What We’re Watching

Recently, only one TV show has had my undivided attention. Probably televison’s only feminist musical black comedy, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, as it is all too painfully aware, is of a quality above and beyond its somewhat demeaning title. Youtube star, and now Emmy winner Rachel Bloom and co, out of seemingly nowhere, have created a show that is not only hilarious, wild and fun, but heartbreaking at the same time.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend follows Rebecca Bunch (played to perfection by Bloom) as she attempts to change her life for the better, by leaving her old, high paying job as a New York lawyer and uprooting her life to live in West Covina, California (only 3 hours from the beach). Why? Her ex-boyfriend from summer camp in high school lives there, but she denies this at every turn. Rebecca isn’t healthy, something which is flagged up in the first episode when she dumps her medication upon moving, thinking she won’t need it anymore. But whatever is broken inside Rebecca doesn’t have an easy fix, and Crazy Ex Girlfriend finds hilarity and poignance in confronting this fact.

Along with her new friend and work-colleague Paula, Rebecca takes action to win over Josh Chan, the supposed man of her dreams. It’s not healthy. Each attempt of Rebecca to sway Josh into falling in love with her is ridiculous and sometimes kind of hateful, and it’s a major strength of the show that these actions often have believable and powerful motivations behind them. It’s a major credit to the show that it doesn’t let its characters off easy.

Rebecca’s interactions with Josh and the other love interest Greg (an incredible Santino Fontana) have serious consequences, tying into each episode and making for some seriously satisfying watching. These are some deeply flawed characters; often hilarious, sometimes pained, sometimes infuriating in a few cases – but never one-dimensional, and mostly very sympathetic.

One of the show’s more surprising qualities is its determination to give everyone time in the spotlight – none of the incredibly diverse cast members are wasted, and each episode will often have a side character steal the show. This does not detract from Rachel Bloom’s fantastic central performance, but instead creates a colourful world in which everyone has their own problems, and sources of humour when certain characters have no reason to be cheerful.

And the songs. The songs are incredible, and probably the main reason I started even watching the show. From the very first episode, the musical numbers are hilarious and surreal – subtle, effortless parodies of different artists (a personal favourite, “What’ll It Be”, is a surprising pastiche of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”) serve as insights into character motivations and emotions without missing a comedic beat, Rachel Bloom’s tracks often do the same but with a layer of political commentary on the weird way that the world works (see “The Sexy Getting Ready Song”, “Put Yourself First”, “Sexy French Depression”, basically all of them”), never afraid to be self-deprecating or lash out at the patriarchy.

That’s not the only purpose the songs serve. In a series highlight (so far, anyway), all the stress, heartbreak and self-sabotage comes to a head in a climactic song halfway through the season with the painfully self-loathing “You Stupid Bitch”. There’s not much that’s funny in the song apart maybe a couple of moments stemming from Rebecca’s extreme self-hate in this moment (“I deserve this!”). It’s something to behold, and I’m running out of good adjectives to describe it. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is fantastic – heartfelt, hilarious, and upsettingly overlooked.