TV series end in many ways — cuts to black, getting off the plane, flash-forwards, and more.
But Crazy Ex-Girlfriend broke the mold and went out on a literal high note, a concert special that aired immediately after the series finale narrative episode, featuring a selection of some of the show’s four-seasons worth of original songs. Co-creator and star Rachel Bloom tells EW the idea came when The CW upped the show’s episode order from 13 to 18, leaving them with extra time to fill after already plotting their final season arc.
“We had just been on tour, and the tour went so well, and we’d already been talking about pitching to Netflix or Amazon a live special of our show, and so, this just seemed perfect,” Bloom explains. The special was taped over the course of two nights of live performances at Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theatre, treating a packed house full of cosplaying fans to new twists on some of the series’ best-loved tunes.
One of the most difficult parts of the special, besides knowing it was part of saying goodbye, was narrowing down exactly what songs would make the cut, Bloom says. Over four seasons, the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend songwriting team, which consists of Bloom, Jack Dolgen, and Adam Schlesinger, composed 157 songs (yes, you read that right) — that’s a ton of musical numbers to choose from when you’re crafting a 42-minute TV special.
Bloom says they used the songs that had performed well on last year’s live tour as a starting point and went from there. “The standard we had for pretty much every song was making sure any song we did elevated the original song in some way or brought something new to it. Because we already did the most perfect versions of the songs in the TV show,” she notes. “The idea was, what can we do joke-wise or scenery-wise in the live show that will bring something new to it? Then it was a matter of, what are the songs we have to do that are emotional tentpoles of the series, and making sure all the series regulars had a song.”
All of this came together as Bloom was simultaneously overseeing the end of the scripted series and filming her final episodes. She praises her co-songwriter Jack Dolgen for handling many of the logistics while she was wrapping the series. “I was involved in picking every song,” she says. “The script of the special is credited to me, Jack, and Adam.”
Ultimately, the special was about the “essentials,” and though Bloom was tempted to bring back favorite guest stars like Josh Groban and Lea Salonga, there simply wasn’t time. “We barely had time to make room for our leads to sing songs in 42 minutes,” she bemoans. “It really is this freight train of song after song after song, and there still aren’t essential songs in the show. We were going to do ‘The Math of Love Triangles,’ and we just didn’t have the production bandwidth.”
Tight timing also meant that Skylar Astin sang his new original song as Greg 2.0, the Bruce Springsteen inspired “I Hate Everything But You,” as opposed to revisiting any of original Greg’s songs, fan favorites like “Settle for Me” and “Hey West Covina.” Though Bloom teases that things of this nature are still a possibility at their upcoming live shows at Radio City Music Hall. “If this had been a 90-minute special, we would be having a different conversation right now,” she admits. “The thing is, we wrote such a stellar song for Skylar to do, and we’d never done that on tour before because this was a new song. It would have been sad not to do it.”
The special, in addition to bringing theatrical production value to the live show in a way that refined the more rag-tag “putting on a show” vibe of last year’s live tour, gave the team opportunities to reimagine songs — most notably, in the “Sexy Getting Medley” that took some of the show’s most memorable songs dedicated to, you guessed it, sex … and staged them around an elaborate trick bed.
“We have a ton of songs about sex, and we knew we wanted to do one medley [in the special],” says Bloom of this new take on songs like “Period Sex,” “Let’s Have Intercourse,” and “Strip Away My Conscience.” “It was taking all those songs and making it feel like a cohesive piece, so it wouldn’t feel creatively repetitive because we had all these sexy songs we wanted to do that had the word ‘sex’ and were about sex. If you spread them out throughout the show, it would have felt creatively redundant, but if you smush them together and you do a whole act that’s around this bed, suddenly it’s not repetitive at all and it elevates the material.”
From sex medleys to soaring above the stage on a giant pretzel to a raucous closing tap number, Bloom and the entire Crazy Ex-Girlfriend team sent off their series with a unique musical special. After all, they’ve never been like anything else on TV to begin with — so why not end that way too?
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