10 Wild Facts About Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

The CW
The CW

In 2015, a little show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premiered on The CW and quickly captured the attention—and adoration—of viewers and critics alike, establishing co-creator and star Rachel Bloom as one of the freshest voices on TV. The series is unique to network television: It's an original musical TV show with a diverse cast that tackles the "crazy ex-girlfriend" stereotype and broaches a range of topics, from body image to mental illness, every week.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend follows Rebecca Bunch (Bloom), a successful but unhappy New York City lawyer who has a chance encounter with an ex-boyfriend, Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), and promptly drops everything to move to West Covina, California to find him and make him fall in love with her again.

Bloom herself is spectacular talent: She can act, sing, dance, and write. Before Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, she was blowing up the internet with hilarious musical sketches like "F*** Me, Ray Bradbury" and "Historically Accurate Disney Princess Song." She captured the attention of screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), and together they created the boundary-pushing series, which just confirmed that its upcoming fourth season will be its last. Here are 10 things you might not know about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

1. WEST COVINA IS A REAL CITY, AND IT HAS EMBRACED CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND.

A show set in the Southern California suburb of West Covina stands out among the myriad shows set in New York City and Los Angeles. The city is pretty ordinary and nondescript: Until Crazy Ex-Girlfriend chose it as a setting, it was largely unknown to non-locals. "Aline and I liked the idea of West Covina being a symbol for what America now is: a diverse group from all walks of life going to the same chain stores and restaurants," Bloom told the Los Angeles Times, which noted that "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been welcomed by some West Covinans, who say it portrays the cheery banality and casual diversity of life in Southern California's suburbs."

In 2015, the year the it premiered, Covina's City Council presented the cast and producers with the key to the city. The next year, the Council named October 21 "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Day," in honor of the second season's premiere.

2. BASICALLY EVERYONE IN THE CAST HAS BEEN ON BROADWAY.

Rachel Bloom stars in 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend'
The CW

When you're making an original TV musical, you need actors who can sing and dance. Where do you find them? Broadway, of course. Before coming to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Santino Fontana—who plays Greg Serrano, Josh's best friend—was an up-and-comer on the New York theater scene. He scored a Tony nomination for his role as the prince in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella and starred in plays like Act One and The Importance of Being Earnest. Off-Broadway, he played Matt in the original revival cast of The Fantasticks.

Fontana's big break came in 2013 when he portrayed a prince again, voicing Prince Hans in the enormously popular Disney film Frozen. After leaving Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, he's been tapped to star in a new Broadway-bound musical adaptation of Tootsie.

Donna Lynne Champlin played Pirelli alongside Patti LuPone's Mrs. Lovett in the 2005 revival of Sweeney Todd, which was memorable because all the actors played their own instruments. Vincent Rodriguez III and Gabrielle Ruiz both cut their teeth in the choruses of musicals, he in the national tours of Anything Goes and Pippin and she in Evita and In the Heights.

3. THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW NOTABLE DIRECTORS.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has had as much talent behind the camera as it has in front of it. The pilot was helmed by Marc Webb, the director of The Amazing Spider-Man and (500) Days of Summer (the latter of which is notable for its musical sequence shot to Hall & Oates's "You Make My Dreams"). He also executive produces the show, and returned to direct and co-write the season two premiere. Webb calls himself "a total fanboy" when it comes to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. He told Variety that although he does the bulk of his producing work at the top of each season and then departs, "I talk to [Bloom and McKenna]—basically texting them how much I love them and how impressed I am with everything they do."

There have been other directors of note as well: Kenny Ortega, the director (and choreographer) of the High School Musical franchise, was behind the camera for the season one episode "I'm Going to the Beach with Josh and His Friends!," and Bloom's husband, comedian Dan Gregor, helmed two episodes.

