This Friday marks the end of one of the most unique television shows currently on the air. Like its protagonist, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is too hard to summarize. Simply calling it a “musical comedy” does a disservice to the genre-bending, trope-subverting, experience of the show at its best. Through four seasons and well over a hundred songs, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has told a story about love and what we tell ourselves that can mean. Whether it’s romantic, platonic or with one’s self, the show has tackled all of them with aplomb and a healthy dose of Broadway inspiration.
Like a few others I’ve spoken to, I was initially weary about tuning in, despite positive reviews. The name and the simple premise of “Lady moves across country to win the heart of her ex,” felt like every bad romantic comedy trope set to music. The situation, as it turns out, is a lot more nuanced than that. Somewhere between the “Sexy Getting Ready Song” and “Settle for Me,” I started to realize that the show was not only continually charming and funny, it was also consistently subverting my expectations. Not just the expectations of how a story like this plays out, but what we expect from females on television and how they are presented. A perfect example of this is the makeup. This is a program that never shies away from making its characters look like normal people, who occasionally have messy hair and sweaty features.
It all falls in line with what has become the show’s modus operandi: television and movies are not an accurate reflection of your life and trying to live like they are is a recipe for disappointment. To quote Josh Groban, “Life doesn’t make narrative sense.” It is in that tug of war between playing into the tropes of romantic comedies and subverting them that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend finds some its most engaging material. Whether it’s rushing to the airport to make a declaration of love that is ultimately rejected or trying to get revenge on the man who jilted you at the altar only to realize it won’t bring you satisfaction. Every time it seems like the show is moving into the ditch of various romcom cliches it drives out of them and to a more rewarding and fresh direction.
Of course, none of this would work as well as it does without Rachel Bloom there to guide the ship. Rebecca Bunch might be one of the most human characters to ever grace the silver screen and a large part of that is Bloom’s ability to ground her in emotions and feelings that are relatable. Even at her lowest and most ridiculous we empathize with Rebecca because we’ve all felt the same, even if we’ve never tried to mail poop to our ex.
Bloom isn’t alone either, as with every television program worth its time, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend boasts an impressively deep cast. There’s Vincent Rodriguez III’s Josh Chan, the almost perpetually cool and laidback ex that sends Rebecca on her journey. There’s the excellent Santino Fontana as the prickly bartender and eventual love interest Greg. The powerhouse Donna Lynne Champlin as Paula, Rebecca’s confidant and occasional mother figure. Pete Gardner as the overly emotional and, eventually, openly bisexual Darryl. Vela Lovell as the, always sardonic, Heather. Gabrielle Ruiz as Josh’s girlfriend turned ex turned Rebecca’s friend, Valencia. Not to mention Scott Michael Foster, who fills the gap left by Fontana’s departure partway through season 2 as the egotistical and occasionally evil boss Nathaniel. And don’t get me started on all the amazing supporting characters who help populate the city of West Covina.
600 words in and it feels like maybe we should talk about the musical portion of this “musical comedy.” With almost 150 original songs across 60 episodes, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has run the gamut of musical genres. From jazz to death metal, it is a testament to Bloom and music producer, Adam Schlesinger, that even the worst songs on the show are fun attempts. Where the real musicianship lies however, is when the program focuses on classic musicals.
Whether it is a Marilyn Monroe circa Gentlemen Prefer Blondes number about love triangles and, also, literal triangles or a Chicago styled piece filled with sex puns and the profound uncomfort of a thong, the show has a way of making your inner musical theater nerd smile. All of it performed by an always game cast and with some truly incredible stage work for the big numbers.
The final element that sets the show apart in an increasingly populated TV landscape, and the one that is most commendable, is the show’s open and honest portrayal of mental illness. The Crazy in the title might seem derogatory at first glance, but as the show progressed it became clear that it was not going to shy away from tackling just what Rebecca’s illness was. Not just Rebecca, the program took the time to check the mental states of all of its main cast to show how mental illness and past trauma affects a large portion of the population and that it is different for each person.
Most importantly, it lets us all know that mental illness is not the end. Regardless of your diagnosis there is a way forward. Rebecca learns to cope with her BPD and continues to do the necessary work. To see the issue handled with thought and care is a step forward for television, a medium with a tendency to use mental illness as a keyword for “bad guy.”
There are so many other things that I’ll miss about this show that I don’t have time to write at length about. I’ll miss the mastery of double entendre, the weird butter commercials and the consistently entertaining callbacks. Most of all, I’ll miss having a witty female-led musical that wasn’t afraid to tackle abortion, menstruation, UTIs, the orgasm gap and so much more with grace and a song. Regardless of what the finale brings for Rebecca and the rest of the West Covina crew, it’ll have already earned an eternal place in my heart. I’m hopelessly, desperately in love with…Crazy Ex-Girlfriend!
If you’re a fellow fan of the show feel free to commiserate with me in the comments. Share a favorite moment, song, joke etc. If you’re not a fan thanks for reading anyway, obviously I highly recommend this show.