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Rachel Bloom: When Love Goes 'Crazy'
October 24, 2015  | By David Hinckley
 


Rachel Bloom thinks we need a reality check on at least two subjects, love and California, and she hopes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend can help.

Bloom co-created the new CW drama with Aline Brosh McKenna and plays Rebecca Bunch, a young and very smart New York attorney on a fast track to lawyerly riches.

Then one day she runs into Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III, below), who broke up with her 10 years earlier after a summer fling in which she was way more invested than he.

Turns out she’s still invested. When he says he’s moving to West Covina, Calif., she quits her job and follows him. Her subsequent conduct may or may not meet the legal definition of “stalking,” but it’s intense enough to justify the title of the show.

“We’re asking the question, ‘What is crazy?’,” Bloom says. “But what we’re showing is someone who really has given up everything for love – and this is what that looks like.”

It’s not always pretty or even funny, which Bloom says is part of the goal. In fact, she says, her biggest inspiration for the show was Breaking Bad.

OMG.

“You don’t have to like the character,” Bloom says by way of explanation. “You just have to understand the character.”

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET, began as a half-hour comedy pilot for Showtime and expanded to an hour when Showtime passed and it was picked up by the CW.

“We didn’t change much except dropping some words that were not appropriate for the CW,” says Bloom. “It’s still the same story.” 

Part of the story is also still told in song, with Bloom leading the cast in large-scale production numbers. Unlike in, say, Glee, the songs are original, reminiscent of a grown-up High School Musical.

“Rebecca is a character who thinks about life in musical numbers,” says Bloom. “She’s like Roxie Hart in Chicago.”

Bloom also says that coming up with enough strong tunes presents enough of a challenge that she sometimes reaches out for cyber-help.

“I still do some dry runs,” she admits, “on YouTube.”

At least in the early episodes, the musical segments are relentlessly golden and sunny, which Bloom says reflects Rebecca buying into the deceptive California brand.

Widely celebrated in song and literature as the great American destination, California to Bloom has another side – not dark so much as hollow.

“There’s no culture and no sense of history,” says Bloom, who grew up in California. “But everyone is really happy. It’s like you’re not allowed to be unhappy.”

A running gag in the opening episode was that West Covina is “two hours from the beach, four in traffic,” as if an eight-hour round trip is a minor price to pay for the awesome gift of sticking your toe in the sacred Pacific surf.  

In the show, this irrational sense of universal bliss reflects Rebecca’s own myopia.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t feel like I fit into that world,” says Bloom, who is now 28. “And Rachel is obviously not a happy person. Even though she’s very successful at work in New York, she has anxiety, she has depression. So pursuing happiness this way makes sense to her.

“We’ll find out as the show goes along that she’s done things like this before, and now Josh has become her symbol of happiness.”

It’s somewhere between wishful and delusional, and Bloom says that even if most of us don’t go to the extremes that Rebecca does, we can still empathize with her impulses.

“It’s about the lies we all tell ourselves,” she says, reassuringly.

What Crazy Ex-Girlfriend won’t become, says Bloom, is just a scheme-of-the-week, tracking Rebecca’s well-intentioned and misguided attempts to rekindle something that Josh long ago forgot.  

“We had a whole arc planned when we started,” says Bloom. “We wanted to know where it would end up.”

Besides two hours from the beach, four in traffic.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is available on Amazon for $20.

Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. A high point is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others...Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post

 

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