Review: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 1×1 (US: The CW)

Sadly deluded


In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, The CW

Each year, as the Upfronts season comes round, I post all the summaries and trailers for the new shows set to appear on our screens in the new season. Usually, these trailers have been pretty reliable indicators of the quality of shows, with sucky shows having sucky trailers and good shows having good trailers. Sucky shows appeal to people with sucky taste, good shows appeal to people with good taste – this is how trailers should work.

This year, however, it’s all gone a bit Pete Tong. When CBS rolled out its trailers for the new season, a groan could be heard around the world as millions of people saw the trailer from Supergirl and thought, “WTF?”

Except, of course, the trailer was misleading, and while not perfect, Supergirl is really a whole load of fun.

Meanwhile, despite it being a musical, I was looking forward to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: 

Coming from the director of 500 Days of Summer and with animated sequences, musical numbers and more, this is actually quite a funny, innovative-looking little piece that could go pretty much anywhere, so I’m certainly going to be giving it a try.

But now I’ve seen it and all I can say now is “Oh, arse. Bloody trailers.”

About
Rebecca Bunch has always been wound a little tightly. It’s something that served her well as she has raced up the ladder at her corporate law firm in New York. It may also be why she has no life. So when Rebecca bumps into Josh Chan – her handsome, long-ago summer camp-sweetheart – she knows that it’s a sign. A sign for her to quit her job, drop everything, and move across the country to West Covina, California – where, in a huge, definitely-unrelated coincidence, Josh just happens to live.

With her impressive résumé, Rebecca quickly lands a new job at a local law firm, where her boss, Darryl, is more of a star-struck admirer than an authority figure. Not everyone is immediately enamored with the new hire, as the firm’s head paralegal, Paula, is at first suspicious of Rebecca’s reasons for relocation. However, in dealing with some secret personal troubles of her own, Paula becomes empathic to Rebecca’s unrequited crush, and the two form a unique bond.

Settling into her new Southern California surroundings, Rebecca eventually tears herself away from lurking on Josh’s Facebook page long enough to agree to a date with Josh’s friend, Greg, who works at the local sports bar. But Rebecca discovers her social media stalking has failed to uncover one important detail – Josh’s girlfriend, Valencia.

Rebecca’s contagious, sometimes-delusional enthusiasm begins to stir the citizens of West Covina, including her cynical neighbor, Heather, shaking them up and giving them a new soundtrack to their lives.

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND stars Rachel Bloom (“Robot Chicken”) as Rebecca; Santino Fontana (“Frozen”) as Greg; Donna Lynne Champlin (“The Good Wife”) as Paula; Vincent Rodriguez III (“Hostages”) as Josh; Pete Gardner (“Project X”) as Darryl; and Vella Lovell as Heather (“Three Dates”). From CBS Television Studios and Warner Bros. Television, CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND is also executive produced by Bloom, along with Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”), Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” films), and Erin Ehrlich (“Awkward”).

Is it any good?
There are so many elements of this that could be good, but just don’t quite work. It’s smart, innovative, satirical and has some good characters. But it’s an ambitious failure rather than the barmstormer I was hoping for.

The star of the show in all senses is also its co-creator Rachel Bloom. Bloom makes some brave decisions for herself in her writing, singing, dancing and looning her way from coast to coast, in reality and in animation, as the formerly pill-popping, literally crazy ex-girlfriend who decides after a chance encounter to quit her half-a-mill-a-year job as a New York lawyer to chase to California the man she met in summer camp a decade previously and hasn’t seen since.

And she’s great. 

There are also some great individual moments, such as the song and dance number – one of three the first episode has – about the lengths women go to prepare for dates that ends with a rapper having an epiphany, apologising one by one to all the women he knows for his previous misogyny, and heading off to read Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex and make amends.

There’s also when she meets Greg (Santino Fontana), the guy she should be with but barely notices because she’s so obsessed with finding happiness again with the last guy she was happy with. And the discussions about how far away from the beach her new home really is. Or her new, one-eighth native American boss putting Bloom into a ‘Jew off’ with his ex-wife’s attorney. In fact, anything about how small-town and insipid her new home town is is great.

There are also amusing feminist satirical moments, when Bloom makes friends with her former workplace enemy, who tries to be enabling and supportive – unfortunately, by boosting her lunacy and obsession rather than helping her to break out of it.

Yet, for all those great individual points that work well in trailers, as an episode, it just doesn’t hang together. There’s also the fact that Bloom’s character genuinely is loopy. Not Mr Robot crazy, but more than merely obsessed and deluded – she’s the sort of person who needs a psychiatrist and medication, rather than a friend helping her to stalk some poor guy. While there’s a clear subtext (and sometimes text) about women who destroy their lives for love, the unhelpfulness of romantic dramas and romcoms, and so on, it just makes you feel sorry for Bloom and you hope that she gets some help, rather than find love, since it’s clearly not good for her.

The CW is pairing this with Jane The Virgin, and while there’s a similar meta-quality to both shows, it’s an awkward fit, since Jane The Virgin has a warmth and escapism that this show lacks. I’m hoping that it can get its life together for episode two, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s going to need an intervention.




  • JustStark

    The reversal of the usual 'uptight New Yorker moves to crazy small town, is taught to let themselves go' sounds like it might be interesting though.

  • Indeed and that's a good point. That's the trouble – it all sounds good, but somehow it doesn't wind up as good

  • benjitek

    I watched it without having seen a trailer, just a tv listing description, the premise and being a comedy sparked my interest, if I'd known it was a musical I wouldn't have watched. Normally people breaking into song mid conversation could be swapped out with fingernails scraping on a chalkboard and have the same effect on me — like synthesized laugh-tracks. I didn't love it, but the musical element didn't repel me either. I'll know after the 2nd episode whether it stays on the list 🙂

  • I never watch musical TV shows. It's the number one reason for my switching them off (cf Empire, Nashville, Flight of the Conchords). This was just about on my threshold of tolerance, but it could stray over at any moment

  • benjitek

    A musical and the CW network, not great ingredients. Their teen demographic must be confused. I enjoyed the 2nd episode as well. The yoga class scene actually had some chuckle-worthy lyrics.

  • Mark Carroll

    The robot song was quite early in “Flight of the Conchords” and I liked it. Hmm, maybe it's getting near time to rewatch them! Sorry it doesn't work for you too.

  • They are trying to shift from their (female) teen demographic of late:

    http://variety.com/2015/tv/fea

    But Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was originally a Showtime pilot, so I imagine it could undergo retooling over time to suit it more to The CW style

  • benjitek

    If it last a season or longer, it won't survive a CW 'retooling'…

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