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TV Series Review

There are times in life when mere words seem inadequate. When we're feeling truly amazing, the word amazing just doesn't cut it. To say you're depressed when you're actually depressed sells your emotions horribly short. No, when you're feeling particularly sad or particularly joyful or particularly, well, anything, a better form of communication is called for.

Like, say, a song.

Or so we gather from the CW's compelling-but-crude new comedy, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It's a show in which every bad decision comes with a grand musical number, where the pitch may be perfect but the content leaves us feeling flat.

The Goose, the Gander and the Songs They Sing

At the risk of perpetuating cruel stereotypes, one would not expect Ivy League-educated lawyers to be the sort of people who'd break into a show tune at the first sight of burnt toast. But perhaps Rebecca Bunch never really had the soul of your average New York City real estate attorney. After a chance meeting with Josh Chan—a guy with whom she'd had a summer camp fling when she was 16—she decides to drop those Big Apple aspirations and move to West Covina, Calif., which is "two hours from the beach!" we often hear. "Four, with traffic." Because, of course, Josh lives there. Yes, what in real life would be cause for a restraining order becomes, on television, a jaunty musical comedy.

Not that that's a surprise. I mean, if Rebecca was making wise life choices, CW would have to shorten the title to, simply, "Ex-Girlfriend," which doesn't have quite the same sensationalist ring, now does it? Indeed, Rebecca's selfish, messed-up antics are what have made the show—at least early on—something of a critical darling.

"People are terrible," writes A.V. Club's Allison Shoemaker. "That’s not a new thing for TV, obviously, or for storytelling in general (Odysseus is the worst). Still, there’s something sort of refreshing when a show where people occasionally burst into song is so willing to let its characters—including the protagonist—be so awful."

But what's good for the story isn't always so good for the audience. While star Rachel Bloom is clearly a first-class talent, and while her show earns style points for its sheer musical audacity, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is soup-to-nuts problematic. (It didn't surprise me to learn it was originally developed for the premium cable channel Showtime.)

Should, by some miracle, Rebecca capture Josh's heart, she's not interested in just holding hands in the West Covina moonlight. "When in Rome," the old saying goes, and in this city littered with strip clubs and lascivious intentions, Rebecca aims to do as the West Covinans do. In fact, she'll get sexy with anybody—man or woman—if she thinks it'll somehow get her closer to Josh. (We've already seen her lock lips with his girlfriend and "get naughty" with other women during a song.) Language can be rough, too, and some of the jokes—the few that aren't overtly sexual in nature—can be crude and even a bit racist. It probably doesn't help that folks seem to drink quite a lot in West Covina.

When Music Doesn't Say It All

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does seem to have a kernel of sanity at its core. But its big-production musical numbers are, in a way, gravely misleading: They give this show a sunnier and happier feel than it actually earns. So for families who think it'd be fun to take their own trip out to West Covina, well, my advice would be to do exactly what Rebecca didn't: Ask yourselves whether it might be a mistake.


Positive Elements

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Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - October 12, 2015 "Josh Just Happens to Live Here"
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