Warning: Spoilers ahead for the series premiere of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
This fall TV season has been pretty underwhelming so far for new shows — but maybe they were just saving the best for mid-October. After a series premiere packed with big laughs and even bigger musical numbers, we’re ready to declare The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend the most promising new show of the fall. It’s weird, for sure… but it’s our kind of weird.
YouTube star Rachel Bloom is a revelation here as Rebecca Bunch, a successful (but miserable) Manhattan lawyer who drops everything to move across the country to pursue her teenage crush Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III). During The CW’s summer press tour, Bloom told us that the show was like “Ally McBeal meets Flight of the Conchords”; throw in Felicity and Inside Amy Schumer, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the quirky vibe Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is going for.
Here’s a rundown of all the highs and lows from tonight’s premiere, along with a few unanswered questions that’ll keep us tuning in for an encore.
What We Liked: In a sea of middle-of-the-road procedurals and sitcoms, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is proudly, profoundly strange. First of all: A musical?!? The very idea of it gives us bad Cop Rock flashbacks, but this show surprised us by delivering catchy, hilarious original songs that give us a peek inside Rebecca’s (slightly deranged) state of mind. The Flight of the Conchords comparison is dead-on; these songs will make you giggle and get stuck in your head for days.
The highlight is “West Covina,” Rebecca’s show-stopping ode to the bland California suburb where Josh lives. (“Two hours from the beach… four in traffic.”) Defending her impulsive life choice by praising the town’s humble attributes, she’s joined by dozens of extras for a ridiculously over-the-top song-and-dance number in a mall parking lot. By the time Rebecca gets hoisted into the air on a giant pretzel to hit her final note… if you’re not sold, this show probably isn’t for you.
Bloom and co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada) also have a keen eye for the absurdities of modern dating, from Rebecca trying to be super casual while texting Josh (“Bee emoticon!”) to the “Sexy Getting Ready Song,” with Rebecca getting dolled up for a night out. We especially enjoyed the rap break, with the rapper seeing the extensive beauty regimen Rebecca has to go through and declaring it “some nasty-ass patriarchal bulls–t.”
We also love how the show deconstructs, and debunks, the Hollywood cliché of the “crazy ex-girlfriend.” Normally, a character like Rebecca gets played for easy laughs on TV, but here, we can see the very real pain and desperation that’s driving her to such outrageous behavior. And there’s a nice romantic streak here, too; the show is saying, “Sure, she’s acting a little ‘crazy'… but isn’t that what true love is supposed to do to us?”
Greg (Santino Fontana), the local bartender who helps Rebecca track down Josh, is shaping up as a nice third side of a potential love triangle — if Rebecca ever snaps out of her Josh obsession and realizes he exists. And we can already tell her new co-worker Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) will be a totally supportive partner in crime. Plus, Fontana and Chaplin both have legitimate Broadway credentials, so they’ll definitely help out on the musical numbers as the season progresses.
What We Didn’t Like: Looks like it’ll take some time for the rest of the show’s characters to get fleshed out; right now, Rebecca’s new law firm boss Darryl (Pete Gardner) just seems like a dopey Michael Scott type. (His fascination with Rebecca being Jewish was… uncomfortable.) And Paula did switch pretty quickly from being a suspicious co-worker to Rebecca’s instant BFF.
And as much as we liked that final reprise of “West Covina,” with Rebecca rejoicing after Josh finally texts her back (and Paula providing back-up harmonies!), it did feel a little flat following the grandiose pageantry of the first rendition. Maybe they just ran out of money? (That’s a serious concern for this show going forward, actually. Can they afford to produce such extravagant musical numbers on a weekly basis?)
Our Burning Questions: Okay, so we know Rebecca will eventually turn away from Josh and see Greg sitting right in front of her… but how many episodes will that take? Is Josh really committed to his newly-discovered girlfriend? If so, why does his Facebook say he’s single? (“That’s. What. I. Said!”) And will we ever get “West Covina” out of our heads?
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on The CW.