4. THE SERIES WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE ON SHOWTIME.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend never would have been made if it weren't for Aline Brosh McKenna. In an interview with ThinkProgress, McKenna told the story of how she first came across Rachel Bloom's viral comedy videos while procrastinating. After that, McKenna had to meet Bloom and find some way to work with her. Soon, they came up with the idea for the show. "At first, we were going to write it for a broadcast network, but there was no way for us to ensure that Rachel would be in it," McKenna said. "They probably would have wanted to use a bigger star. And I said, 'I don’t want to do this unless Rachel is the star of the show.' By necessity, and because it was dirty, we had to do cable."

Initially, Showtime appeared to be very interested, and had seen all of Bloom's videos. In fact, it was Showtime's suggestion that Marc Webb direct the pilot. But after the pilot was done, they passed on it, a move that surprised McKenna. At the same time, McKenna had just binged and fell in love with Jane the Virgin and thought The CW might be interested. To everyone's delight, the broadcast network loved it—dirty jokes and all.

5. EXECUTIVE MUSIC PRODUCER AND SONGWRITER ADAM SCHLESINGER WAS IN FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE.

Adam Schlesinger, one of the three songwriters on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, was the bassist for '00s rock band Fountains of Wayne, which achieved fame with the 2003 single "Stacy's Mom." He's actually been making a name for himself as a Hollywood songwriter for years, winning Emmy and Grammy Awards and picking up Oscar, Tony, and Golden Globe nods. Schlesinger penned the title song for That Thing You Do!, and wrote tracks for the 2007 rom-com Music and Lyrics, starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, and the underrated 2001 film Josie and the Pussycats. He also wrote the music for a short-lived Broadway musical adaptation of the John Waters film Cry-Baby.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend songwriting team Bloom, Schlesinger, and Jack Dolgen share two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. Bloom is the one who concentrates on lyrics and rhythm. "I can do those on set," she told Billboard. "For me to write music, I have to be at the piano and an hour of time to think about it, which I don't have," she says. "Adam takes the music that I send and changes it for the better."

6. WEST COVINA IS ACTUALLY LESS THAN TWO HOURS FROM THE BEACH

There's a recurring joke in the series that encapsulates how West Covina can seem both heavenly and lackluster: It's oft-parroted by the locals that their hometown is only two hours from the beach, but four in traffic. Well, the residents of the real West Covina will have you know that their city is actually less than two hours from the beach, thank you very much. One viewer even took to Google Maps to prove that, in fact, the city is 46 minutes from Huntington Beach and 47 minutes from Redondo Beach.

7. RACHEL BLOOM AUDITIONED FOR SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

In 2012, an internet-famous comedian named Rachel Bloom sent in an audition tape for SNL. Four years later, with a hit show and and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical under her belt, Bloom shared the video on Twitter, to the delight of fans. As we know, she never made it into the cast, despite her excellent impression of Katharine Hepburn auditioning for Space Jam. No hard feelings, though.

8. BLOOM WORKED AS SETH MEYERS'S INTERN.

Though she may not have succeeded in making it onto Saturday Night Live, Bloom did get to work on the show—as an intern. In 2016, Bloom appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers and talked about her experience at SNL … including the time Meyers got mad at another intern over a salad. "Someone went down to Hale and Hearty to get you a salad, and they came back and it was the wrong salad," she recounted. "They gave you the salad and they were like 'Oh my god, I'm so sorry, it's the wrong salad. Do you want me to get another one?' You went 'No, I guess we can work with this.' And you slammed the door." Bloom presumably never messed up Meyers's salad order.

