It doesn’t take much for a woman to be labeled “crazy.”
While there is a healthy handful of pejoratives much more offensive than this, there’s something about declaring a woman insane that inspires visions of rocking cradles and boiled bunnies. Crazy women — at least as far as pop culture is concerned — don’t have friends or family, don’t procreate and most of all, crazy women don’t get the guy.
This is what makes the CW’s creative new musical comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” such a promising, subversive and fresh undertaking. It’s a show that dares to challenge preconceived notions about romance and having it all. The show’s heroine, Rebecca Bunch (played by the ridiculously likable Rachel Bloom), is a hot mess who hasn’t known true happiness since her summer camp romance with a pretty-boy jock named Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III).
When the summer ended, Josh dumped Rebecca and she succumbed to the desires of her overbearing mother by throwing herself into impressive academic and professional pursuits that put her on the fast track to law partner a decade after getting dumped.
Successful but unhappy, Rebecca sees a chance interaction with Josh on the street as a sign that she needs a fresh start and that Josh is just the man to help make that a reality. So she turns down her shiny job promotion in New York, washes her medication down the drain and follows an unsuspecting Josh to his hometown of West Covina, Calif., where he’s decided to relocate.
Now, if this were a thriller Rebecca would stalk Josh, harm him and his loved ones and cut her hair in an unflattering style. Thankfully, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is a comedy set to music so when Rebecca sings about a wonderous place called West Covina, it’s anything but menacing. Later, when she belts out the “Sexy Getting Ready Song,” a tune she croons while squeezing into shapewear and getting dolled up to accidentally run into Josh at a party, it’s brilliant and honest, not predatory.
That’s because Bloom’s Rebecca is the perfect balance of loopy and lovable. A millennial blend of Rachel Dratch and Calista Flockhart, Bloom somehow convinces us to root for this “crazy” babe who desperately and unrealistically pursues her happily ever after in suburban sprawl.
Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”) co-created and executive produced “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and with Bloom’s help, turns Rebecca and this show into sympathetic underdogs worthy of our admiration and support. It’s “Ally McBeal” meets “Glee.” Daring gender and race references also give the series added laughs and edge. There’s a whole exchange about wolves, Native Americans and Jews in the pilot that will have most viewers laughing and cringing all at once.
Time will tell if Bloom and McKenna are able to keep up the momentum of cleverness needed to make “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” the hit it promises to be. They’ll also need to work hard to make Rebecca more eccentric than disturbed in upcoming episodes.
Meanwhile, Josh will have to be more than a handsome plot-driver and Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) and Greg (Santino Fontana, “Frozen”) have to evolve beyond Rebecca’s voices of reason. Paula is her unintentional sidekick and Greg is a possible love interest — he likes her, anyway — but there needs to be more chemistry in order for any of these relationships to fly.
That said, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is just the kind of lunacy fall TV needed. If only more freshman series were this brave.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” debuts Monday Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.