Anyone who has asked me what I'm watching on the tellybox over the past 18 months has usually been met with a stream of consciousness about how brilliant Crazy Ex Girlfriend is. Most of the time, people are less than convinced by my incoherent babble. But I've decided to write a little bit of a love letter to CXGF because everyone should be watching it.
For anyone who hasn't seen it, the show revolves around Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), a lawyer who leaves New York and heads towards West Covina, California, after a chance encounter with ex-boyfriend Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III). She snaps up a job at a West Covina law firm, rents an apartment, and flushes all her depression and anxiety meds down the sink. And...with the help of new bezzie m and co-worker Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) vows to win Josh back.
Sounds generic. Tired. But it's not. Because this precinct gives ways to an avalanche of darker elements (in particular its portrayal of its lead character who has no awareness of her own destructiveness). At first glance, you can dismiss this show and not take it seriously. It’s a comedy: goofy and odd-ballish. Tonally it's all over the place. It's a sitcom, a melodrama, a sketch show, a satire and a drama.
But its characters are complicated and their flaws are explored with the clarity of great shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. Its power lies in its ability to skewer stereotypes. Yes, the show is loud and brash and, at times, completely bonkers. For example, there is an entire episode narrated through song by the Santa Ana winds, which blow through the San Gabes Vals. Yes really.
However, it takes risks and has made a habit of shaking things up just when you thought you knew where it was going. It leads you into a false sense of security, egging you on to assume that it couldn't possibly be as deep or as layered as your favourite TV Drama. But it's more than that. Because it has intelligence, fucking awesome music, genuine pathos, and filthy, filthy jokes. CXGF gets lumbered with all of the stigma that comes with being a TV Comedy. But it's the best thing on telly right now.
And here's 3 reasons why:
1. Rebecca Bunch
Our main character, played by co-creator Rachel Bloom.
She's an incredibly funny woman who jokes about her breasts being sacks of yellow fat and how uncomfortable a thong is. She's a brilliant lawyer (when she wants to be) and she's got pipes. Girl can SING.
She's also a hot mess. In two short seasons, we've seen her go from 'crazy' ex, to a monstrous bridezilla to a vengeful, vindictive femme fatale. Now, the one note I hate getting from TV people is: are they likeable? And CXGF makes a virtue of the fact that Rebecca is one of the most irritating individuals you could ever meet. She frequently makes morally dubious and problematic decisions, which could de-rail her life. She's rash. Impulsive. Incredibly self indulgent. Needy. Some might say neurotic. Every time you think she's seen the light and she might change, she makes ten incredibly ill-advised choices that make you wanna smash your head against the wall.
And that's the fun of it. It's also at the core of what makes it heartbreaking. Because you root for her. You want her to be happy and be able to love herself. You scream at the TV when she puts her mental health on the line. She has an inability to confront her underlying issues. But don't most of us?
The show is at its best when it begins un-bottling all the lies she's been frantically holding in. As Rebecca tiptoes closer and closer towards the edge, the world she's constructed for herself begins closing in and eventually, there won't be anywhere left to run — even from herself. She's written to (eventually) see her faults, and she is redeemed in the end. It's refreshing. We don't have to like her, but the show does a great job of making sure you can't give up on her.
Because she's an addict. A love addict. A true-love enthusiast who has had the disney princess fantasy embedded into her from childhood and these expectations are also part of the fabric of the show. Rebecca knows the feminist theory, she talks eloquently about it and calls people out, but she still is constricted by the lies she’s been sold about the aspirations of women.
I think Rachel Bloom sums the whole thing up perfectly:
"I have never given a shit about people liking her because she's meant to be somewhat, at times, a bubbly antihero. What I care about is if they understand where she's coming from. I don't really care about likability, but I want people to understand why she's doing what she's doing. ... I think that's what I would say is: Any moment where the audience doesn't like Rebecca, Rebecca also does not like Rebecca."
Rebecca Bunch is one of the most fascinating characters on television right now. And I tune in for her.
Sidebar: It's worth nothing that Rachel stars in, writes and co-produces CXGF. Oh, and co-writes and performs original musical numbers every week. Rachel Bloom is a goddess.
2. The Writing
The show is a musical comedy that's filled with weird and memorable characters who we think we recognise, until they turn out to be something completely different. The recurring characters are a mish-mash of sexualities, races, backgrounds in such a 'get over it' way that it further hammers home the question of why are we not seeing this EVERYWHERE.
It's got razor-sharp dialogue. Everyone talks at a million miles an hour and it really has a grip on its storytelling. It's a camp romp, sure, but the writing is at its strongest when the curtain drops and we realise that the show we're watching is actually about the damage we suffer when we live a lie. When we're not honest about what we want in life. When we become addicted to our version of what makes a Happy Ending.
The show is smart because it places Rebecca's friendship with bezzie mate Paula (I could write a whole separate blog post on how much I adore Paula) at the heart of it. The gooey middle of the show is a strong friendship between two women of different generations. That's the true love story of CXGF and it warms my dead insides.
3. The Music
THE SONGS. THE SONGS.
They pastiche musical genres. They're hilarious. They're perfect. They take taboos and twist them. They have wit.
God, they're awesome.
Some person favourites include: The Sexy Getting Ready Song, I'm a Good Person, Let's Generalise about Men, Heavy Boobs, You Stupid Bitch and I'm the Villain in my Own Story.
All exceptional. All funny.
Oh and don't forget Period Sex.
Put down a towel and party ‘till it’s dry with some period sex.
To conclude, I love Crazy Ex Girlfriend and it's time everyone else did.