bloom says. But maybe, Brosh McKenna suggests, that lends the show its nuanced perspective. “Everybody has experiences with being in love and how crazy and out of control you feel,” she says. “Even though I’ve been married for 20 years, you never forget those things.”
When Bloom and I met to chat about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend over questionable peach bellinis, she had just turned 30 and I was days away from doing the same. (We both, as it were, were in the same class at New York University, though in the school of 50,000 students, never crossed paths.)
Bloom has always said that she thought of the series as a portrait of a finite time in one woman’s life. She considers each season a chapter—Chapter 3, obviously, is “Revenge”—and hopes to complete Rebecca’s story with one more Chapter 4 next year.
Especially because the milestone birthday was weighing heavily on my mind, I wondered if Bloom’s turning 30 gave her any new perspective on this finite time.
“I love that question,” she says. “I mean the more Rebecca kind of goes into the natural anti-heroness of this show, the more different I feel than where she is.”
Being married and having a steady (and demanding) job, she says she’s definitely further ahead in life than Rebecca. “But I think a lot of the things she has to learn about forgiving herself and not just valuing yourself based on the last thing you did—but instead looking at the evidence about whether or not you’re a good person—those are things that I still need to keep in mind.”
It’s a remarkable position Bloom’s in, to have multi-hyphenate responsibilities on an award-winning TV show she created, all by age 27. She studied musical theater at NYU and performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York before the show went into production. (Fun fact: She was once roommates with Broad City’s Ilana Glazer in Brooklyn.)
Not only is this a show she created, but it’s a show that checks off nearly every box on her list of personal interests as well as professional hopes and dreams: singing, acting, dance, being funny, and actually saying something while doing it.
With the series now several seasons under her belt, she’s starting to think about how this utopian experience might affect what she wants going forward from her career and the industry.
“This was such a thesis statement for me as an artist,” she says. “I’m excited to, after this, try new things without being like, ‘This what I want to say about myself and my point of view! This is my fundamental outlook on what life is!’”
She once even joked to Jack Dolgen, one of her music writing partners, “Honestly, after this show I’m done. I’m starting a farm. I’ve said all I want to say.” She laughs. “I thought this would be the end game, if this ever happened.”
Beyond the pitch-perfect musical numbers, the genius of the show has always been how it turns stereotypes on their head, humanizing Rebecca even further in the process—a practice that stems back to the show’s title.
“It really annoys me when people call the show, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, because that is from the point of view of someone looking at her and laughing at her, like she’s some sort of SNL character,” Bloom says. “The show is always Crazy Ex-Girlfriend because it’s from her point of view, and no matter what she does, I want you to understand her.”
Especially airing in today’s cultural and political climate, one that’s blanketed in misogyny in every office up to the Oval, there seems to be extra resonance in the issues about womanhood and agency that the show innately brings up. Amongst other triumphs in that field, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will be the first live-action show to ever use the word “clitoris” this season.
“We’re very gynecological,” Brosh McKenna tells me, clarifying that she doesn’t think of the series as a “woman’s issue show,” but a universal one.
“I’ve only ever lived in Los Angeles and New York, so if there’s anyone who’s ever lived in their own echo chamber, it’s me,” Bloom says. “So a lot of the misogyny and a lot of the other side, the more conservative point of view, is still very foreign to me. When I actually meet people who believe that, it feels like watching animals at a zoo because I feel so insulated from it. Likewise, they’re so insulated from my point of view.”
As she talks, she gets a glint in her eye like she’s having a sudden epiphany—a look that’s very Rebecca Bunch-ian.
“So I think what is still key to us, is just getting underneath that all and trying to understand where all different types of people are coming from,” she continues. “That’s even more important to us now, as there is such tribalism going on. It’s like there’s us and then there’s them. That line of thinking is so dangerous. That’s what our show tries to avoid.”
With the interview nearly over and our straws slurping remnants of bellini out of champagne flutes, we revisit my anxieties about turning 30, now that she can report from the other side. She’s kind and encouraging, and talks me down from my ledge. She mentions that, because many of her friends are older, she’s actually felt like she’s been 30 for quite some time.
Perhaps producing, creating, writing, and acting on a show instills a little bit of responsibility and ages you a bit, I suggest.
“That’s a very good point,” she says. “I’m actually really glad that this show happened when it did, when I was still in my late twenties and early thirties. Because the schedule that I have, I wouldn’t be surprised if the second this series ends my back will give out permanently.”