9/25/2016

Late to the Party: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend [Season 1]

I'm running on about 4 hours of sleep... if that... so don't expect a masterwork here. Also this is a blog; expecting anything masterful other than a masterful load of shit is like skydiving in handcuffs.

What was I talking about? Oh. I watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 1. Season 2 doesn't come out for a bit, but it airs in October. So that's cool. Oops, I'm supposed to be building suspense as to whether or not I like the show. Uhh... But is it a GOOD thing that it was renewed? Read on!!!

Series Air: 2015 (USA)
Season Air: 2015
Interest in the Series: I don't remember how I discovered Rachel Bloom, but I found her, and then realized I have seen her work on Robot Chicken a million times as well. If you don't know her, she actually has a YouTube channel where she has a few single-camera stand-up bits and full-fledged music videos that I find hilarious. She is also the voice of Princess Peach in Starbomb's song "Luigi's Ballad". There. Because that music video was viral. Even by today's standards where every Markiplier video gets one million views just for existing. So now you know who she is. I love her. So when she announced online that she had her own show, I was sold.

What was I talking about? Oh the show! Rachel Bloom is a creator, producer, and writer on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and on top of all that pressure she plays the lead role of Rebecca Bunch. At first glance, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does not seem like a show catered to straight males in their 20's like myself. You wouldn't be wrong in that assumption, because I wouldn't say it is catered to any one demographic (as much as CBS is REALLY trying to push it into tweeny soap opera territory when it obviously is not that if you watch the first 3 minutes of the damn show), but it isn't the girly clouds, rainbows, and shirtless men sleezefest that it may seem. However because of the show's premise, I cannot recommend Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to any of my fellow male friends. I don't really have to explain why, I just have to explain the premise.

Rebecca Bunch is an esteemed lawyer in New York who has high degrees from both Harvard and Yale, but every day is a sluggish grind for her. In the beginning of Episode 1, seeing an advertisement for butter that asks something along the lines of "when was the last time you were happy?" brings Rebecca and the audience to a flashback of a summer camp Rebecca went to when she was 16. Here she is portrayed with a young Josh Chan who she is incredibly infatuated with, but he lets her go because she's weird. It sounds sad, and it is, but this is still one of my favorite scenes in the entire season because it has actual jokes and again, Rachel Bloom is badass.

This is where Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's true strong suit lies. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has the structure to be a drama show, but the humor feeds on sadness. No matter how hectic the A-story gets, the show will do something within a few short moments to remind you that you are still watching a comedy, whether it's as small as one of the actors making a weird face in reaction to an awkward dialogue blurb, or something as over the top as a full-out musical number. Oh yeah. This is a musical.

Each episode (with the exception of the first episode I think?) lasts a little more than 40 minutes, and each episode has at least two musical numbers, and even then there are homages to past songs sprinkled throughout, and they are always put in the most tasteful places. One of my favorite songs is "Sexy Gettin' Ready Song", a song about Rebecca doing a bunch of unsexy things to look sexy for taking a date to a party. In a later episode, Rebecca throws her own party at her apartment and one of the characters starts singing to themselves "it's the sexy gettin' ready song", which is completely out of context. One of my favorite jokes in the whole series.

Oh right, back to the plot. One day, Rebecca is freaking out about something that I don't want to ruin (it's not really a spoiler but the punch it packs is worth watching it for yourself... I think anyways) and she happens to bump into Josh on the street, several years after their summer fling. Josh says he would love to hang out some time, but he is moving back to his hometown in West Covina, California. Rachel sees the butter ad again and decides to move to West Covina for Josh, but tries to keep it a secret from everyone that she moved just for Josh. But wait, it gets sappier!

