‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Review
As recently as three years ago, I basically had no use for the CW. When it was once the WB, it had been one of those treasures that seemed to be a bridge to the new Golden Age of Television. It had been a proving ground for some of the most brilliant new minds in entertainment. Talents such as Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, Kevin Williamson and Greg Berlanti all cut their teeth there. Some of the most incredible actresses working in film or television — just to give a sample, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Keri Russell, Lauren Graham, Michelle Williams and Blake Lively — all flourished under this experimental medium. But once it combined with its lower playing cousin, UPN, a lot of the more creative juices seemed to go out of the network. And I basically ignored it, and so did a lot of other people, to the point where local networks took over it again.
Then something remarkable happened. The network decided, more or less, to stop playing to the teenager-college age audience that had been its fanbase for nearly fifteen years, and decided to try more adult programming. Suddenly, the CW became one of the more ingenious creative forces on all of broadcast television, and even a few cable networks. Granted, a good portion of that is because of Berlanti’s adaptation of the DC comic book universe, which in the new fall season will take up forty percent of their lineup, but the fact is, most of these series have the ingenuity and wit that some of the other would be superhero series have basically failed at. And their level of success has allowed for the same kind of experimentation the WB managed when it was in its prime. Among the more imaginative series they’ve created is the brilliant ‘Jane the Virgin’, a series which is both a satire and a homage to the telenovelas that used to beat the CW’s series regularly, and an even more ingenious series just developed last season, ‘ Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” In fairness, I chose to ignore when it debuted, partly because it was up against another Berlanti series ‘Supergirl’ (which is transferring to the CW this fall) and partly because I just couldn’t handle having so many series of one network. Then star-creator Rachel Bloom began winning every Best Actress in a Comedy in site. I decided to take a look.
Rebecca Bunch (Bloom) is Harvard-Yale grad who has just been named partner to a New York law firm. It’s clear she has some psychological issues before everything gets started, but after learning this, she runs into a boy that she had a relationship with in summer camp, Josh, when she was a teenager (Vincent Rodriguez III). When she learns that he’s moving to California, impulsively she decides to relocate to West Covina, California, and try and get a new job, pretending that it’s only coincidental that Josh is living here.
From the start, it is clear that Rebecca has a suitcase full of neuroses (she dumps a pharmacy of pills in her garbage disposal in the Pilot), and that she is trying to find happiness. Unfortunately, when it comes to this, Rebecca is her own worst enemy. She goes into a bar, and ends up meeting Josh’s friend Greg (Santino Fontana) who is attracted to her, but learns very quickly that she is only interested in him because of Josh. When she finally encounters Josh and learns he has a girlfriend, she immediately tries to become best friends with her, avoiding telling her about her past relationship, which keeps getting weirder, until she ends up making out with her in a bar. Then she tries to throw a party to get around Josh’s girlfriend, and then realizes she has no friends.
This series, in setup, reminds one of the WB classic, Felicity. What makes it so remarkable is that it doesn’t take itself seriously for a moment. And by the way, it’s a musical. Bloom has apparent written most of the songs herself, including the theme song, which outright mocks the entire Pilot. And every single song is so inspired, not just because of the tunefulness, but because it parodies every bit of her. There was a song in the Pilot where she made fun of everything women have to do to groom themselves, something that utterly shamed a rapper who saw it. In the next episode, Josh’s girlfriend was parodied with a Bollywood number, as well as a song dealing with how women can get obsessed with each other. And in the party song, Rebecca sang a tune where the lyrics included “Friends! Friends! Friends! I objectively have friends!” and then demonstrated she didn’t. All of these musical numbers are works of genius, and none of them seem contrived at all. Not a single joke in this series is wasted, and Bloom makes use of the final minutes to have moments that are even more satirical gold. (In one, her twelve year old self is interested in her present self, not for her academic achievements, but for when her breasts will come in).
‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ is one of the most original series I’ve seen on network TV in awhile. Which is why I wasn’t the least surprised that, despite all the awards, Bloom was ignored by the Emmys for Best Actress. The CW, like its founder the WB, remains invisible to Emmy voters. And ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriends’ numbers aren’t good even by the standards of its network; it barely manages a million viewers an episode, and has already been cast off to Friday nights this fall. Still, Bloom was nominated for a couple of technical Emmys, and I really hope she wins one. This is a series that deserves to survive, because it demonstrates the artistic capability you can find on TV when it tries. I can’t wait to see more.
My score: 4.75 stars.