9. BLOOM AND DANNY JOLLES ARE OLD FRIENDS.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fans know actor Danny Jolles as George, Rebecca Bunch's oft-mistreated colleague who has been fired and rehired countless times. He finally got his moment in season two. Well, sort of. He got to belt out his own number, "George's Turn," but in classic sad-sack fashion, the camera cut away from him just as he was resolving to no longer let himself be interrupted. But fans may not know that Jolles and Bloom have been friends since long before the show started. The two have a history of performing together in online sketches and at Upright Citizens Brigade and the People's Improv Theater in New York City. The night that the "George's Turn" episode aired, Bloom tweeted about their friendship:

10. FATHER BRAH IS ALSO A WRITER ON THE SHOW

Rene Gube, who plays Josh's friend and advisor Father Brah, is also one of the show's writers. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has garnered praise for its realistic representation of a Filipino-American family, and a lot of that is thanks to Gube, who brings his experience as a Filipino-American to Josh Chan, the Chan family, and his own character Father Brah. He penned the episode "My First Thanksgiving with Josh!," in which Rebecca comes to Josh's house for a traditional Filipino-American Thanksgiving and strives to impress his mom. Gube told Vulture that he was excited to be able to write for a show in which his own identity was represented: "To have an opportunity to create a fully developed Filipino character, a male romantic lead, I’ve never seen that before, and I was super excited about that. It is a great opportunity to show a Filipino family on network television, and show how American that Filipino family truly is.”

Of the Thanksgiving episode, Rodriguez told Vulture, “We’re really focused on the family values and the environment Filipino families create at Thanksgiving. Rene is a great resource in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish with a Filipino family on television and the kinds of things that need to be in place.”

When Mississippi Once Banned Sesame Street

Children's Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images
Children's Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images

Since it began airing in the fall of 1969, Sesame Street has become an indelible part of millions of children's formative years. Using a cast of colorful characters like Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, and Oscar the Grouch, along with a curriculum vetted by Sesame Workshop's child psychologists and other experts, the series is able to impart life lessons and illustrate educational tools that a viewer can use throughout their adolescence. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone—even Oscar—who would take issue with the show’s approach or its mission statement.

Yet that’s exactly what happened in early 1970, when a board of educational consultants in Mississippi gathered, polled one another, and decided that Sesame Street was too controversial for television.

The series had only been on the air for a few months when the newly formed Mississippi Authority for Educational Television (also known as the State Commission for Educational Television) held a regularly scheduled meeting in January 1970. The board had been created by the state legislature with appointees named by Governor John Bell Williams to evaluate shows that were set to air on the state’s Educational Television, or ETV, station. The five-member panel consisted of educators and private citizens, including a teacher and a principal, and was headed up by James McKay, a banker in Jackson, Mississippi.

McKay’s presence was notable for the fact that his father-in-law, Allen Thompson, had just retired after spending 20 years as mayor of Jackson. Highly resistant to integration in the city during his tenure in office, Thompson was also the founder of Freedom of Choice in the United States, or FOCUS, an activist group that promoted what they dubbed “freedom of choice” in public schools—a thinly veiled reference to segregation. Mississippi, long the most incendiary state in the nation when it came to civil rights, was still struggling with the racial tension of the 1960s. Systemic racism was an issue.

Entering this climate was Sesame Street, the show pioneered by Joan Ganz Cooney, a former journalist and television producer who became the executive director of the Children’s Television Workshop. On the series, the human cast was integrated, with black performers Matt Robinson and Loretta Long as Gordon and Susan, respectively, appearing alongside white actors Jada Rowland and Bob McGrath. The children of Sesame Street were also ethnically diverse.

Zoe (L) and Cookie Monster (R) are pictured in New York City in November 2009
Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images

This appeared to be too much for the Authority, which discussed how lawmakers with control over ETV’s budget—which had just been set at $5,367,441—might find the mixed-race assembly offensive. The panel's participants were all white.

The board pushed the discussion aside until April 17, 1970, when they took an informal poll and decided, by a margin of three votes against two, to prohibit ETV from airing Sesame Street—a show that came free of charge to all public television stations. (The decision affected mainly viewers in and around Jackson, as the station had not yet expanded across the state and was not expected to do so until the fall of 1970.)

The members who were outvoted were plainly unhappy with the outcome and leaked the decision to The New York Times, which published a notice of the prohibition days later along with a quote from one of the board members.

