YouTube star Rachel Bloom is CW's 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend'

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Posted: Oct 09, 2015 11:40 AM
YouTube star Rachel Bloom is CW's 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend'

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The music video star is dressed right, in a low-cut catsuit that leaves little to the imagination. But her body language, as guided by the director, is somehow off.

"Can you please do the same thing, but grinding your pelvis a little?" he courteously asks, resulting in what can only be described as a geek's version of sexually provocative poses.

And when it comes to the empowered-woman pop song that Rachel Bloom is performing, something is definitely amiss.

"You've been tested for STDs, tell me please," she sings, breathily. "Waited the three-month window and got tested again. Most people don't know that."

The off-kilter video is part of the world of CW's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," starring comedian, actress and YouTube star Bloom. The debut episode, airing 8 p.m. EDT Monday, is a creative tour de force and the fall TV season's standout.

Showtime, which rejected the series, takes the loss and CW gets the win, a mate for its equally smart "Jane the Virgin" and the network's chance to expand its audience beyond the DC Comics and sci-fi-fantasy crowd now served by shows including "The Flash" and "Supernatural."

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is a musical comedy vehicle that manages to be both emotionally hefty and light on its feet, with credit due to zippy writing; the wickedly, sometimes raunchily funny music videos woven into each episode, and its leading lady's magnetism.

Bloom, 28, made an online splash with satirical videos including the animated "Historically Accurate Disney Princess Song" and "You Can Touch My Boobies," a pre-teen boy's fevered fantasy. She makes an effortless transition to breakout TV star in the CW's hour-long series.

The premise: Rebecca Bunch, a successful but deeply unhappy young New York lawyer, throws over her career after deciding that fate has decreed she reconnect with the boyfriend, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), who threw her over years ago.

With little encouragement from the man of her neurotic dreams, she pursues Josh from Manhattan to the West Coast, sort of. He lives in an inland Southern California suburban community, the real-world, unglamorous West Covina, possibly in its first leading role.

Creators and executive producers Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna use that framework to create a series that is "fizzy and upbeat," as McKenna describes it, but with a clear-eyed take on a confused Rebecca and modern romance.

Think of it as a rom-com skewed to the dark side, Bloom suggests, created by two feminists whose ambitious goal is to take the stereotypical phrase of its title and "deconstruct" it.

Brosh McKenna, a veteran screenwriter whose credits include "The Devil Wears Prada," expanded on their approach.

"There's a reason it's not called 'My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.' That implies it's from the point of view of a man," she said. "We don't want that sort of distancing thing: 'This is a crazy (expletive).' Instead, it's what it's like to live inside romantic obsession."

Said Bloom: "It's almost a comment, really, on romantic comedies."

The total sum of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" reflects its creators' inspirations. For Bloom, seeing Mel Brooks "The Producers" was her introduction to "raunchy, dirty, laugh-out-loud musical comedy," with "South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut" adding to her passion.

Brosh McKenna traces her starting point as a writer to discovering 1930s screwball comedies, and she likens Bloom's talent and appeal to that of Claudette Colbert, one of the era's great stars.

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is both deliriously funny and stunningly ambitious. Each of the two or three music videos featured per episode are original tunes, with Bloom, her creative partner Jack Dolgen and Grammy Award-winner Adam Schlesinger co-writing the music and lyrics.

Any genre of music is fair game, from hip-hop to ballads, and so is every style of dance. Choreographer Kathryn Burns is creating Bollywood, rhythm-and-blues and even Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers routines.

The number being shot on a recent production day, the one in which the catsuited-Bloom is writhing merrily around for the camera, is a comic take on a Beyonce production with, she said, a touch of Nicki Minaj.

It seems Bloom must feel stretched thin, given the acting, writing and producing tasks she's taken on. But the New York University's Tisch School of the Arts graduate, who's married to writer-comedian Dan Gregor, says she's exactly where she wants to be.

"I remember saying to my best friend right after I graduated that my pie-in-the-sky dream was to create a musical television comedy — and immediately following it was, 'Yeah, who knows when that would ever happen?'" Bloom said.

Happily for all, that turns out to be now.

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Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.