Tuesday, November 10, 2015

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND Is the Musical Show You Should Be Watching

Are you watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, created by and starring Rachel Bloom, on the CW? The odds are you're not, because its ratings are quite low. It's up against The Voice and Dancing with the Stars at 7 pm Central on the CW, so that seems like a foregone conclusion, but even so...

It's got Santino Fontana. Yes, that Santino Fontana. Prince Charming from the recent Broadway Cinderella, Moss Hart in Act One and Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, the voice of Hans (the bad guy) in that boffo Disney movie Frozen, and the original Joseph Douaihy in Stephen Karam's critically acclaimed Sons of the Prophet for New York's Roundabout Theatre. He is versatile, he sings beautifully, his acting chops are major, and he's on this goofy little musical comedy on the CW. He will also be in Jennifer Lopez's new show, Shades of Blue, playing a character named Stuart Sapperstein opposite J-Lo's gritty cop. Gonna guess he isn't a tough guy in that one, either.

Santino Fontana with his Frozen alter-ego
In Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Fontana plays Greg, the nice guy who initially likes the heroine, Rebecca Bunch. She's the crazy ex-girlfriend of the title. She's not his crazy ex-girlfriend, mind you. And that's the plot hook of this show -- that Rebecca, a very good attorney, drops her big-money New York job and moves to West Covina, California, after running into an ex-boyfriend -- sweet and hunky Josh Chan, someone she fell for at summer camp way back when -- and learning that he is now in West Covina. Rebecca moves to West Covina, too, gets a job, and then keeps trying to impress and/or snare Josh, the boy of her dreams.

Rebecca's dreams are a big part of the show, since she keeps conjuring up fantasy musical numbers to showcase what's happening in her life. The best ones so far have been Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) as all four members of a boy band, and Greg and Rebecca (Fontana and Bloom) in a black-and-white art deco world right out of Astaire-and-Rogers Land where he urges her to "Settle for Me." The video is highly addictive. Also adorable. And twirly!

Which isn't to say I don't have problems with the show. On the good side, Bloom is funny as Rebecca, I get to see Fontana on my television, the cast is top-notch, the cynical, self-deprecating writing can be fun, and the musical interludes are awesome. On the bad side... It's hard to watch shake Rebecca when she's so self-involved and obtuse, the humor has a tendency to get a little gross (which is not my favorite style of comedy, to say the least),  the legal parts are really, really wrong-headed, and I don't think I can handle "Rebecca chases Josh while being an idiot around Greg" as a plot strategy much longer, even if everybody involved is acting the heck out of it.

That's the dilemma, really -- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend doesn't strike me as the kind of material than can last more than one season, because there really needs to be some movement on the Rebecca/Greg front, pulling her away from her self-destructive infatuation with Josh, even though that's the whole premise of the show. Meanwhile, the ratings are so bad that I'm concerned it will even make it through a whole season, although personally, I would love to see Rebecca make some progress on the maturity front and get some resolution of the love triangle (or rectangle) before it's gone.

Episodes so far have revolved around Rachel setting up camp in West Covina and interacting with coworkers, meeting Josh's super-cool girlfriend, throwing a party in an attempt to see Josh, going on a date with Greg (when "Settle for Me" happens) and last night, trying to be a good person after the disastrous date with Greg where she made it clear she was anything but. Next week we get Rebecca snagging an invite to Thanksgiving at Josh's house and then "I'm So Happy that Josh Is So Happy!" on November 23rd. Greg will show up in the Thanksgiving episode, and he even gets a father to play off in that one. Since Rebecca has major Daddy issues, I'm guessing Greg's dad will be around for conflict, as well.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs at 8 Eastern/7 Central Monday nights on the CW.  I'm going to need you to put aside your Voice and DWTS issues for a few weeks, just long enough to resolve its plot and show off all those nifty musical interludes.


  1. Act One is coming up on Live from Lincoln Center! This Friday, in most locations. Sanction, Tony Shalhoub, and Andrea Martin together!

  2. Ugh, autocorrect should know about Santino! That of course is what I typed.