“Some of the members of the commission were very much opposed to showing the series because it uses a highly integrated cast of children,” the person, who did not wish to be named, said. “Mainly the commission members felt that Mississippi was not yet ready for it.”

The reaction to such a transparent concession to racism was swift and predictably negative, both in and out of Mississippi. Board members who spoke with press, usually anonymously, claimed the decision was a simple “postponing” of the show, not an outright ban. The fear, they said, was that legislators who viewed ETV as having progressive values might shut down the project before it had a chance to get off the ground. It was still possible for opponents to suffocate it before it became part of the fabric of the state’s television offerings.

The concern was not entirely without merit. State representative Tullius Brady of Brookhaven said that ETV exerted “a subtle influence” on the minds of children and that the Ford Foundation, which funded educational programming, could use its influence for “evil purposes.” Other lawmakers had previously argued against shows that promoted integration.

Grover is pictured at AOL Studios in New York City in May 2015
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images

Regardless of how the decision was justified, many took issue with it. In an anonymous editorial for the Delta Democrat-Times, a critic wrote:

“But Mississippi’s ETV commission won’t be showing it for the time being because of one fatal defect, as measured by Mississippi’s political leadership. Sesame Street is integrated. Some of its leading cast members are black, including the man who does much of the overt ‘teaching.’ The neighborhood of the ‘street’ is a mixed one. And all that, of course, goes against the Mississippi grain.”

Joan Ganz Cooney called the decision a “tragedy” for young people.

Fortunately, it was a tragedy with a short shelf life. The following month, the board reconvened and reversed its own informal poll result, approving of Sesame Street and agreeing that ETV could air it as soon as they received tapes of the program. Thanks to feeds from Memphis, New Orleans, and Alabama, Sesame Street could already be seen in parts of Mississippi. And thanks to the deluge of negative responses, it seemed pointless to try to placate politicians who still favored segregation.

In the fall of 1970, the Sesame Street cast appeared in person in Jackson and was met by representatives from the board, which helped to sponsor the live performance, though it’s not clear any apology was forthcoming.

Sesame Street would go on to win numerous awards and accolades over the proceeding 50 years, though it would not be the only children’s show to experience censorship on public television. In May 2019, ETV networks in Alabama and Arkansas refused to air an episode of the PBS animated series Arthur in which a rat and aardvark are depicted as a same-sex couple getting married.

Attention Movie Geeks: Cinephile Is the Card Game You Need Right Now

Cinephile/Amazon
Cinephile/Amazon

If you’ve got decades worth of movie trivia up in your head but nowhere to show it off, Cinephile: A Card Game just may be your perfect outlet. Created by writer, art director, and movie expert Cory Everett, with illustrations by Steve Isaacs, this game aims to test the mettle of any film aficionado with five different play types that are designed for different skill and difficulty levels.

For players looking for a more casual experience, Cinephile offers a game variety called Filmography, where you simply have to name more movies that a given actor has appeared in than your opponent. For those who really want to test their knowledge of the silver screen, there’s the most challenging game type, Six Degrees, which plays like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with the player who finds the fewest number of degrees between two actors getting the win.

When you choose actors for Six Degrees, you’ll do so using the beautifully illustrated cards that come with the game, featuring Hollywood A-listers past and present in some of their most memorable roles. You’ve got no-brainers like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990) alongside cult favorites like Bill Murray from 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Jeff Goldblum in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Of course, being a game designed for the true film buff, you’ll also get some deeper cuts like Helen Mirren from 1990’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Sean Connery in 1974's Zardoz. There are 150 cards in all, with expansion packs on the way.

Cinephile is a labor of love for Everett and Isaacs, who originally got this project off the ground via Kickstarter, where they raised more than $20,000. Now it’s being published on a wider scale by Clarkson Potter, a Penguin Random House group. You can get your copy from Amazon now for $20.

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