Let’s talk about TV show musicals.
Since Glee ended in 2015, there hasn’t really been a dedicated musical TV show to fill the void — at least, that statement would be true if you’ve been sleeping on the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which followed closely in its coat tails.
It’s been four years since the show’s inception and 2019 will see its conclusion with a fourth season and a two-hour long finale, so yes, it’s a little late to jump on the bandwagon. Co-creator Rachel Bloom herself even notes this by jokingly suggesting the tagline “If You’re Not Watching By Now, Don’t Bother, We Don’t Want You.” But there is a bright side: with all the episodes out, there’s never been a more perfect time to binge the series.
So, if you’re looking for a show to finish over the weekend, here’s a few reasons why Crazy Ex Girlfriend would be the right (read: the only) choice.
1. Find new, original music to get stuck on.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is different from musical TV shows like Glee in that every song they perform is an original, created by a songwriting team that includes Rachel Bloom, Jack Dolgen, and Adam Schlesinger. The trio has earned the show two Emmy noms for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics and, as individuals, they’ve got extensive musical backgrounds.
Bloom got co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna’s attention through popular Youtube parody songs — like “F*ck Me, Ray Bradbury”, irreverent, just as can be expected for the show’s songs — and Schlesinger wrote for Music and Lyrics and was part of Fountains of Wayne, otherwise known as ‘that band that made Stacy’s Mom.” If you don’t remember how catchy (and slightly dubious) that song was, let me remind you.
Admittedly though, their songs might be a little raunchier than your usual shower tunes, so you best be prepared to sing about broken condoms and period sex because you will get them stuck in your head.
2. Show off your geek.
The show specializes in parodies and often makes nods to other musicals, musical styles of a certain era, a band — if it’s iconic in any way, they’ve probably got a song inspired by it. So, if you’d be inclined to, you can treat it as a litmus test and challenge your music knowledge.
Gather some equally geeky friends together and collectively squeal when you recognize Chicago’s Cell Block Tango in What’s Your Story in a scene complete with female prisoners that are undoubtedly less merry and less murder-y than the original. Make a drinking game out of it where the first person to spot the obvious Cats reference, amidst vagina metaphors and disses on the musical Cats, would be the only one who doesn’t take a shot. Relive the happy-go-lucky, jazzy vibe of La La Land with Anti-Depressants, but this time with better dancing. No offense, Ryan Gosling, but you just can’t beat trained tap dancers.
3. Watch problematic love interests evolve.
From obsessive murderer Jason Dean, to married men open to affairs — with Hamilton and Dr. Pomatter coming to mind — to rebellious young boys who cross the line over to literally assaulting Wendla, the love interests in musicals are varying shades of problematic to say the least. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend continues the pattern with its male leads exhibiting a diverse range of vices: from alcoholism and a troubling degree of self-loathing, indecisiveness and a complete lack of motivation, and narcissism, toxic masculinity, and really ambiguous moralities. Not even the heroine is safe in her selfishness.
But whereas theater men usually end Act 2 in retribution and/or death, the characters of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend have the benefit of time: over four seasons, not only do the relationships evolve in realistic manners — breaking up when it’s not right and setting reasonable expectations for the relationship — but the characters are given time to redeem themselves too. The characters are allowed to deal with their issues in a healthy way: they go through rehab, attend therapy sessions, and find opportunities to do good instead of just exclaiming “I’m a nice person!” into the void. There’s so much growth in the characters that, by the end of it, you’ll either be actively rooting for love or for heroine Rebecca Bunch’s happiness, even if you might not have liked her at the start.
4. Find representation!
Personally, I was giddy to find out that not only was Vincent Rodriguez III and Rene Gube actual Filipino-Americans, but this also plays significantly into the show’s writing. Rodriguez plays Filipino-American Josh Chan, Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend from camp, and Rene Gube wrote a spectacular episode that shows the rest of the sizeable Chan clan. Lea Salonga even showed up to sing for a Chan sister’s wedding!
Even if you’re not Filipino, there are so many other faces and themes in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that it would be hard not to find someone to relate to. There’s Rebecca herself, a theater fan who can’t sing if her life depended on it. Rebecca, struggling with a mental illness and learning to feel happy and secure in the little things like getting a proper diagnosis. There’s Paula, a wife and mother, who learns to follow her own bliss after ignoring her problems in favor of meddling with someone else’s. Or Paula, who’s faced with the reality that she doesn’t know her own children and gets to know them.
It’s almost cathartic to find someone to relate to on this show: it’s not just seeing yourself on screen. Sometimes, it’s also like looking at your own demons and seeing that you can grow and accept your own issues too.
5. Discover your own little tidbit to love.
If it wasn’t clear yet, there is a lot to unpack about this show. It’s got a star-studded (and diverse!) cast and prominent guest stars, including Fred Armisen, Weird Al Yankovic, and Josh Groban. It’s irreverent and downright hilarious, but also just real and raw in turn. It tries on a bunch of musical styles, from Backstreet Boys to Beach Boys, so you’re bound to find a song you love. It’s feminist and modern and relevant AF, which is a welcome breath of fresh air for someone who can go on a tangent about how screwed My Fair Lady is. Apropos, it’s a romantic comedy that likes to spin romantic comedy tropes on their heads.
The only way to really know if you’ll like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is to give a few episodes a chance over the weekend. Preferably this weekend. Honestly? It’s on Netflix, so the best time to watch is now. Do it now.