Can We Talk About? is a weekly series eagerly anticipating Molly Shannon’s Oscar.
There’s too much damn TV.
Peak Television™️ or the New Golden Era of Television®️ jumped the shark the moment every network, streaming service, and global brand decided it needed to make a prestige dramedy. With so many choices, its easy for a gem like The CW’s recently, dearly departed meta-rom-com Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to slip through the cracks.
But now that it’s over, having fulfilled the four seasons its creators originally intended, it exists as a whole universe and canon unto itself to be appreciated for years to come. So let’s start appreciating!
First of all, kudos to The CW for not cancelling this show, though its future was often dubious due to low ratings. But a few technical Emmys—and series star and co-creator Rachel Bloom walking away with the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy (praise be) in 2016—helped buy the show some time on the award-starved CW.
Second, can we just acknowledge what a feat it was to produce this show? Glee opened the door to the hourlong musical dramedy, but all of its songs—save for a few ill-advised numbers in the second season—were pop songs that the cast gamely covered. Crazy Ex-GF, however, ran completely on original songs. 157 of them to be exact. They were at times insightful, at times hilarious, at times just straight-up bops.
But even if you’re not a fan of musical theater—which, fine, I guess…choices—these songs were masterfully crafted to advance the story.
Third, let’s get into these storylines. CW shows are notorious for burning through plots, with Jane the Virgin, in the hallowed tradition of telenovelas, perhaps being the best example. But Crazy Ex-GF was no slouch in the musical, drama, or comedy departments. With a Seinfeldian commitment to continuity and marathon-long running gags, Bloom and the show’s writers crafted a world and characters rich in detail and depth.
The show drew acclaim for its complex and multi-faceted handling of mental health and illness as Bloom’s character, Rebecca Bunch, methodically realized she was losing grip on her life and reality. She then began to take the steps to wellness, though there was never a pat, convenient solution to her problems.
The show started as an on-the-nose send-up, but also loving parody, of romantic comedy, but dug deeper to unearth the ugly truths behind the unrealistic and unhealthy fantasy of love the genre has perpetuated.
Fourth: This. Cast. The hardest working cast in television. Not only can they Keri Strug a punchline, they have actual dramatic heft, and we haven’t even gotten to the hoofing and the belting. God, the belting. What a gift we have in Donna Lynne Champlin, who played Rebecca’s ride-or-die BFF Paula.
And don’t even get me started on this tappa-tappa-tapping.
Look at this cast rehearsing for the special. I can't believe I KNOW people this talented, let alone work with them. Did you know all these people could TAP???#CrazyExGirlfriend pic.twitter.com/wHw3Bu6hec
— Aline Brosh McKenna (@alinebmckenna) March 13, 2019
Fifth, because I guess we’re doing this by numbers, the show handled diversity and queer issues with such ease and aplomb—from the show’s casually diverse casting to Rebecca’s one-time enemy turned gal pal Valencia exploring a relationship with a woman to Rebecca’s boss Darryl coming to terms with his own bisexuality in the best way possible.
Which brings us to one of my favorite parts of Crazy Ex-GF: lantern-jawed daddy chaser, and Darryl’s one-time boyfriend, White Josh.
“Not White” Josh is Josh Chan, Rebecca’s main love interest for the majority of the show, played by the openly gay and openly buff Vincent Rodriguez III.
White Josh, played by David Hull, is one of his childhood friends, who is white, but also gay—the show makes a very funny point of not calling him “Gay Josh”—and also periodically shirtless.
He’s the most sober-minded character of the bunch, and by the series finale he still hasn’t “come around” to Rebecca and he’s comfortable with the fact he never will.
Speaking of the series finale—what a way to go out. It’s not always easy or simple to bring a show, particularly one with so many moving parts, to a satisfying close. Sure, some people were upset that [spoiler alert] Rebecca didn’t end up picking any of her potential suitors, but those people miss the entire point of the show.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is both parody and homage to romantic comedies, but it also transcends the form by relying on the heroine turning to herself for happiness and not a man. The genre necessitates that love is always the goal, the ending, the reason for the heroine’s existence but by finding her own reason for existing, Rebecca finds a kind of happiness not dependent on a man. Which is great, because, if you haven’t heard, men are kinda the worst.
Honestly, these looks alone deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. RIP Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. We didn’t deserve you, but you deserved everything.