How Crazy Ex-Girlfriend created four pitch-perfect theme songs (and the ideas that didn't make the cut)
Most shows are lucky if they manage to create one memorable theme song. But Crazy Ex-Girlfriend took things one — or three — steps further, creating a new theme for each season of the CW comedy. And it all came about from Rebecca's (Rachel Bloom) evolution.
"Through the first season, there was a feeling that theme song was getting less and less applicable to the second half of the season because the character has a realization," songwriter Jack Dolgen tells EW. "That started the seed of: We need a new theme song."
So, season 2 delivered a new theme song. As did seasons 3 and 4. Now, three years after the series ended and in honor of it claiming the top spot on our Best TV Themes of the 21st Century list, we're looking back at how it all came together. EW spoke with Dolgen and Rachel Bloom, who alongside the late Adam Schlesinger — and with frequent input from showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna — crafted all four songs (and a few that didn't make the cut).
"By the time we wrote the season 1 theme song, there had already been some press about the show, and people had been confused about the title. They thought that the show was just going to be what the title was at face value," Bloom says. "So, the theme song was very much doing two things, which is this vintage throwback that we always wanted to do — we were inspired by Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and some of The Nanny — But we also wanted to address 'crazy ex-girlfriend' as a sexist term."
The song was also helping to tell Rebecca's story, which started with good old fashioned denial. "We were pretty sure that for a lot of season 1, Rebecca would be in complete denial about being in West Covina, which is the theme of that entire song," Bloom continues. "So, like with every theme song, it started on: What's the story Rebecca is telling herself of the season?"
The look of the season 2 theme was almost very different. "The setting was the 1970s, à la The Mary Tyler Moore Show," Bloom says of the first draft. "There were shopping bags. The whole concept was a parody of That Girl."
But when Dolgen pointed out that The Maria Bamford Show had beaten them to that idea, they pivoted. (Although the lyrics remained the same.) "Someone saw a musical from the '30s where someone had done a reverse breaking-through-the-paper shot, so that inspired the ending," Bloom says. "I sent Adam the lyrics. And Adam then turned it around."
"The third one was by far the most difficult to crack," Dolgen remembers, with Bloom adding, "The third one almost ended all of our friendships."
What started as one idea morphed into something else entirely. And then it morphed a couple more times. "Season 3 was always going to be our big Fatal Attraction season. So what we wanted to do was do a parody of a dramatic HBO, prestige drama opening," Bloom says. "And then, we came up with this song, 'I Hope Your Penis Falls Off.' That was the theme song. But by episode 4, our Fatal Attraction plotline was dropped. That's when all hell broke loose, because we all had different ideas."
Enter a new theme song, titled "Spiral," which applied more generally to Rebecca's, well, downward spiral. "That was almost the theme song, but there were 6,000 different versions of 'Spiral,'" Bloom recalls. "We were all fighting with each other because we all had different versions of the song that we liked. What we settled on, it's about Rebecca's indecision — but also our indecision where we do four songs in one."
Seasons 1 and 4 hold a special place in Bloom's heart, and it has nothing to do with the fact that they bookend the series. "Seasons 2 and 3 aren't TV theme song parodies. They're just song parodies," Bloom says. "So, I have fondnesses for both 1 and 4."
Specifically, season 4 was a parody of television themes like Full House. "We wanted it to be generally upbeat and almost '90s," Bloom says. "We talked about people looking at the camera like Family Matters, but once Jack [Dolgen] came up with the 'Wait, wrong Rebecca' line, it was all downhill from there in the best way."
A version of this story appears in the February issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.