If there’s one thing we love in a Required Viewing selection, it’s shenanigans. If there are two things we love, that would be shenanigans and girl power. If there are three things we love, add musical numbers to that list. Is this getting old yet? It is for me too. Anyway, we’ve been slowly chipping away at the first season of Rachel Bloom’s brilliant musical comedy, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, for months now. We’d slip an episode in after another selection or before a trivia night, bit-by-bit watching Rebecca Bunch pursue the love of her life, Josh Chan.
Per tradition, Annemarie will start us off. Tell us, AM, what did you expect before we started watching this show? And what did you get instead?
A: You know how usually with an RV selection, we’re respectively skeptical of the other’s choice? Yeah, this was no different. Based upon the name alone, I really didn’t think this show would be my jam. I do love musical comedies, but a musical comedy about a woman moving across the country for a boy? We can all agree “crazy ex-girlfriend” is a sexist term (Rebecca Bunch tells us so in the animated intro), so I wasn’t really sure what to expect outside of my skepticism.
And fine, I was wrong. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is indeed delightful and witty. Here are two things on which I have quick (ok probably not that quick #LevityNotBrevity) takes on:
- Is Rebecca Bunch indeed crazy? I think there’s a spectrum, and she’s definitely on the impulsive-destructive end of things. Based on running into her middle school camp boyfriend Josh and getting warm, sparkly feelings from their encounter, she moves to West Covina, a beige LA suburb where conveniently he lives. As someone who’s uprooted her own life 3 times (albeit not for a boy), I do understand the excitement and terror of moving to someplace new, but Rebecca seemingly makes the decision without a second of debate or conversation. That’s a bit crazy.
- Is Josh Chan the worst? Josh is that guy. The one who works in a forgettable job, won’t commit or break up with their significant other, and oh yeah, loves karate. Unironically. He and Rebecca have almost nothing in common, but the thing that annoys me the most is that he’s also That Guy who “unintentionally” strings a girl along because he likes the attention. That’s why he’s the worst.
Brooke, now I want to hear why you love this show, and fill us in on any relevant backstory or details I overlooked in my haste to get to my thoughts and opinions.
B: Why do I love Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? I thought you’d never ask. JK, I knew you would and I’ve been really excited about it. Like you, I was extremely skeptical of this show, the title totally threw me, but then I watched. And I was stunned to discover an incredibly smart series that puts a flawed female front-and-center, and bonus, it has musical numbers. For some while now I’ve been telling people that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is “suprisingly subversive.” And it is! I was delighted to tune in and hear jokes about the Bechdel test and Ruth Bader Ginsberg tossed off as casually as I would make them. Underneath all of the songs and shenanigans is a layer of “real” that brings incredible resonance to this quirky little comedy. And #SpoilerAlert it just gets better as it rolls along.
Per your second request, there are a few things I think we should note here, but I’m glad you jumped right into bashing Josh. He deserves it. And he is the worst. ANYWAY, we should stop to note that Rebecca is a brilliant woman. She went to Harvard, she’s a hotshot lawyer and she can compose musical numbers about her life at a moment’s notice. And yet, she’s known nothing but constant rejection by her mother and her father, which leaves her rather adrift emotionally. And therefore, susceptible to Josh’s attentions. Of course, I know MUCH more about where Rebecca’s headed, and her past, but as we always say before we’ve finished a Required Viewing project, “I know nothing about this show.”
Okay, we need to talk a lot more about our girl Rebecca Bunch, but first, let’s talk about the delightful people she meets in her new home of West Covina. I need Crazy Ex-Girlfriend supporting character power rankings. Immediately. There is only one right answer. Go!
A: Before I get to the power rankings, I do agree wholeheartedly about Rebecca being an amazingly flawed lead character. “Crazy” is a loaded word, and you’re right that that was the main thing that made me skeptical. She’s definitely got issues, and who wouldn’t (also, who doesn’t?)? She clings to the idea of Josh as her first love, even though he unceremoniously dumped her waaaayyyyy back in middle school. Moving across the country for an old flame is certainly not unique to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but you do see quickly that Rebecca isn’t necessarily just looking for Josh’s love. She needed a whole new life. Which brings me to…
- Paula — The new best friend. The confidante. The mother of two and paralegal who craves something more but who is absolutely obsessed with Rebecca’s drama. She’s the “shen” to Rebecca’s “anigans” and she quite literally is the best.
- Daryl Whitefeather — The new boss. The wannabe bestie to Rebecca and Paula. Who has newly discovered he’s bisexual and starts dating Josh’s best friend White Josh. I ship WhiJo and Daryl more than any couple I’ve TV shipped.
- Heather — The new neighbor. Heather’s a monotone, sarcastic, perma-student who pops up for youth wit occasionally in the first season, but she brings some much-needed real talk to Rebecca’s life, as both Paula and Daryl do nothing but enable.
- Dr. Noelle Akopian — The new therapist. Who Rebecca doesn’t listen to. I especially enjoyed the “dream ghost” sequence (which also featured Ricki Lake(!), randomly) she has with Rebecca on a cross-country flight that identifies why exactly Rebecca has the issues she has.
