The insane CW series has been renewed for season 2! But still, there aren’t enough people watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and that should change.
The CW has a pretty big variety of shows. Their tagline “Defy your world. Dare to live in ours” makes total sense when it comes to Arrow and The Flash, which depict superhero worlds much different from our own. But a new show on the network this year is completely different.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is about exactly what it says on the package, and it is definitely crazy. A musical comedy based on one premise, the idea reads more like a web series or a one-shot film perhaps. Maybe it’s because the series’ lead and co-writer/creator, Rachel Bloom, is a YouTuber with a history of comedic music videos. But this show has now won two Golden Globes, and it still doesn’t have the viewership it deserves. I’ve put together a few reasons to watch it, and people who already do, please feel free to show this to your friends that don’t (yet).
The basics you should know: a girl, named Rebecca Bunch, leaves her high paying New York job to chase a middle school crush named Josh to the not-special town of West Covina, California and tries to win him over. Insanity ensues. That’s about all you need.
It’s completely aware of what it is
The circumstances are ridiculous, the premise is silly, the lead character is odd and the show knows that. Not only does it know these things, it addresses them. In the first five minutes of the pilot, Josh breaks up with young Rebecca for, well, being too dramatic. And she is; she bursts into song at every new twist in her life, which is how the concept functions. We learn later more about why that is, and about why these crazy circumstances occur, but in that awkward “trial period” shows go through in the first few episodes, it manages to stay fairly self-observant. It’s similar to first-season Glee in that way, calling itself out in creative ways.
All of the characters point out this bizarre girl’s behavior, as well as the absurdity surrounding them. Even Rebecca recognizes it — there’s a song where she realizes her own odd situation and outright states “I’m the villain in my own story / I’m the bad guy in my TV show” and stares right at the camera. In one number where he is soulfully pounding the keys, romantic interest Greg mentions he’s “never played piano before.” The writers get your hesitation, guys. They get it, and they will let you know it.
Its quirkiness works; for instance, in the first song of the show when Rebecca relocates across the country:
It’s diverse and ready to talk about other cultures
The Thanksgiving episode sees Rebecca hilariously be invited over for dinner with Josh’s Filipino family. This means Rebecca and viewers learn all about Tagalog and dinuguan, which is a traditional dish made of pork cooked in pork’s blood. I can remember only one other time seeing anything about a Filipino family event on TV, and it wasn’t an American show (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Manny’s debut ball, if anyone else watched it obsessively).
In addition, Josh Chan heavily defies the nerdy Asian stereotype, instead embodying a more clueless yet sweet 21st century California bro. Rebecca’s neighbor Heather Davis and Josh’s controlling girlfriend Valencia Perez add more and different diversity to the cast, and of course Rebecca’s boss, Darryl Whitefeather, discovers his bisexuality later in the season. Bisexuals have existed on television for some time; but the actual word “bisexual” is almost never found. On CEG, Darryl calls a meeting at the law firm to sing his coming-out anthem, “Gettin’ Bi.” I won’t spoil any of the awesome lines in it, partly because they’re best served with Darryl’s dance moves, but I mean… come on.
It has flawed and deeply interesting characters
The reason this even warrants a place on the list (because all television should be striving for it) is because comedy shows don’t always succeed here, and the flippant nature of the premise didn’t have to adhere to it. And in the beginning, it doesn’t. Each character seems a stereotype; unexpected, perhaps, but with one particular gimmick to lean on. Greg is the one in the “friend zone.” Paula is the best friend. Darryl is the one who probably had his lunch money stolen. Rebecca is, of course, the crazy ex-girlfriend. And then slowly and surely the rich history of all of these people is uncovered and weaves beautifully into what we saw at first.
The realistic nature of Rebecca’s dysfunction and insane decisions stem from her psychological issues. Instead of being repelled by her as viewers, we are instead drawn to her relatable reactions and choices. The concept of CEG may seem one-dimensional, but just like the theme song, the reality “is a lot more nuanced than that.”
If you doubt it, listen to this very nuanced song sung by the man who played Hans in Frozen:
It’s feminist without being preachy
Admittedly, a show centered on an “ex-girlfriend” — immediately involving a man — has to work hard to pass the Bechdel-Wallace test (this is mentioned by a character trying to help Rebecca fix her problems). But hear me out: Rebecca proclaims herself to be a feminist, and while she often can’t focus on anything besides Josh, she highly values other women. Her friendship with Paula is a keystone to the show, and defines the clever narrative the show is building about the search for happiness and how you may find that happiness in unexpected places. Rebecca very sweetly tries to reach out to both Valencia and her mortal enemy Audra Levine, in the pursuit of civility and perhaps new friendships.
Also, ladies, there’s an entire song about the misery that is getting ready for a party. “The Sexy Getting Ready Song” details precisely how difficult it is to, in the words of Tina Fey, prepare “for the role of human woman.” There are also countless other, often subtle references to sexism, like Greg’s winning line “Sugar jugs, just settle for me… demeaning terms are all I have left of my masculinity… ”. And when there is girl-on-girl crime happening, it gets addressed and treated like the crime it is. Seriously, Gloria Steinem probably watches this show.
It’s completely hilarious.
The pursuit of Josh is funny. Rachel imagining a boy band made up of four Joshes is funny. Heather, a deadpan abnormal psych major studying Rebecca for class, is funny. Greg trying to push everyone away and being told he’s “angry hot” is funny. Josh being confused about what “angry hot” is, is funny. Darryl fervently making bean dip for a small party is funny. There’s a song Rebecca sings about being a good person where she forces people to dance with her at knifepoint, and it’s incredibly funny. There’s also a song about feeling isolated with a group of friends in a restaurant that serves culturally confusing food (salsa verde cheesecake?). At one point someone says the line “you can’t monopolize the bathroom at a taco festival.” No one, from the writers to the actors, is afraid to have fun, and it shows. Watch:
See what I mean?! “Sorry… so busy!”
Comedic and fun, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend tells a story about the basic need for human happiness and the various ways people seek it out. Rebecca looking to find it in Josh is no different than Josh looking to find it working at his local Aloha store. And it’s full of catchy songs about relatable stuff like sending a text to the wrong person. Definitely worth your time — dare to live in Rebecca Bunch’s musical world.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs Mondays on the CW at 8/7c.