How far would you go for love? Or at least the idea of love? Hell, a skerrick of a thought of a glimpse of a whispered memory of love from 10 years previously?
Probably not all that far on the last count but then you’re not Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), a disaffected lawyer from New York City who has spent her entire life climbing the corporate ladder, largely at her mother’s behest, only to find she isn’t happy at all.
Not even when the law firm where she is a rising star offer her a junior partnership. Oh, she tries to be happy but after unexpectedly bumping into the great lost love of her teenage years, Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), she decides that what she needs to do, on a whim, is upend her life completely and follow Josh back to West Covina, California – “Only 2 hours from the sea!” is its great claim to fame – in search of … well she’s just not entirely sure really.
Just not New York City, not a high-pressure, big law firm job and definitely yes to love with Josh who she’s sure is The One (not that she out-and-out admits that at first, maintaining to anyone who’ll listen that she’s moving for quality of life, not an addled scenario of a man she barely knows and hasn’t seen in years.
It’s an undeniably crazy move, something Rebecca only admits well into the pilot episode when the paralegal at the law form in West Covina where she’s landed a job, Paula Proctor (Donna Lynn Champlin) goes from enemy to friend and demands an answer for such an odd change-of-life move.
It’s then that the full weight of her drastic lifestyle change hits home, and Rebecca has to admit she is indeed the titular Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
If that all sounds terribly intense and angst, rest assured, it is … and it isn’t.
That’s not to say that Rebecca doesn’t grapple with real emotional issues and one of the show’s strengths is that doesn’t trivialise the issues at hand in search of cheap laughs, but simply that the narrative is driven by some ferociously fun satire, usually delivered in the form of some outrageously well-realised musical numbers, oneliners aplenty and well-fleshed out characters who are acted to within an inch of their life by gifted actors.
In other worst, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is pretty much the entire TV show package.
Thrown in some quirky, surreal commentary and behaviour that would well find a home in Parks and Recreation or Ally McBeal, and a willingness to not dumb Rebecca’s emotional predicament for laugh track guffaws and you have Felicity for the modern age.
The show is from start to finish a delight. Not simply because the narrative is intersected by those immensely creative musical numbers, that use both music and lyrics to mercilessly satire preconceptions of romance, small city life, big city dreams, relationships and a host of other things but because everything is so finely balanced that one minute you’ll be laughing your head off, and the next, nodding knowingly at some sage epiphany Rebecca has just experienced.
The writing by Rachel Bloom, who created Crazy Ex-Girlfriend with Aline Brosh McKenna, and who shares co-writing credits on every single episode, is uniformly brilliant – ferociously intelligent, wry, amusing and clever beyond belief, not allowing the parody elements to overshadow the more serious side to the show and vice versa.
It’s so good in fact that you’ll find yourself rewinding a scene just to relive the musical number or glory in a particular line of dialogue that says so much with so few words.
By far the show’s most appealing facet though is Bloom, who appears to be omni-talented.
She sings! She dances! She has spot-on comic timing! She can be vulnerable/whimsical/clever/dumb/angsty, often within the space of one scene.
The best part of all is that she manages to invest Rebecca with a pleasing balance of seriousness and silliness, leaving her well-rounded and likeable. She neatly sidesteps the trap of quirky TV shows which is an inadvertent trivialising of the characters and their concerns, leaving you alternately rolling your eyes or wishing the character would just get a clue.
None of that happens when you’re watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Instead what you end up with a character who’s warmly, richly, funnily and engagingly human, an every woman who yes does something really crazy and impulsive but who does it for reasons that any of us can relate to.
Granted, it’s played up for the purposes of comedic and dramatic effect, but at its core, it makes sense and all of us, if we’re really honest with ourselves, have done something like this or wish we had. Rebecca simply lives out that start-all-over-again on a whim fantasy and the show has enormous fun with it.
It’s a pity that we only get 10 episodes since it’s so beguiling, clever and rewarding a concept to see played out, but frankly too much more and we might have lost some or all of the wonderfully loopy essence and intelligence that makes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend one of the most enjoyable shows to come along in some time.