What on earth could compel young lawyer Rebecca Bunch to turn down partner status — and a $500,000 salary — at her New York law firm for an impulsive move to West Covina?
The answer is Josh Chan, her ex-boyfriend from high school — the "one that got away."
At least that's how the CW's new musical comedy series, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," sounds on paper. (The show was originally developed for Showtime, but the network passed.) If you were to judge the show solely by the ads and the title, you might think it's just another cliché romantic comedy-style TV show about volatile female emotionality, but it's much funnier and way more meta than that.
Through the crazy ex-girlfriend trope, creators Rachel Bloom (who's also the series star) and screenwriter/show runner Aline Brosh McKenna poke fun at how pop culture shapes our perception of women's roles in obsessive romantic love stories and rom-coms.
"Definitely for women, the idea that romantic love has been sold as a sort of panacea ... is something that is constantly marketed to women," said Brosh McKenna on The Frame. "One of the things that we explore is the fact that women often end up in these hopeless romantic pursuits. I think that men do too. It's just often when men do, it's not funny."
This is familiar territory for Brosh McKenna. Her feature film credits include screenwriting for rom-coms such as "Three To Tango" and "Laws of Attraction," and what she likes to call "dramas with jokes," like "The Devil Wears Prada" and "We Bought A Zoo." However, she found herself moving away from writing those kinds of films due to what she noticed as a trend of female characters that had to be likable above all else.
"The sense of having a character who was unlikable or does something that is irreverent was kind of off the table for movies that featured women," Brosh McKenna said. "You're always being asked to make them more palatable to an audience and more sympathetic.
"There was this really stark divergence where you could see where female characters in movies were becoming what people think of as likable or what executives think of as likable, and on television, the female characters were becoming much more naughty and flawed."
Think Tina Fey's Liz Lemon in "30 Rock" or Amy Poehler's Lesley Knope in "Parks and Recreation." Rebecca Bunch is a lot like them — smart, educated, successful, funny, but with a myriad of flaws that make her relatable to real people.
In this series, the term/title "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," is meant more as a catchall term for obsessive pursuits, rather than the cliché (or the overly obsessed girlfriend meme), where a woman becomes unhinged after an innocent boyfriend breaks it off.
"You can go 'crazy ex-girlfriend' on a work thing, trying to get a job, or trying to get an apartment or trying to buy a house," Brosh McKenna said. "The nature of an obsessive pursuit of something is a huge part of what is interesting for us."
Satirizing genre and turning clichés against themselves is also something Bloom has been working on for years. In fact, it was through Bloom's YouTube videos that Brosh McKenna first discovered the singer/writer/actress.
During a period of procrastination in which Brosh McKenna was reading blogs and watching YouTube, she stumbled onto one of Bloom's popular videos. Like this one, a satire of Disney princess songs:
"I don't know a lot of writers who can sing like that," Brosh McKenna said. "It sounds like such a classic Disney Princess voice, I just assumed it was an actor that they hired. I was expecting this very glamorous girl based on the videos, but she walked in and she was just wearing jeans and flip-flops and she was one of us, she's just a writer in her soul. I mean, she's all of those things too, but in her soul she's really a writer chick."
The show also shows off Bloom's musical theater chops. Each episode will feature three or so musical numbers, and uncensored versions of the songs will go online. In episode one, take note of "Sexy Getting Ready Song" for a clear idea of the comedic tone of the show.