Ok, I could go on. And I know I’m missing some. Who are your other favorite characters, Brooke? And how would you rank your top supporting cast? There is only one right answer at the top.
B: First, point of order, I’m pretty sure Rebecca and Josh were in high school, not middle school during their previous thing, but still, it was a long while ago.
Now, on to the rankings! You’re correct, there is only one correct answer for the top spot: Paula Proctor. Actually, I concur with your rankings through Heather. I would slot White Josh and hapless Greg in ahead of Dr. Akopian. We’ve already unpacked a bit of what make WhiJo great — he’s sweet, and sometimes very over it all, which I love. Greg is an entirely different story. In many ways, he’s the worst. But he’s the perfect sarcastic counter-point to Rebecca, and the guy we’re meant to want for her. I think. He’s also the only person to really call Rebecca on her nonsense before we meet Dr. Akopian. After Dr. Akopian, I’d take a few moments to celebrate Valencia, who gets kind of a bad wrap. And Mrs. Chan, who seems like a lot of fun in her own right, more than her son, really. There’s more to explore here, but many of the tertiary characters don’t get their fair shake until season two and beyond, and that’s above your pay grade just at the moment.
It’s time for the question we were bound to get to: Josh or Greg? And while you’re at it, I want to hear your favorite Bunch-Proctor scheme.
A: Definitely Greg, if you’re forcing me to choose. Josh, as I said before, is the worst. He’s a great “wrong choice” guy because he’s not that bad, but he doesn’t know what he wants and can’t make decisions and I find that highly obnoxious. I enjoy that Greg mostly wants Rebecca because she’s explicitly not interested in him, which makes their inevitable hookup that much more entertaining, if rather destructive for both of them. But mostly, I want to pick “none of the above” because why does a girl need to end up with a guy anyway? And also, I feel fairly confident that there’s better, healthier choosings in West Covina for Rebecca, once she gets her shit together a bit more.
The schemes and lunchroom conversations between Paula and Rebecca are on the opposite end of the “worst” spectrum, which is to say they’re the best and my favorite part of the show. I quite enjoyed when Paula used various tracking devices in order to get Rebecca an invite to the Chan family Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve never connived to join a meal in which I wasn’t invited, but I imagine one would definitely need Paula to make it happen.
I can’t talk too much about Valencia because we’ve moved on to season two and there’s a thing or two that really makes me like her more, but I will say that she’s definitely underrated. She’s paired with the worst boyfriend of all time, Josh Chan, who can’t commit or let her go, but she’s also really good at yoga. (Perhaps one of my favorite songs). You’re not supposed to like the girlfriend in this story, but as Rebecca herself admitted, Rebecca is largely the villain of her own story, trying to break up a couple and steal the man. Valencia spends a few episodes being the formulaic demanding / hotter current girlfriend, but perhaps some of that comes from being in a 15-year relationship without a real commitment?
Ok, the moment we both know was coming has arrived! Brooke, favorite song and why. Or pick several and rank, this is your time to talk musical numbers!
B: Isn’t it my job to eschew choosing a boy and yell, “Girl power!”? I think so. But, I shan’t dwell because this is the moment I’ve been waiting for. Let’s count down some favorite songs. I was going to go for a top five, but this is the land of #LevityNotBrevity, so 10 it is — you’re welcome.
10. “Where’s the Bathroom?”
The infamous Naomi Bunch (Rebecca’s mom) turns up and instantly does the most mom song that’s ever momed. It makes me nervous and so sad for Rebecca, to such an extent that I almost didn’t include it. But that reaction makes the case for it’s inclusion quite strong.
I honestly think it’s the marketer in me that enjoys this song so much. But a glam rock battle over togetherwords really delights me. More than it should. Thanks, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
8. “Group Hang”
This number is brilliant in one sense because it’s so relatable, we’ve all tried to score some alone time with a crush only to have it foiled. But what landed it on this list is Josh and the boys singing the names of Mexican dishes.
7. “Sexy French Depression”
And here’s the entry that comes courtesy of my cinephilia. I love the French New Wave aesthetic. And I especially love the line, “Oui, je suis garbage.”
6. “I Have Friends”
Dear sweet, Rebecca Bunch! I would be your friend. I’ve definitely known that moment of uncertainty, you invite people to a thing, casually, and you hope desperately that they’ll turn up. I still have that feeling, even though our legendary watch parties tend to push my place to capacity. And I’ve sung myself this song or variations of this song innumerable times since it first passed my ears. It’s so hopeful and tragic. I love it.
5. “Feeling Kinda Naughty”
Rachel Bloom is pretty incredibly at parodying a sultry song. I adore the way she commits. And in the case of “Feeling Kinda Naughty,” she’s doing that in a loving send-up of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” It’s relevant to so many of my interests.
