Maiden Voyage: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
The CW’s new “Dare to Defy” campaign is in full swing this fall. The perpetual 5th place network has parlayed their former bread and butter of teen friendly shows (Gossip Girl, 90210) into an interesting mix of historical dramas (Reign), action (Arrow, The Flash) and even a long running horror-tinged series (Supernatural). Now they’re trying to break into a new genre, that of the romantic musical comedy with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Hear me out, I know I lost a lot of you with word “musical” and the problematic-at-best title, but this show is pretty good. Star (and co-creator with Aline Brosh McKenna writer of The Devil Wears Prada and 27 Dresses) Rachel Bloom is fearless in this role as an over scheduled, over medicated, under emotionally fulfilled lawyer who moves to LA (specifically West Covina) to follow a guy that she dated in summer camp a decade ago (Vincent Rodriguez III). She also has elaborate musical fantasies with back up dancers, production, and ….
HEY! Stop leaving! Look, I know people who grew up in the 90s may be having some unpleasant Ally McBeal flashbacks and the younger crowd is still getting over their collective Glee hangovers but this show isn’t as cloying or forced as either of those previous show. Bloom’s Rebecca is damaged, sure, but she’s also successful, driven, and not wholly in the dark about how nuts she seems. Her moments of clarity are some of the best moments of the pilot showing her vulnerability and her desire to just be happy.
The musical numbers themselves (of which there are 3 in the pilot) are funny, well done, and exist in a weird pocket reality that interacts with the reality of the shows but doesn’t affect it. See the “rap break” in the second number which is hilariously called back at the end of the episode. Bloom was already a successful YouTube star before this series was picked up by Showtime. In that iteration it would have been a 30-minute show and far raunchier — much like Bloom’s own YouTube music which is fantastically dirty. When Showtime passed, The CW picked it up, extended it and allowed Bloom to post the explicit versions of the show’s songs on her own YouTube channel. This little bit of synergy may go a long way to bringing in new viewers.
The narrative side of the show is cute and none of the supporting cast let Rebecca slide on the fact that she is obviously a touch unhinged/obsessed with this man she barely knows. I can see many people having an issue with the portrayal of a woman as “crazy” or “stalky” or in other ways unpleasantly but I don’t think it’s malicious or antifeminist. Rebecca is accomplished in every other aspect of her life. As her problems are played solely for comedy, a joke Rebecca seems to be mostly in on, I can forgive it in hopes that they lean on it less as they (hopefully) develop the other characters. All of whom I should add are Broadway vets.
The threshold for a hit in CW terms is less than that of the other networks. Even a marginal hit will likely stick around for the full season. And as The CW has wisely paired this show with the delightful Jane the Virgin I expect it to be a success story for them. I definitely think this show is worth checking out as it really is just a happy fun hour of TV. B