Rachel Bloom, Jack Dolgen and Schlesinger Break Down Their Favorite Numbers From ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.’
For four seasons, Crazy Ex Girlfriend was a gift to TV. Each week, Rachel Bloom and songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Jack Dolgen would deliver musical numbers dealing with everything from men, boys and parodying everything under the sun.
Bloom’s Rachel Bunch is quite a character, overbearing at times making her the absolute worst, but yet, we still feel sympathetic and like her.
The best part of watching the show was wondering where the musical number would appear. So, in honor of the series finale and the two Emmy-nominations, I caught up with Bloom, Dolgen and Schlesinger to give us a break down of their favorite numbers.
Antidepressants Are So Not a Big Deal
Rachel Bloom: We were going through the process, and it was always something that we wanted to deal with in the series. We were looking at it and where to put the musical number? When I got the outline from the writer’s room, it said,”Rebecca realizes in her shame of going on antidepressants, actually a lot of people around her are on anti-depressants.”If there’s anything that is a set up for a musical number, it’s that, and realizing that you’re not alone, and everyone around you is in the same boat as you.
I think the song is one of the more sincere songs that we’ve done, that was the hard part in writing it. So many songs that we’ve done have that inspirational quality. They have a darker undertone, and the characters are in a state of delusion. For once, it was almost everyone was speaking reason to the character which didn’t have a lot of precedence. I think there was always a challenge in the town of saying what we wanted to say, which is like this is not a big deal. But also cutting through treacle, and saying, “Boo hoo, do you think you’re like the only person who’s ever been sad?” Get in line.
The question was, what tonally did we want to go for? I think that something in the style of a modern movie musical, which in our case there so few original modern movie musicals. La La Land came to mind because that’s also a movie, especially the opening number, is this big ensemble number, Everyone is in the same boat. It’s very inspirational. La La Land doesn’t take place in reality, and it’s this alternate version of Los Angeles. We wanted to do that we wanted to have an old school of a movie musical but feel modern.
La La Land touched on tap dancing. We wanted to do tapping for real. It was one thing we hadn’t done, this big group tap number. Everything fed into the original premise; the idea of tap shoes being in a prescription bottle. We were trying todo musical numbers to the top of our intelligence comedically. We navigated the tone, where this is a little more like grounded in reality.
Shooting the number:
Most of the songs I would look in my head I took the lead in scripting them. I thought of it being more conventionally shot and then Start McDonald our director said, “What don’t we do a oner? A single shot approach like you would do in a movie called La La Land. That feels incredibly joyful but also incredibly modern. One that gets you into Rebecca’s head and also speaks to the audience.” I think that’s one of the few songs we did want people in the audience to feel drawn to the song and feel like it was being sung to them. He had all these brilliant ideas on how to shoot it as something that looks like one take for as long as possible. The shooting of this happened, and it was joyous. We think of a classic musical theater and classic movie musical a bunch of people that dancing at the same time.
There’s nothing more than that and there’s nothing more kind of collectively joyful especially in a song about people who are saying, we are in the same boat. There’s nothing symbolizes that better in people tap dancing. They are people who are literally doing the same weird rhythm with their feet street. It’s just a great collective expression.
It was wonderful to film. It was tiring, but what was so great was that we got to hire a lot of people who had done the show in the past. It was a collection of people who had been on the show. A lot of the dancers were close personal friends of Kathryn Burns, our really brilliant choreographer who choreographed this number so well. Everyone really shines in this number, and if you go through a lot of people this number you’ll see that it is people who danced on the show. It was this fun final hurrah of our all-star dancers and actors.
Let’s Generalize About Men
Adam: The vague idea of that song was something that Rachel and Alina said, was just an, “I hate men” song. They were just going talk about how much they hate men. When Jack and I got into the room, we were like, “Maybe there’s a slightly different angle here we can explore.”
We kicked around in the writer’s room for a while and landed on this idea about generalizing about men is funny, and generalizing about anybody is funny. So, they got to do all their man-hating in the lyrics, but it’s also a slightly different angle.
It was Jack who came up with the line in the chorus that really set the tone for the whole thing, “Let’s say one bad thing about one man and apply it to all of them.” And that’s what brought the whole thing into focus.
Musically, it’s a hybrid of The Pointer Sisters, Eighties hits and It’s Raining Men. I don’t know why, but that genre seemed really obvious for this. It was also a genre we hadn’t done yet.
