SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details about the fourth and final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, debuting tonight.
“We had the general trajectory and the sort of general movements of four chapters in our mind when we started and we have mostly stuck to that, “ admits Crazy Ex-Girlfriend co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna of the blueprint she and Rachel Bloom had for the crisp musical dramedy that premieres its fourth and final season tonight on the CW.
The Bloom penned “I Want To Be Here” finds the star’s Rebecca Bunch behind bars and still reeling from tossing a stalker off a roof for her sorta boyfriend, a traumatic suicide attempt and Season 3’s diagnosis of a borderline personality disorder Put it another way, the 18-episode final season is a Hell of a long way from the overachieving NYC lawyer who suddenly dropped everything to move to West Covina, CA in search of not so true love.
In that context, I spoke to showrunner Brosh McKenna on how Crazy Ex got here, where it was all going in the end and how she and Bloom planned to get the series there. As she works on the second half of Season 4, we also discussed the #metoo era and Crazy Ex and the idea of a stage musical based on the tunes filled show that was floated at San Diego Comic Con this summer.
DEADLINE: You guys have never shied away from serious topics but in many ways it feels like time has caught up with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and we’re now in crazy times. How has that informed the narrative that you and Rachel have developed for this 18 episode final season?
BROSH McKENNA: I think that’s something we’re all grappling with now, which is sort of looking passed our own comfort, privilege, and trying to make the world a better place. We really wanted to spend the first part of the last season really showing Rebecca getting her feet pull out from under her.
DEADLINE: How do you mean?
BROSH McKENNA: You know, in our bones we’re really a rom-com but Rebecca’s not in any way ready to really fully explore that part of her life now. She’s trying to take responsibility, figure out who she is, and figure out a more responsible, ethical way to live as a person. So that’s the first half of the season and that’s been really fun for us to take somebody who’s been a little bit of a sheltered person and show her trying to be a better citizen of the world.
DEADLINE: At the halfway point of the fourth and final season, how does it end and is that the way you planned it back at the beginning?
BROSH McKENNA: (laughs) I’m not going to tell you that. But I will say its actually been nice because it really gives us the real estate to do what I mentioned, which is to really ground her and get her in a place where she understands how to live with her illness and take responsibility for her actions. Then and only then can she turn her attention to her love life, which we’re kind of in that part of the season right now, and it’s incredibly fun for us to go back to the rom-com roots of the show. So Rachel and I have been cracking up a lot and having fun kind of returning to that.
DEADLINE: Was that route always the plan?
BROSH McKENNA: When we say we have it mapped out sometimes I think it sounds to people like we had ever episode broken when we started and nothing could be farther from the truth. But, we had the general trajectory and the sort of general movements of four chapters in our mind when we started and we have mostly stuck to that.
DEADLINE: Music is a huge part of the show and the fourth season no less than others, so where do things stand with the Crazy Ex musical that Rachel and yourself discussed at Comic Con in the summer?
BROSH McKENNA: We talked about it during the hiatus and we kind of looked at what the shape of that might be. However, then we started working on this season and when the season is going we barely have time to sleep and eat. So we haven’t had a chance to revisit it, but we will.
On the eve of s4 premiere: It takes so much love and dedication to make a show. I'm so grateful to everyone who brings their heart and soul to work every day. Here's just a few backstage of a few of those folks. Thank you, CXG peeps. #CrazyExGirlfriend (1 of 2) pic.twitter.com/1p1fG2ltEk
— Aline Brosh McKenna (@alinebmckenna) October 11, 2018
DEADLINE: Talking about being deep in, we are a year now in the #metoo era, a year since the New York Times and New Yorker stories on Harvey Weinstein. Where does Crazy Ex fit in for you in this new culture lexicon?
BROSH McKENNA: I think a lot of the shows that are focused on the female experience have been talking about these things for a while. I remember that One Mississippi did an episode with a sexual harassment storyline.
DEADLINE: Which was clearly talking about Louis C.K. and epitomized that, as became clear afterwards….
BROSH McKENNA: Yes, and you know, these things have been happening as long as human beings have been in workplaces. I can’t say it’s surprising and I think what’s great about it is now we have a language for talking about it and for being open about it. People are able to talk about their experience and for there to be a frame of reference. Of course, we could still do a better job of believing women when they speak up but it’s not far afield from things that we’ve been talking about although we haven’t dealt with it directly, yet.
DEADLINE: One thing you have dealt with directly since the beginning is a lot of self-referential elements that have always been a part of your show. I don’t know if it’s fair to say you guys break the fourth wall but it’s more glass than brick, to put it mildly. In the Season 4 opener, for instance, there’s a quip about it being the “weirdest episode ever” and then there’s a pause and a character says “of Sex and the City.” Going into a fourth season, do you worry about getting a little bit too Meta?
BROSH McKENNA: Oddly No. I mean we sprinkle it in there. We definitely have teams in the writers room, people who love the meta stuff and people who don’t so it’s often a bit of a conversation. I’m very stalwart about not doing any references or jokes that you need to have watched every episode of the series to do. So if you’ve watched a series that could be funny and if you haven’t it also makes sense. Even now, I try to encourage us all not to have any reference that is too obscure, too inside.
DEADLINE: Back in September, just before he was tossed out as CBS CEO, Rachel sent out a tweet saying as a “employee of CBS, I would just like to say that Les Moonves should be fired without getting a fucking dollar.” More recently, she said that now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was “fucking lying” about accusation he tried to assault Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as a teenager. Crazy Ex is show that was both a reaction to and resisting, to use current language, the notion of patriarchy. What does that mean at this point in the final season?
BROSH McKENNA: I mean it’s so fun to poke fun at. There are also still lots of things that haven’t been talked about. You still have to fight to get the word clitoris on the air and people still freak out when you talk about periods. We’re taking on some other gynecology because it’s always fun for us and threatening to the patriarchy.
You know, we just do what amuses us and I think the more diverse your creator is the more diverse your show. So the fact that Rachel and I are women, we’re just telling stories that are meaningful to us and maybe they haven’t been seen as often.