Leading into the new fall TV season, there were a lot of shows we were excited about Fargo’s back, you guys! FARGO’S BACK!) and a LOT we knew were going to be total crap. But maybe the biggest question mark was the new Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Between iZombie and Jane the Virgin, the CW is a pretty kickass place to find shows about strong women, plus Rachel Bloom, the show’s creator and star, is hilarious and dark and super weird. in all the best ways. But we were skeptical, mostly because the show has the worst title since Selfie. It’s the kind of title that you have to feel bad recommending to friends or admitting you watch. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend sounds like an insult to women, a show based on “bitches be crazy” cliches. Add to that the fact that the show is a musical and it was hard to believe this was going to be something worth watching.
Oh how wrong we were.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was originally a pilot that Showtime picked up, and even though it’s been retooled (and expanded from half hour episodes to hour long), there’s a darkness to the show that cuts through. Written by Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), the titular crazy ex is Rebecca Bunch, a professionally successful and profoundly unhappy New York lawyer who, after following the signs put forth by a strangely pervasive ad campaign for butter, runs into her high school summer camp boyfriend, the boy who broke her heart at 16. When Josh tells her he’s moving back home to West Covina, California (only two hours from the beach, four in traffic!), she pulls a Felicity and follows him out west. As we watch her set up a new life in the shit hole that is West Covina and try desperately to casually run into Josh based on his Foursquare check-ins her obsession feels all too realistic. It’s extreme, sure, but as she repeatedly tells herself she didn’t move out to California for Josh, you may at moments almost believe her. She’s definitely her own professional level of neurotic and obsessive, but when you’re mired in the sort of depression Rebecca is, it’s understandable to fixate on something, anything, that you can give your whole attention to. For Rebecca, that’s Josh. No, she’s not in love with this manchild. She’s obsessed. Probably not even with him; just with the feeling of having a potentially life-changing goal, no matter how delusional.
It’s important to note that— despite my brain continuing to tell me otherwise— the show’s title is not MY Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This is not about Josh. Josh is a symbol, and a douchey one at that. Rebecca is the cliche we feared she would be, but that’s the point. What makes a seemingly normal, if unhappy person turn into this brand of obsessive? Her “crazy” behavior is played for comedy, but it’s not a joke. It feels like there will be a very real exploration of these ideas in future episodes.
Oh, and because you’re probably wondering: What about the musical numbers? That sort of bending of realism on television doesn’t always work well. It can easily drag a show down or be too jarring or cutesy, but Crazy Ex-Girlfriend nails it. The show is produced by Marc Webb, and there are moments that are spectacularly reminiscent of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Hall and Oates paade in 500 Days of Summer. Most of the songs in the pilot spring out of scenes spontaneously, but the best of the episode was this interlude, the new anthem for women’s weekends: The Sexy Getting Ready Song.