We were always trying to come up with styles that we hadn’t quite done. That song is one of the catchiest songs we’ve ever done.It really sounds like a real pop song that would have been a hit on its own. It’s always been a big favorite when we’ve done the live stuff, and it’s a huge part of the live show.
It’s one of my favorites for sure.
Rachel: The great thing that happened with that song is that Jack and Adam were absolutely brilliant to turn the song on its head. Adam and Jack’s premise were so much better.
When you do you any of the songs, live, any of the ironies tends to be stripped from them. ‘Generalized’ is probably the best example of that because when you do it live, people cheer and say, “Gay men are all really great.” People cheer at, “Why do men never listen?” Even though the song is completely commenting on that. There is no separation between the two. They also still see it as completely anthemic.
The Math of Love Triangles
Rachel : It’s a number rooted in delusion. It’s a sexy song, but it’s someone who is completely out of their mind.
It was inspired by where is this character emotionally at the time? I think that 2.03 from where this song is from is the height of Rebecca’s hubris when she realizes she might be in a love triangle. It’s at the height of both her hubris and also her really not being a good place.
So, playing with this idea of she’s in a love triangle, and she feels this kind of false dilemma but really she’s kind of loving it lapping it up, to me that feels very it felt very Marilyn Monroe. How do you then take a cutesy premise; she feels cutesy and wants to do a cutesy song, yet show the character is completely off base. That’s how Love Triangles came to me.
Jack: I don’t remember exactly why we decided to do a new theme song every year. That was a mistake; we shouldn’t have done it. That’s in addition to the decision to make every episode have a couple of songs; that was also a mistake. We had to commit to it.
It was really one of the more challenging aspects of every season. And that was getting the same song right. Also writing a theme song that spoke to what this season is like, what Rebecca’s point of view is. The season 3 song was a really difficult songwriting process. We had over 1,000 versions of it.
Rachel and Adam probably each wrote 10 versions of the season three songs that didn’t make it. I wrote at least 3 or 4. So, when we were coming into season 4, I think everyone was like, “Here we go, another theme song.”
For whatever reason, we actually agreed on the angle or general point of view fairly easily. Once we landed on. “The theme song is going to undercut the notion of an easily definable lead to sitcom character.
She’s sort of beyond that and she’s becoming, in season 4, more in touch with her own multitude. You’re becoming more of a full person by embracing the aspect of you that is different, that’s what real people are like, as opposed to like a 2-dimensional character.
I had an idea for the first line, the first gag of the song, that it’s the wrong Rebecca. I had written a draft that had to meet Rebecca, she’s the coolest girl in the world, wait, wrong Rebecca. I think the rest of it was like maybe 50 or 60 percent of the way there. I played it for everyone, and everyone really liked it. We didn’t have as arduous as a time. Then it was just a matter of making it good, refining it, getting the melody right. It was a very visual idea. It lends itself well to the visual experience. We had this unbelievable actress playing Rebecca, and there were all these different reveals. That was an extra amount of work that Rachel put on herself for some reason. That was probably also a mistake, but I thought turned out really funny. It was great. It was a really smooth process. I think also directed by Stuart McDonald.
Rachel: Stuart directed both of our Emmy nominated songs. There’s an old story in my family.
My grandparents used to usher at the community theater. In exchange for ushering for free, they would get free tickets. They’d get these free tickets to these mediocre plays. My parents would feel obligated to see them. One time my mom got sick so we couldn’t go. My mom got this voicemail saying, “We usher so you can see free shows.”They never asked them to go, it was an obligation. It’s like the theme song with this; we have to a new theme song. I guess we have to do a musical number. Why are you upset that no other show has to do that and that you have to do that? No one asked you to do that. No one forced you to do that.
It really works for me because I like to complain about things of my own doing and act as if they weren’t. The season four theme was a smooth process. It’s great to start with a laugh that everyone agrees is a laugh.
When Jack first sang that first joke to us we all just died.
We’re proud that it has a life on the app tiktok which we found about through Adam’s daughter’s doctors.
It features a bunch of pre-teens misunderstanding what the song is about. A lot of our songs, if you actually look at what they’re talking about, but that’s what’s great about songs. They take on their own life. Randy Newman’s I love LA is a satire, but now it’s the Dodgers song. That song is not meant to be a celebration of LA. It satirizes LA, but no one cares.