4. “The Sexy Getting Ready Song”
Again, Rachel Bloom committing to a song that flies in the face of sultry pop tunes really works for me on a comedy level. But I have a soft spot for this track in particular because it was the moment I understood how much I was going to love Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. You see, we get this song in episode one, and it clues us in to the feminist, progressive humor that carries this ship forward.
3. “The Crazy-Ex Girlfriend Theme Song”
I’m not alone when I say I sing-along to this one every single time the title credits roll. I’ve even snapped at Netflix for suggesting we skip the introduction — how dare! Anyway, how could I not love a theme with lines like “That’s a sexist term!” and “She’s so broken inside!” and “The situation is a lot more nuanced than that!”?
2. “After Everything I’ve Done For You (That You Didn’t Ask For)”
We’ve already documented our love for Paula Proctor and I love that the season finale gives Donna Lynne Champlin this moment to show off her considerable pipes. And also tease us with so much behind the scenes Paula mischief that we never got to witness. It puts me in mind of an epic musical number (“And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” anyone?) and I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Paula.
1.”I Give Good Parent”
Honestly, I was a bit surprised to find this song at the top of my list. I knew I loved it, but as I rewatched all of these numbers I was floored by how brilliant this tune really is — somehow, it feels the most like Rebecca Bunch speaking to us herself, instead of via an imagined musical goddess. Anyway, I love that it’s simultaneously filthy and smart and calls on Rachel Bloom to do some quite speedy vocalizing. Color me impressed all over again.
Phew. Okay, AM. It’s your turn to dig into the music. And … go!
A: I, as usual, will eschew your rules and just stick to a smaller list, plus not rank them. In no particular order, my faves include:
I lived in Pasadena, which is slightly more cool than West Covina (mountains and the Rose Bowl), but it’s still 2 hours from the beach. Anyway, I loved this ode to West Covina and how jazzed Rebecca was about it (but actually jazzed to live near Josh again).
“Oh My God I Think I Like You”
Since I sort-of ship the Greg-Rebecca thing, I greatly enjoyed her realizing that perhaps, just maybe, she had feelings for him. Let go of Josh?! We’ll see if she does!
“Don’t Settle for Me” (Reprise II)
Originally, this is about Greg begging Rebecca to settle for him, but the reprise has Heather insisting that Greg NOT settle for her. Catchy melody, and since I adore Heather’s deadpan, it was great to hear her work “dude” into a love song.
I mentioned Ricki Lake already, who I didn’t know could sing, and I also quite enjoyed that this song features Glee‘s Amber Riley, is on a plane, and explains to us exactly what “dream ghosts” are. Also: “Do you know how hard it is to pass the Bechdel test as a dream ghost?”
“I’m So Good at Yoga”
This one is almost annoyingly catchy, and it’s also the first musical number in which I noticed how subversive Crazy Ex-Girlfriend could be.
This is painful to watch, but I could not stop laughing. It’s on the list!
Well, Brooke, any further shenanigans to mention? Any songs on my list that you think are bunk? I’m guessing not because generally all of the songs are awesome.
B: Listen, we both know the only reason you have 5 selections instead of 10 is that I chose some of your favorites and you don’t want to be repeating on here. I know this just like I expect you to know that I didn’t pick “West Covina” expressly because I knew you would want to. I am SUCH. A. GOOD. FRIEND. But, yes, I approve of your choices.
If we were to go deeper into any of the shenanigans we’d be here all day. So, let’s restrain ourselves, but before we take our leave I do have one last request. And no cheating based on the episodes we’ve already watched! Annemarie, give us your Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season two predictions. I’ll know if you cheat.
A: How can I not cheat?! I know so much! Fine, fine, fine.
First, I think we will see the evolution of the relationship of Paula and Rebecca as Paula moves on to law school and becomes less and less invested in Rebecca’s love life. This is good, but I also want them to remain besties.
Second, I want WhiJo and Darryl to get married. That’s less of a prediction and more wishful thinking, but I ship them so hard.
And third, I think the gang will finally break up with the boba shop and hopefully move to a weird outside set that isn’t boba. I can’t with the boba. Instead, I want to try the salty-sweet snack that Rebecca and Paula invented and would totally try: Chips dipped in frosting. Next watch party?
B: I don’t know anything about this show, so I can’t comment on your predictions/wishes. But yes, 100% on trying that snack next watch party.
Next time we’ll check back in with those wild and crazy kids down on the Floribama Shore. If you thought we were too enthusiastic last time, it’s nothing to what we feel about this show now.
- Film Review: Good Boys - August 16, 2019
- Interview: Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz of The Peanut Butter Falcon - August 9, 2019
- Film Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon - August 9, 2019
- Film Review: The Kitchen - August 9, 2019
- Required Viewing: Legends of the Fall - August 3, 2019
- Film Review: Midsommar - July 4, 2019
- Film Review: The Dead Don’t Die - June 14, 2019
- Film Review: The Last Black Man in San Francisco - June 14, 2019
- Spoiler-Free Film Review: Avengers Endgame - April 24, 2019
- Required Viewing: Amadeus - March 20, 2019