by Michael Aushenker
Credit where credit’s due: CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a relationship-obsessed romp with musical numbers embedded in its comedy, is unlike anything on network television right now. Whether this light-hearted series works as a comedy or a musical is open to interpretation.
As the bouncy, animated opening titles relate, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom, who won the Golden Globe for this) left a great Manhattan job to relocate to L.A.’s nondescript San Gabriel Valley community of West Covina to be closer to ex-boyfriend Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), now in a relationship with supermodel-striking-and-superficial Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz).
Recent episodes have fired up the intensity. “Josh’s Sister is Getting Married” saw Rebecca bid Josh’s memory farewell, dumping all mementos (including “Josh’s letters: first draft, second draft” and Channy Bear, “sleeping with the fishes”) and committing to her on-again/off-again, the second-banana bidder for her affections, sarcastic bartender/college student Greg (Santino Fontana).
No sooner does Rebecca declare she is “breaking old patterns” with the intention to wholeheartedly “disengage and disentangle from this family” than the Chan clan, led by Josh’s sister Jayma (Tess Paras), approaches Rebecca to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. Things worsen as Jayma decides to make Valencia a bridesmaid, too. “I’d say we share a history of common interests,” Rebecca says of Valencia to Jayma, who is oblivious to Rebecca’s unhealthy attachment to her brother.
In another episode, “Why is Josh in Such a Bad Mood?,” the ex-bf catches wind of Rebecca and Greg’s on-again romance. It’s obvious that, Valencia notwithstanding, Josh hasn’t gotten over Ms. Bunch. The situation puts Rebecca’s best friend Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) in a panic as well: She’s convinced that now that Rebecca is “over” Josh, their friendship — long cemented on co-scheming over how to win Josh back — will founder. (“He’s our glue! He’s what keeps us together!”).
Most recently, Greg gains the upper hand on Rebecca by going on a date with another woman. However, it backfires when Rebecca lands in the hospital, dragging him away from the date. Soon Josh shows up at the hospital as well, seething over the Greg/Rebecca sitch. It’s cliffhanger time as Crazy barrels toward its season finale this month.
Tonally reminiscent of ABC’s Ugly Betty, Crazy Ex-Girfriend serves up better-than-average TV fare that goes down easy. Snarky, sometimes cloying, the series (not unlike a Broadway musical-comedy) often aims to please too hard while not shying away from self-deprecating ethnic jokes, frank sexual situations and innuendo (guess what “smash your butterfly” refers to?) and packing as much bawdy humor into an hour as is possible on network TV. And some recurring Crazy gags are cute. A running joke has characters offering different takes on what exactly is “the Harvard of the South” (Vanderbilt, Duke, etc.). Josh’s mother mentions how a relation didn’t get into Harvard “but she got into Cal State Northridge: the Harvard of Northridge.”
The show’s over-the-top musical numbers beg to go viral on YouTube. Cynical Greg sings stuff like “But I Could If I Wanted To (Who Cares?),” in which he dogs executive stiffs (“Who cares about wearing a tie and making millions till you die?”) and yuppie dads throwing balls with sons. Rebecca’s ribald “Heavy Boobs” rap hybrids “Baby Got Back” with “All About That Bass.” Once Rebecca and Greg hook up again, Greg croons proudly to Rebecca how “my serious love injection gave you a urinary tract infection” in a little ditty called “UTI.”
Renewed for a second season, let’s see how long the show-runners can bend this premise before it breaks. Across its 2006-10 run, the campy Ugly Betty ran out of steam. Hopefully, Crazy will prove luckier than Ugly.
Out of the Box is a biweekly column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content.