The CW has found its creative and ratings groove over the past couple of years, cranking out a series of successful action shows and female-centric dramedies. But their track record with shows that fall outside those two genres is iffy and I’m not convinced their luck is going to change with the new show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The series was originally developed for Showtime and so far it seems to be a mix of pay-TV darkness and CW bubbly optimism.
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To Be 16 and in Love
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stars Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, a high-powered lawyer who is living an unhappy and empty life. After she randomly runs into Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), the boy she dated for two months at age 16, she upends her life to follow him and win his … well, she really just stalks him and makes the rest up as she goes.
Rebecca quits a $500,000-a-year position as a partner in her law firm and follows Josh to West Covina, CA. There, she tries to fit into a new job and new life while not-so-subtly trying to weasel her way into Josh’s world. She’s hired as a lawyer by Darryl (Pete Gardner), who mostly likes the idea of having a hardcore Jewish New York lawyer to do battle with the firm hired by his soon-to-be ex-wife. Donna Lynne plays Paula, a co-worker who is instantly distrustful of Rebecca and her story about why she moved across the country. But Rebecca’s inherent crazy and obsessive behavior is attractive to some people, including bartender Greg (Santino Fontana), who finds himself attracted to her despite knowing just how nuts Rebecca can be.
Yes, She is Indeed Crazy
And let’s not mince words here. Rebecca might be charming at times and even sexy. But she is a dark and seriously warped person. Much of the humor found in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend comes from the humor of such a remarkably talented woman being so compulsive and irrational about her personal life. The show embraces Rebecca’s unpleasantness and there’s something very brave about that creative decision. But she is nuts nonetheless and it will be interesting to see if the show embraces her unpleasant side or tries to soften her up as the season progresses.
Is It Worth Watching?
The biggest plus for the show is also the aspect that makes it the hardest to imagine watching week after week. Rebecca Bunch is a very unpleasant person. She’s vain and arrogant and often has no sense of other people’s feelings or how her needs might conflict with anyone else’s. Rebecca does reflect a sense among many working women that they have devoted their lives to their jobs and now have no sense of what they need to be happy. The problem with those women (and with Rebecca in particular) is that they try and use the same tools to tackle their personal problems as they do to win that promotion or close that deal. They don’t comprehend that personal dynamics work very differently than the workplace, and the skill sets needed for each arena don’t usually match up.
The biggest challenge for the show is that viewers aren’t naturally drawn to a series featuring an often unlikable lead character. That’s especially the case in lighter dramas, which are trying to draw laughs from the incongruent situations. It’s a tough balance to get right and it’s why most shows don’t try. That’s why Breaking Bad was a hard-nosed drama and not a light, musically-tinged lifestyle dramedy.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has some laughs and a number of cringe-worthy moments. There’s certainly a worthwhile show buried in the pilot and maybe it will fully reveal itself as the season progresses. But if you’re looking for the next Hart of Dixie, you’re going to be very disappointed. This show is quirky, but it’s also imbibed with a thread of darkness and despair that is far away from what you’d expect to see in a CW show. That unexpected quality is a net positive. The question is whether or not the show can be more than just “not what you would expect to see.”
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premieres Monday, October 12 at 8pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of The CW)