“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is like a wild dream that I had in the middle of the night, from which I woke myself so I could write it all down, only to realize that all of the really cool details were already long gone. I can’t even remember the last theme song that my wife and I would sing along to as it was playing. In fact, I’m not sure there’s ever been one. We’ve sung it so much, the kids caught on to it.
They’ve never seen the show, for the record. We’re not monsters.
For the uninitiated, the setup is this: Rachel Bloom plays Rebecca Bunch, a brilliant mind who has all of the things that the world (and her awful, awful mother in particular) tells you that you should want. She’s a Harvard grad and about to be made partner at an upscale New York law firm. There is just one problem: she is terribly unhappy, because all she really wants is Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), with whom she had a summer-long fling 10 years earlier, and has obsessed about ever since. Rebecca happens to run in to Josh on the street, where he tells her that he’s moved back to his hometown of West Covina, CA. “Give me a buzz if you’re ever in town,” he says. He means nothing by it, but Rebecca takes it as an invitation. She turns down the promotion, quits her job, and moves to West Covina, taking a job at low-rent firm Whitefeather & Associates.
The ensuing events are rational and normal. Or perhaps, something else happens.
One doesn’t has to be a fan of musicals in order to enjoy this show, but it definitely helps. The bits between songs are funny, often biting and spot-on analyses of how relationships work in the real world. But the songs are fucking genius, and cover a ridiculously wide array of genres. To name a few:
• Seductive R&B number (“Sexy Getting Ready Song”)
• Torch song (“His Status Is Preferred”)
• French murder ballad (“Sexy French Depression”)
• ‘80s rock tribute (“Textmergency” and “Where Is the Rock,” from the same episode)
• Bollywood number (“Good at Yoga”)
• Boy band song (“A Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes”)
• Alanis Morissette tribute (“Women Gotta Stick Together”)
• “Music Man” tribute (“Cold Shower”)
• Shakira tribute (“Group Hang”)
• “Les Miserables” tribute (“Flooded with Justice”)
And this, which is the best hip-hop song I’ve heard in over a decade.
The best thing about the show is that they do not hide from the fact that Rebecca is a hot, hot mess. It’s not like she’s a mostly well-balanced woman who occasionally loses sight of things; as the theme song says, she is so, so broken inside. Her neighbor Heather (queen of deadpan Vella Lovell) says as much while Becks is doing a keg stand. She is the Springfield tire fire on wheels. There is no hope of running into her without getting burned.
And yet, you can’t help but pull for her. She’s had very few blissfully happy moments in her life (no thanks to her awful mother. Have I mentioned that her mother is awful?), so it makes sense that she would cling to Josh, or at least the idea of Josh, in the manner that she has. Here’s the most tragic part, though: Josh can do better than both Rebecca and his current girlfriend, the hot but terrible Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz). He’s kind and optimistic, whereas a life with Rebecca is one full of unnecessary drama. She doesn’t deserve him.
But at least she’s kind, too. Valencia, on the other hand, is a narcissistic sociopath, and every one of Josh’s friends hates her guts. The laws of TV dictate that Becks and Josh will get back together. In fact…
They already have. At least for a kiss, as of this writing.
So now what?
As far as I’m concerned, have them sing their wedding vows, drop the mic, and walk offstage at the end of this season. Here’s why.
Adam Schlesinger’s dance card is getting fuller by the day
Bloom’s songwriting partner is Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger, and while the Fountains haven’t produced anything in five years, Schlesinger is one of the busiest people in music. In addition to his “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” gig, he is writing songs for the Monkees’ upcoming album (you read that right), and he wrote “Did I Mention,” one of the more memorable songs in Disney’s “Descendants” movie. There is another “Descendants” movie coming out in 2017. You know that he will be one of the first people they call. Doing this show is fun for him…for now. If they continue, it will become a chore, which brings us to…
Schlesinger has written three to four albums worth of songs for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” in this season alone. Even the Beatles’ most creatively productive year (1966, in my humble opinion) produced half as many songs as Schlesinger and Bloom have written this year. There is no way that they can maintain this level of creativity, and when burnout settles in, what are their options? Ask the audience to watch the musical comedy that has fewer songs? The handful of fans they currently have will rebel. Get another songwriting partner? They will pale in comparison to Schlesinger.
The show is going to run out of styles to parody faster than they’d like
At present, the show is full of infinite promise. “Hey, they did a maudlin Vegas ballad, and called it ‘You Stupid Bitch’! I love this show!” The problem is that they can only do that once. At the moment, they still have lots of options (I, for one, would love to hear a Bowie tribute), but with five episodes left this season, that is anywhere from 10 to 15 more genres that would be off limits for a second season. Ask the producers of “Glee” about the difficulties of finding new material to cover, and then remember that what “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is doing is ten times harder than that.
Rebecca and Josh have a very small window of opportunity
Bloom has a very difficult decision to make with regard to her character. If Rebecca and Josh get together, then the story’s over, as she will no longer be an ex-girlfriend. If they don’t get together, then something about Rebecca’s personality needs to give. By continuing to do the “crazy” stuff, she runs the risk of alienating Josh, as well as the audience, for good. The episode on the party bus (“I’m Going to the Beach with Josh and His Friends!”) was excruciating to watch; if they go farther in that direction, Rebecca becomes Annoying Ex-Girlfriend, which is much worse. Of course, by dialing down the crazy, then she’s just the ex-girlfriend, not the crazy ex-girlfriend. There is a fork in the road with this show, it’s coming up quickly, and Bloom has virtually no margin for error.
Here’s where this is coming from: I just watched “How I Met Your Mother” limp to the finish line, about two or three seasons later than it should have. And not only did miss its sell-by date, they got the ending completely wrong, throwing the mother under the bus. This is what they should have done.
I hope that Bloom understands that “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” as fantastic as it is, doesn’t have legs. It’s a sprint, and she needs to run to the finish line as fast as she can.