October 13, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”


CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND:  Monday 8PM on CW – In the Queue

With a Netflix-driven need to keep its line-up as stable as possible (returning shows are automatically included in the network’s lucrative streaming deal), CW only took one swing this fall with a new series, but it’s a fairly big one.  CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND is a musical comedy about the adventures, essentially, of a lovelorn stalker, and it was originally developed as a half-hour for Showtime, where one could imagine it fitting on the home of such oddball dramedies as The United States of Tara, Weeds and Nurse Jackie.  Finding the tone it needs to survive on broadcast television will be more of a challenge.

The series is CW’s companion piece for Jane the Virgin, and like Jane it has a heightened comic style and an air of self-parody.  Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom, who co-created the series with The Devil Wears Prada screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna) is a successful but miserable senior associate at a NY law firm whose happiest memory is the summer she spent at summer camp when she was 16, blissfully in thrall to Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez)–who even then thought she was over the top, not that she noticed.  When fate places him in her path on the same day she’s offered a junior partnership that guarantees her decades of well-paid unhappiness, she leaps to the conclusion that she’s meant to move across the country and follow him to West Covina, California, on the far end of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.  In quick order, she gets a job at a small local firm that she’s wildly overqualified to do, and makes the acquaintance of nice-guy bartender Greg (Santino Fontana), and paralegal Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), who may be even nuttier than Rebecca is.

Tone is going to be everything on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and although the pilot is bouncy and fun, especially the two satiric musical sequences, done respectively as an old-time Hollywood production number and an R&B music video (the director was Marc Webb, who’s best known for The Amazing Spider-Man, but who was more relevantly the filmmaker of (500) Days of Summer), it’s not clear that Bloom and McKenna have hit the target yet.  Although there are brief notes that suggest Rebecca may have genuine emotional problems–we see her toss a great deal of medication down the sink once she’s started her new life, and her mother mentions a failed suicide attempt in a phone message–overall the show is determined to be a charmer, a conceit that may be increasingly difficult to sustain as Rebecca continues her crusade to win Josh’s heart whether he’s interested or not.  The scenes at Rebecca’s new job, which feature her new boss (Pete Gardner) making what are supposed to be laughably off-key “Jew” references, feel like a reach the show didn’t need piled onto its other issues.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend may not end up working, but give it this:  in a fall that’s given us a virtually nonstop procession of safe, unappealing procedurals and hackneyed comedies, it’s not afraid to go out on a very long limb.  Bloom is so likable as Rebecca that her presence helps to gloss over some of the shaky spots, and there’s imagination to spare on display.  At the very least, the crazy thing deserves some time to prove whether it has the goods.  Considering its network and tough timeslot (facing off against The Voice and The Big Bang Theory, with Supergirl still to come), high ratings won’t be expected, which should provide it with all the rope it needs to either lasso a cult audience or hang itself.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."