She finds out that Josh already has a girlfriend that has been with him since college. Still obsessed with Josh, Rebecca goes to the bar and meets the Jacob of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Greg. Actually I don't know dick about Twilight to be honest, but I think that's how it works. Watch it for yourself and you can correct me. Josh is a bright, charming, and generally chill guy who everyone really likes, but Josh already has a girlfriend and as the series progresses, doesn't really know what he wants or how to control his feelings. Greg is a sarcastic bartender who is jaded to the world and all of it's corny emphasis on love and relationships, but at the same time really seems to care about Rebecca and underneath his hard shell, is actually very charming and kind of sweet sometimes, and also lives with his sick father. I think I just grew a small ovary typing those last few sentences.

The reason that was important was to debunk that this is a show exclusively for girls. See from what I understand of any romantic comedy movie or television show I have ever seen with the exception of like... Friends With Kids? I guess? is that the girl is the main protagonist, but she's just a pretty girl. There is no reason to really empathize with the character, or even if there is, it's really transparent and the only complicated thing she makes the viewer feel is a fast rush of all of the mistakes they have made in their lives up to this point that lead to watching a horrible romcom. Rebecca has a lot of issues that a lot of people go through, but it isn't as vague as "I'm single". We empathize with her goals and horrible things that happen to her, but at the same time some of these ailments are consequences from her pathological lying to cover up her love for Josh. There are connections she has with both men and different things about each that make them compatible in relation to other things we know about Rebecca's past and present events, but you don't learn these things through Rebecca. A lot of side-stories or even main plots of various episodes focus on Greg or Josh when Rebecca is not around, and each have their own disgusting weaknesses and equally admirable strengths. The most potent moments for each character is portrayed in the form of a musical number, which is not only entertaining and keeps the love story fresh, but also really highlights certain emotions that would normally only pass by in a few seconds if it were straight dialogue, but in the form of song, psychological nuances are poked fun at and exploited in the most effective ways.

After all that typing, I am still barely scratching the surface of all the tools that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend shows you and then hits you in the face with. I didn't even mention Paula. Like once! And she's in every episode and she's nuts and it's great! That fact in itself, that I've barely mentioned everything, shows the kind of complication that has been missing from romance-centric comedy. It can be done, it just has to be written in a way where everyone can enjoy it, not just terrifyingly confused pubescent teens. I still wouldn't consider Crazy Ex-Girlfriend my new favorite show or anything.

Heather is annoying. I get what they were trying to do and she's not always terrible and there are a few episodes where she barely does anything, but she's the ditzy college student and stoner character combined into a cringe-monster, and I do not use the term "cringe" unless I cannot find another descriptor, or if I see someone actually cringing. Does anyone actually know what cringing is anymore? There were also a few moments where I would have taken a different direction as sound director, not that I'm qualified. The original score is fantastic and stylized and certain motifs are reused during transition cut-aways and whatnot. Sometimes after a commercial break however there's just a cheesy guitar riff that wouldn't be caught dead on Grey's Anatomy let alone this show. But these are more pet peeves than anything else, I guess. Except Heather. Heather is important to the plot, but could have been so much better.

There aren't any real plot holes either, even if it feels like there is, it probably gets explained a few episodes down the road. Again, a level of complication that the rom com world needed to be remotely relevant. Maybe this show will set an example for future generations to go off of. Women don't need to be taught that they are just a walking sex doll, because it's not true. Women need more shows that portray women in more goofy situations and then five minutes later, something that decimates your feels! It's the show you can watch with your boyfriend and he may actually just enjoy or at the very least tolerate it for something other than "the hot blonde who likes the guy in the shorts with no shirt right now".

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a magical musical, an alright drama, and a dark, quirky comedy. It has a little something for everyone but just remember going in that this is a comedy based very heavily on romance, each episode leads into the next in linear order, and each episode is about 42 minutes long. So it has something for everyone but also isn't for everyone. I would advise you regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or your past trauma with romcoms to give Crazy Ex-Girlfriend a shot. Try your hardest to keep an open mind and I think you will at least get a lengthy series of chuckles and snorts from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.


So yeah, I said I would talk about that show and I have now. Cool. The only other one I have planned right now is SpongeBob so... stay tuned? I'm going to do more blogs with variey, I swear they won't all be a lunatic acting like he knows anything about television production.

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