There's talk of dad beards in here. Dad beards and dog breeds.
Inside the writers' room of the CW's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" — a compact room on the show's nondescript lot in North Hollywood — the hive mind behind the quirky and inventive musical dramedy are brainstorming details for an episode in the current third season that aired Friday.
They're attempting to pull off a new trick. Not easy for this always creative show.
Co-creator, showrunner and head writer Aline Brosh-McKenna is leading the charge as the group — consisting of Jack Dolgen, Erin Ehrlich, Rene Gube, Michael Hitchcock, Elizabeth Kiernan Averick, Sono Patel, Ilana Peña, Rachel Specter and Audrey Wauchope — take the show through a time jump.
The plot device, in which a story is accelerated forward a significant chunk of time, can breathe new life into a show's storytelling. In it's final season, "Glee" skipped ahead six months. "Grey's Anatomy," near the end of its 12th season, jumped nine months into the future. "Jane the Virgin" leaped three years in its third season.
For "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," which follows the misadventures in life and love of Rebecca Bunch (played by co-creator Rachel Bloom) and her kooky cohorts in West Covina, time has sprung forward eight months as of Friday's episode, titled "Nathaniel and I are Just Friends!"
The move, according to Brosh-McKenna, was driven by the recent development that saw the show's resident grouser Heather (Vella Lovell) agreeing to carry Darryl's (Pete Gardner) baby after the original surrogate fell through.
"We wanted to advance that," Brosh-McKenna said during the story session last fall. "But we didn't want to do that solely for those mechanical reasons. This season, in some ways, people are are stuck in certain dynamics. And so we wanted to kind of jump ahead and see where they land."
On that fall day, the writers — or the "engine room of the show," as Brosh-McKenna refers to them— were plotting out what fate has in store. It's not an entirely straightforward task when working with an eight-month gap — because as much as things can change, a lot can just as easily stay the same.
So they debate whether Darryl, fully embracing his impending fatherhood, should grow a "dad beard" — and how impeccably groomed it should be. (In the end, Darryl is beard-free).
They know for sure that they want White Josh (David Hull), who is still reeling from his breakup with Darryl, to leave West Covina for a bit — they ultimately decide he will venture to Mexico as part of Habitat for Humanity — and they want him to fill his love void by getting a dog. But what kind?
An Internet search of dog breeds begins, projected onto the wall, just as Bloom charges into the room from rehearsal. She came to suggest a casting option for an upcoming episode but can't resist talking dogs.
"I don't want a purebred dog," Bloom says. "It should be a rescue. He should have a pit mix! Pits get a really bad rap, but they're really sweet."
"Can the dog be called Dog Josh?" Brosh-McKenna wonders.
"Like, we should get a dog that looks like Josh?" Wauchope asks.
"It should be a pit, like with a square jaw," says Dolgen. A wave of swoons commences as the room starts to browse photos of various dog breeds. In the end, they decide on a French Bulldog. And, in the episode, Josh Chan suggests the canine should be called Dog Josh to the chagrin of White Josh.
So how do things ultimately shake out beyond the small details? Viewers find out roughly 15 minutes into the episode after Heather, feeling good about her work life and personal life and even being pregnant, heads to the backroom at the show's resident hangout and comes back out further along in her pregnancy and hating it.
Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) has settled into her new business as an event planner and has a new beau — a female beau, to be exact. Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) is grappling with learning that her office mates consider her a mean girl. And as for Rebecca, well, that's where things haven't changed.
She's still having an affair with Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster), despite knowing he has a girlfriend. But that's part of why it works for her. After being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and knowing how obsessive she tends to be about romance, Rebecca finds the restrictions as an emotional safety net.
"We always knew that Rebecca found a certain level of comfort in approaching the relationship as an affair, because it's almost like there is an emotional condom on the relationship," Brosh-McKenna says. "When he doesn't text her back, she doesn't freak out because there's clear parameters on that relationship."
Brosh-McKenna and Bloom were intentional in having almost every character transformed in some way in their lives over the course of the time jump, while Rebecca and Nathaniel are stuck in the same place.
"For us, it was a little bit of a comment on those relationships, especially those kinds of TV relationships, that people sort of get stuck in forever. And what do you do when you step back and realize that?"
There's two episodes left this season to see what else the future has in store.
When: 8 p.m. Friday