A Review About a Show About Josh!

Jessica Fiorella, Staff Writer

Chances are, you’ve heard someone mention their “crazy ex” before, whether it be on television or real life. The “crazy ex-girlfriend” is a trope as old as time; an easy way to exempt a male protagonist from any responsibility within a relationship and write off women as unstable for reacting to their partner’s behavior. The trope brushes over the inevitable nuance in any relationship, platonic or romantic, that is born of singular people’s individual struggles. Rachel Bloom’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” on the CW is a welcomed deconstruction, with a thesis statement that veers away from the obvious, “I’m not actually crazy,” that instead embraces a more realistic, “maybe I am, but you’re not so hot, yourself.”

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” revolves around Rebecca Bunch (Bloom), a formerly high-powered, New York City, lawyer, who, after a chance meeting with her summer camp ex-boyfriend decides to follow him back to his home town of West Covina, California, without his knowledge. Upon arriving in her new home, Rebecca learns that said ex, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), is happily engaged. Where most would surely lose hope, Rebecca embarks on an irrational, romantic, crusade to win back her summer camp sweetheart. Her obsession is showcased in even the episode titles, which typically follow the formula of “enthusiastic statement about Josh!” A premise such as this is textbook crazy ex, which the show skillfully subverts through context. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” invites us to laugh at Rebecca’s bad behavior and never asks us to forgive her, though it hopes we might try to understand. Rebecca is amidst a panic attack when we first meet her; she is overwhelmed by the progression of her career and how little fulfillment it’s brought her. When she runs into Josh, she is reminded of her happy, carefree, summer camp days, and pursues him in a desperation to recapture that easy happiness. In many ways, Rebecca’s journey to West Covina is more of an escape than a pursuit, as, without spoiling anything, we become more and more familiar with Rebecca’s inability to handle the pressure of expectations levied upon her by her New York City firm and her mother. While Rebecca’s behavior is in no way justified, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” reminds us that there are two sides to every story. Josh Chan is hardly the perfect person Rebecca makes him out to be. Noncommittal, immature, and largely unavailable, Josh consistently engages Rebecca only to return to Valencia, his fiancé (Gabrielle Ruiz), leading Rebecca to go to further extremes. Along with Josh, many of the central characters enable Rebecca to serve their interests, including her best friend Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), who routinely participates in Rebecca’s schemes to avoid dealing with issues within her own marriage. While Rebecca’s choices drive the plot, few, if not any, of the main characters are shown to have a better handle on their own lives. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” demands that we make an effort to understand others as well as look inwards and realize that we can hardly claim to be perfect ourselves.

If tired trope subversion isn’t a strong enough selling point, it’s worth noting that “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is also a musical. Every episode includes one or more musical number, ranging in genre from classic show tunes to Nicki Minaj-inspired rap numbers to this season’s inspired parody of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”. The entire cast is musically gifted, and almost all of them solo at some point during the first season. Additionally, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” boasts a diverse cast that realistically represents the population of West Covina. There is a notable absence of Asian-Americans on television, especially when focusing specifically on lead roles. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” places Filipino actor Vincent Rodriquez III in the romantic lead role and does not shy away from his background, particularly in episodes that include his family members. Gabrielle Ruiz and Vella Lovell (who plays Rebecca’s cool, younger, neighbor, Heather), are both women of color that are part of the main cast and are instrumental to the plot. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is also a platform for LGBT representation, with a season-long subplot about coming to terms with your identity that culminates in it’s writers acknowledging the term “bisexual” where other shows tend to stick with “it’s complicated”, “I don’t like labels”, or brush over LGBT identities entirely.

In addition to all this, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” benefits from being genuinely funny. Rachel Bloom took home both a Golden Globe and a Critic’s Choice Award for her performance as Rebecca Bunch, with many of her cast members and the show itself nominated for 11 other awards in just it’s first season for it’s musical and comedic triumphs. Season 2 premiered Friday, October 21st, and season 1 in its entirety is currently on Netflix. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is hilarious, smart, and belongs on your watchlist.